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CapitalPorto-Novo is the official capital; Cotonou is the seat of government
Governmentrepublic under multiparty democratic rule; dropped Marxism-Leninism December 1989; democratic reforms adopted February 1990; transition to multiparty system completed 4 April 1991
CurrencyCommunaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States
Areatotal: 112,620 sq km
water: 2,000 sq km
land: 110,620 sq km
Population6,787,625 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageFrench (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)
Religionindigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%

Get in

By plane

There are many international flights arriving at the main airport in Cotonou. From here you can connect to Paris, Amsterdam, Moscow, and a variety of cities in West Africa.

By train

You can't travel into Benin via train. However, there is a train route that goes halfway up the country, from Cotonou to Parakou. While it takes longer than a bush taxi, it's a much more relaxing way of traveling, especially if you take the night train.

By car

By bus

By boat


The official language is French - the language of the former colonial power. Native African languages such as Fon and Yoruba are also widely spoken, as are other African languages, particularly in the north of the country.



External links

Dahomey gained its independence from France in 1960; the name was changed to Benin in 1975. From 1974 to 1989 the country was a socialist state; free elections were reestablished in 1991.


Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Nigeria and Togo
Geographic coordinates 
9 30 N, 2 15 E
Map references 
total: 112,620 sq km
water: 2,000 sq km
land: 110,620 sq km
Area - comparative 
slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
Land boundaries 
total: 1,989 km
border countries: Burkina Faso 306 km, Niger 266 km, Nigeria 773 km, Togo 644 km
121 km
Maritime claims 
territorial sea: 200 NM
tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north
mostly flat to undulating plain; some hills and low mountains
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Sokbaro 658 m
Natural resources 
small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber
Land use 
arable land: 15.28%
permanent crops: 1.36%
other: 83.36% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land 
120 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards 
hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind may affect north from December to March
Environment - current issues 
inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching threatens wildlife populations; deforestation; desertification
Environment - international agreements 
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note 
sandbanks create difficult access to a coast with no natural harbors, river mouths, or islands


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 
0-14 years: 47.2% (male 1,616,138; female 1,585,463)
15-64 years: 50.5% (male 1,665,439; female 1,764,966)
65 years and over: 2.3% (male 65,877; female 89,742) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 
2.91% (2002 est.)
Birth rate 
43.66 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate 
14.52 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate 
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio 
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 
88.52 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth 
total population: 49.69 years
female: 50.61 years (2002 est.)
male: 48.81 years
Total fertility rate 
6.14 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 
4.1% (2002)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS 
160,000 (2002)
HIV/AIDS - deaths 
37,000 (2002)
noun: Beninese (singular and plural)
adjective: Beninese
Ethnic groups 
African 99% (42 ethnic groups, most important being Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba), Europeans 5,500
indigenous beliefs 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%
French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 37.5%
male: 52.2%
female: 23.6% (2000)


Country name 
conventional long form: Republic of Benin
conventional short form: Benin
local short form: Benin
former: Dahomey
local long form: Republique du Benin
Government type 
republic under multiparty democratic rule; dropped Marxism-Leninism December 1989; democratic reforms adopted February 1990; transition to multiparty system completed 4 April 1991
Porto-Novo is the official capital; Cotonou is the seat of government
Administrative divisions 
12 provinces; Alibori, Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou, Collines, Couffo, Donga, Littoral, Mono, Oueme, Plateau, Zou
1 August 1960 (from France)
National holiday 
National Day, 1 August (1960)
December 1990
Legal system 
based on French civil law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch 
chief of state: President Mathieu KEREKOU (since 4 April 1996); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Mathieu KEREKOU (since 4 April 1996); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections: president reelected by popular vote for a five-year term; runoff election held 22 March 2001 (next to be held NA March 2006)
note: the four top-ranking contenders following the first-round presidential elections were: Mathieu KEREKOU (incumbent) 45.4%, Nicephore SOGOLO (former president) 27.1%, Adrien HOUNGBEDJI (National Assembly Speaker) 12.6%, and Bruno AMOUSSOU (Minister of State) 8.6%; the second-round balloting, originally scheduled for 18 March 2001, was postponed four days because both SOGOLO and HOUNGBEDJI withdrew alleging electoral fraud; this left KEREKOU to run against his own Minister of State, AMOUSSOU, in what was termed a "friendly match"
election results: Mathieu KEREKOU reelected president; percent of vote - Mathieu KEREKOU 84.1%, Bruno AMOUSSOU 15.9%
Legislative branch 
unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (83 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - RB 27, PRD 11, FARD-ALAFIA 10, PSD 9, MADEP 6, Alliance E'toile 4, IPD 4, other 12
elections: last held 30 March 1999 (next to be held 30 March 2003)
Judicial branch 
Constitutional Court or Cour Constitutionnelle; Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; High Court of Justice
Political parties and leaders 
African Movement for Democracy and Progress or MADEP [Sefou FAGBOHOUN]; Alliance of the Social Democratic Party or PSD [Bruno AMOUSSOU]; Democratic Renewal Party or PRD [Adrien HOUNGBEDJI]; Front for Renewal and Development or FARD-ALAFIA [Saka SALEY]; Impulse for Progress and Democracy or IPD [Bertin BORNA]; Movement for Citizens' Commitment and Awakening or MERCI [Severin ADJOVI]; Renaissance Party du Benin or RB [Nicephore SOGLO]; The Star Alliance (Alliance E'toile) [Sacca LAFIA]
note: approximately 20 additional minor parties; the Coalition of Democratic Forces, [Gatien HOUNGBEDJI], an alliance of parties and organizations supporting President KEREKOU
Political pressure groups and leaders 
International organization participation 
Diplomatic representation in the US 
chief of mission: Ambassador Cyrille Segbe OGUIN
FAX: [1] (202) 265-1996
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6656
chancery: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US 
chief of mission: Ambassador Pamela E. BRIDGEWATER
embassy: Rue Caporal Bernard Anani, Cotonou
mailing address: 01 B. P. 2012, Cotonou
telephone: [229] 30-06-50
FAX: [229] 30-06-70
Flag description 
two equal horizontal bands of yellow (top) and red with a vertical green band on the hoist side


Economy - overview 
The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output averaged a stable 5% in the past five years, but rapid population rise offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. In order to raise growth still further, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology. The 2001 privatization policy should continue in telecommunications, water, electricity, and agriculture in spite of initial government reluctance. The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation.
purchasing power parity - $6.8 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate 
5.4% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita 
purchasing power parity - $1,040 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector 
agriculture: 36%
industry: 14%
services: 50% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line 
37% (2001 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share 
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 
3% (2001 est.)
Labor force 
Unemployment rate 
revenues: $377.4 million
expenditures: $561.8 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001)
textiles, food processing, chemical production, construction materials (2001)
Industrial production growth rate 
8.3% (2001 est.)
Electricity - production 
240 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source 
fossil fuel: 17%
hydro: 83%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption 
523.2 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports 
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports 
300 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products 
cotton, corn, cassava (tapioca), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, livestock (2001)
$35.3 million f.o.b. (2000)
Exports - commodities 
cotton, crude oil, palm products, cocoa
Exports - partners 
Brazil, France, Indonesia, Thailand, Morocco, Portugal, Cote d'Ivoire (2001)
$437.6 million c.i.f. (2000)
Imports - commodities 
foodstuffs, capital goods, petroleum products
Imports - partners 
France, US, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Netherlands, Japan (2001)
Debt - external 
$1.18 billion (2000)
Economic aid - recipient 
$342.6 million (2000)
Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF); note - responsible authority is the Central Bank of the West African States
Currency code 
Exchange rates 
Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF) per US dollar - 742.79 (January 2002), 733.04 (2001), 711.98 (2000), 615.70 (1999), 589.95 (1998), 583.67 (1997); note - from 1 January 1999, the XOF is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 XOF per euro
Fiscal year 
calendar year


Telephones - main lines in use 
51,000 (2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
55,500 (2000)
Telephone system 
general assessment: NA
domestic: fair system of open wire, microwave radio relay, and cellular connections
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean); submarine cable
Radio broadcast stations 
AM 2, FM 9, shortwave 4 (2000)
660,000 (2000)
Television broadcast stations 
1 (2001)
66,000 (2000)
Internet country code 
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
4 (2002)
Internet users 
25,000 (2002)


total: 578 km
narrow gauge: 578 km 1.000-m gauge (2000 est.)
total: 6,787 km
paved: 1,357 km (including 10 km of expressways)
unpaved: 5,430 km (1997 est.)
streams navigable along small sections, important only locally
Ports and harbors 
Cotonou, Porto-Novo
Merchant marine 
none (2002 est.)
5 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2002)


Military branches 
Armed Forces (including Army, Navy, Air Force), National Gendarmerie
Military manpower - military age 
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability 
males age 15-49: 1,509,760
note: both sexes are liable for military service (2002 est.)
females age 15-49: 1,536,036
Military manpower - fit for military service 
males age 15-49: 771,373
females age 15-49: 778,730 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually 
males: 71,278
females: 70,088 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure 
$27 million (FY96)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP 
1.2% (FY96)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international 
Benin and Niger have referred to the ICJ the dispute over l'Ete and 14 smaller disputed islands in the Niger River, which has never been delimited; with Nigeria, several villages are in dispute along the Okpara River and only 35 km of the 436 km boundary are demarcated; the Benin-Niger-Nigeria tripoint remains undemarcated; Benin accuses Togo of moving boundary markers and stationing troops in its territory; two villages are in dispute with Burkina Faso
Illicit drugs 
transshipment point for narcotics associated with Nigerian trafficking organizations and most commonly destined for Western Europe and the US; vulnerable to money laundering due to a poorly regulated financial infrastructure