Benin

 

Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French Colony in 1872 and achieved independence on 1 August 1960, as the Republic of Benin. A succession of military governments ended in 1972 with the rise to power of Mathieu KEREKOU and the establishment of a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles. A move to representative government began in 1989.

 

Two years later, free elections ushered in former Prime Minister Nicephore SOGLO as president, marking the first successful transfer of power in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. KEREKOU was returned to power by elections held in 1996 and 2001, though some irregularities were alleged. KEREKOU stepped down at the end of his second term in 2006 and was succeeded by Thomas YAYI Boni, a political outsider and independent. YAYI has begun a high profile fight against corruption and has strongly promoted accelerating Benin’s economic growth.

 

Geography:
Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo
Geographic coordinates: 9 30 N, 2 15 E
People:
Population: 9,598,787 (July 2012 est.) 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, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.7% (male 2,126,973/female 2,042,340)

15-64 years: 52.6% (male 2,443,370/female 2,461,421)

65 years and over: 2.7% (male 101,640/female 149,288) (2011 est.)

Government:
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Benin

conventional short form: Benin

local long form: Republique du Benin

local short form: Benin

former: Dahomey

Government type: republic
Capital: name: Porto-Novo (official capital)

geographic coordinates: 6 29 N, 2 37 E

time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

note: Cotonou (seat of government)

Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 152,700 (2011)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 7.765 million (2011)
Transportation:
Airports: 5 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Benin Armed Forces (FAB): Army (l’Arme de Terre), Benin Navy (Forces Navales Beninois, FNB), Benin People’s Air Force (Force Aerienne Populaire de Benin, FAPB) (2011)
Military service age and obligation: 21 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; in practice, volunteers may be taken at the age of 18; both sexes are eligible for military service; conscript tour of duty – 18 months (2012)

Economy:

The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output has averaged around 5% in the past seven years, but rapid population growth has 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. Specific projects to improve the business climate by reforms to the land tenure system, the commercial justice system, and the financial sector were included in Benin’s $307 million Millennium Challenge Account grant signed in February 2006.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: two villages remain in dispute along the border with Burkina Faso; Benin accused Burkina Faso of moving boundary pillars; much of Benin-Niger boundary, including tripoint with Nigeria, remains undemarcated; in 2005, Nigeria ceded thirteen villages to Benin, but border relations remain strained by rival gang clashes; Benin and Togo announced plans in 2006 to construct a joint hydroelectric dam on the Mona River at the southern end of the border
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 5,915  (Togo) (2010)