OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Benin
CAPITAL: Porto Novo (Official) and Cotonou (Economic and Political)
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Multiparty Republic
AREA: 112,622 Sq Km (43,484 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION 6,107,200
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Benin is located in West Africa.
It is bound by Niger to the north, Burkina Faso to the northwest,
Nigeria to the east, Togo to the west and the Gulf of Guinea
to the south. The country has four natural topographical
regions. (1.) A coastal belt which has four lagoons, the
Cotonou, Ouidah, Grand Popo and Porto Novo while further
north the land rises steeply to a savannah plateau. (2.)
The Lama which is a wide marshy depression. (3.) The Atakora
Mountains in the northwest and (4.) the eastern plains of
Borgu and Kandi which slope to the Niger basin. The country
is covered with dense vegetation and has many major rivers
which includes the Niger which forms part of the northeastern
border with Niger, the Queme which is the longest river,
the Mono which forms the border with Togo and the Couffo.
Other long rivers which are subject to flooding are the
Mekrou, Alibory, Sota and Pandjari. Major Cities (pop. est.);
Cotonou 533,000, Porto Novo 178,000, Djougou 132,000, Abomey
Calavi 126,000, Parakou 107,000 (1992). Land Use; forested
31%, pastures 4%, agricultural-cultivated 17%, other 48%
CLIMATE: Benin has a tropical climate with three climatic zones.
(1.) The northern zone which has two seasons the wet season from July to
September and the dry season which is hot with very low humidity. (2.)
The central zone which has two wet seasons, a long one between March and
June and a short one between October and mid November as well as a long
dry season between November and March. (3.) The coastal zone to the south
which has a steady temperature with rainfall occurring throughout the year
especially during the Guinean Monsoon between May to October. The prevailing
wind is the Saharan Harmattan, a hot dry dust laden wind that blows from
the northeast and occurs between December to March. Average annual precipitation
varies between 960 mm (38 inches) in the north and 1,340 mm (53 inches)
in the south. Average annual temperature ranges in Cotonou are from 23
degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) in August to 28 degrees Celsius
(82 degrees Fahrenheit) in May.
PEOPLE: Around 99% of the population are Black Africans of 42
ethnic groups. The four largest which constitute 54% of the population
are the Fon, the Adja, the Bariba and the Yoruba. The 42 groups can be
divided into five broad cluster groups (1.) the Voltaic, (2.) the Sudanese,
(3.) the Fulani, (4.) the Ewe and (5.) the Yoruba. There is also a small
European community, of which the French constitute the largest group.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 42 persons per sq km (110
persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 19.0% urban, 81.0% rural (1985).
Sex Distribution; 49.4% male, 50.6% female (1990). Life Expectancy at Birth;
44.4 years male, 47.6 years female (1990). Age Breakdown; 47% under 15,
26% 15 to 29, 14% 30 to 44, 8% 45 to 59, 4% 60 to 74, 1% 75 and over (1990).
Birth Rate; 49.2 per 1,000 (1990). Death Rate; 19.3 per 1,000 (1990). Increase
Rate; 29.9 per 1,000 (1990). Infant Mortality Rate; 110.0 per 1,000 live
RELIGION: Around 61% of the population follow local native tribal
beliefs, 23% are Christians mostly located in the south and predominantly
Roman Catholic while 15% are Muslims. Most of the Muslims are accounted
for by the Fulani, Bariba and Dendi tribes.
LANGUAGES: The official language is French, although many of
the local tribal languages are important with 47% of the population speaking
Fon, 12% Adja, 10% Bariba, 9% Yoruba, 5% Somba and 5% Aizo.
EDUCATION: Aged 25 or over and having attained: no formal schooling
89.2%, primary 8.3%, secondary 2.2%, higher 0.3% (1979). Literacy; literate
population aged 15 or over 23.4% (1990).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: Social unrest and political rivalries
have led to frequent changes in Benin's government since the country's
independence on Aug. 1, 1960 after long French rule. Military leaders overthrew
the government several times during the 1960's and 1970's. In May 1970
a civilian government was formed and headed by a three man presidential
council. During Oct. 1973 the military led by Maj. Mathieu Kerekou again
took control of the country. The government then embarked on a nationalization
program and took control of Benin's most important businesses, industries,
banks and industrial firms. In 1975 Pres. Kerekou founded the People's
Revolutionary Party of Benin, the country's only legal party. In Dec. 1975
the country's name was also officially changed from Dahomey to the People's
Republic of Benin. After a failed coup attempt in Jan. 1977 by French mercenaries
relations with France virtually broke down, however, in 1978 France resumed
aid payments to Benin. In 1981 three former Presidents were released from
prison. Since 1980 the government has embarked on an economic liberalization
program to encourage foreign investment and on Mar. 28, 1988 the military
attempted to seize power again which resulted in the arrest of 150 officers.
In Feb. 1990 approval was given to shift power away from the President,
to legalize opposition parties, to change the country's official name,
to remove the old guard cabinet and to appoint a new cabinet. In the same
year former dissident Nicephore Soglo was elected as Prime Minister. In
March 1991 the country's first free elections in 30 years were held and
Kerekou was succeeded by Prime Minister Soglo as President on April 4,
1991. During Apr. 1991 further unrest and strikes by students in protest
to poor living conditions as well as the non-payment of grants, resulted
in clashes with security police. In May 1992 some 5,000 government workers
demanded better working conditions, higher wages, the right to strike and
greater freedom of the press. Also in May there was a failed coup attempt
while on July 4, 1992 the government quelled a mutiny led by a former member
of Pres. Kerekou's guard at the Kaba Camp in Natitingou without force.
During 1992 Mohammed Cisse a former minister of the state was sentenced
to 10 years imprisonment for misappropriation of funds while state privatization
continued at a slower rate than expected due to an overall weakness in
the world economy. In Feb. 1993 Pope John Paul II visited Benin to meet
with religious and voodoo leaders while in the same month the International
Voodoo Art and Culture Festival opened in Ouidah. In April 1993 clashes
between muslims and voodoo followers resulted in 2 deaths and 24 injuries.
In July 1993 Pres. Soglo, officially above politics, announced he was joining
the Renaissance Party of Benin and in October he lost his majority in the
government. However, two weeks later 11 groups rallied behind the President
to form the African Assembly for Progress and Solidarity. Also during 1993
increasing hostilities between the press and the government developed with
the publisher of Le Soleil being jailed for libel against the President's
CURRENCY: The official currency is the CFA Franc (Communaute
Financiere Africaine-CFAF) divided into 100 Centimes.
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $2,182,000,000 (1993). Public
Debt; USD $1,409,000,000 (1993). Imports; CFAF 203,200,000,000 (1994).
Exports; CFAF 167,100,000,000 (1994). Tourism Receipts; USD $38,000,000
(1993). Balance of Trade; CFAF -36,100,000 (1994). Economically Active
Population; 2,195,000 or 46.0% of total population (1991). Unemployed;
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are France,
other EU countries, Nigeria, China, Japan and the USA.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Beans, Cassava, Coffee, Cotton, Ground Nuts,
Maize, Palm Products, Sorghum, Yams.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Beverages, Cement, Cotton, Ginning,
Palm Kernels, Palm Oil, Oil Processing, Textiles.
MAIN EXPORTS: Cashew Nuts, Cocoa, Cotton, Palm Oil, Palm Kernels,
TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 635 km (395 mi) (1989), passenger-km
137,600,000 (85,501,000 passenger-mi) (1985), cargo ton-km 176,800,000
(121,090,000 short ton-mi) (1985). Roads; length 7,445 km (4,626 mi) (1986).
Vehicles; cars 22,000 (1989), trucks and buses 12,000 (1989). Merchant
Marine; vessels 13 (1990), deadweight tonnage 4,610 (1990). Air Transport;
passenger-km 208,567,000 (129,597,000 passenger-mi) (1988), cargo ton-km
35,223,000 (24,124,000 short ton-mi) (1990).
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 1 with a circulation
of 12,000 (1990). Radio; receivers 400,000 (1994). Television; receivers
20,000 (1994). Telephones; units 20,410 (1993).
MILITARY: 4,300 (1995) total active duty personnel with 93.8%
army, 3.1% navy and 3.1% air force while military expenditure accounts
for 1.3% (1992) of the Gross National Product (GNP).
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