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Brief History

Benin, officially known as the Republic of Benin, was The Kingdom of Dahomey that rose in the 15th century. On August 1, 1960, the country gained its independence from France which colonized it in 1872. For the next twelve years, there were several coups and regime changes. Dictatorship was transferred to democracy in 1992. Benin is considered by a few to be a model democracy in Africa, but with such a short track record that only time will tell. On April 6, 2006, Thomas Yayi Boni -a political outsider and independent- was elected as president. He began a fight against corruption and has strongly promoted accelerating Benin's economic growth.

Geography

Benin, capital Porto-Novo, is located in Western Africa covering an area of 112,622square kilometers. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Benin's climate is hot, tropical, and humid. Benin extends from the Niger River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south. Its longest river is the Ouémé. Besides the latter, the only other major river in the south is the Kouffo. Natural resources include small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, and timber.

People

Benin has a population of 9,056,010 (2010). About 42 African ethnic groups live in this country such as Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba, Peulh, etc… The official language is French, and other spoken languages include Fon and Yoruba, as well as further tribal languages. The literacy rate is 34.7% (2002). Its religions are distributed among 42.8% Christians, 24.4% Muslim, 17.3% Vodoun, and 15.5% others (2002). Europeans represent a small minority.

Government

The government of Benin is subject to a republic system. Its legal system is based on French civil law and customary law. It has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction. The President of Benin -Thomas Yayi Boni- is both head of state and head of government. The country has a multi-party system. The official currency is the West African CFA franc, where 655.957 francs are equivalent to US$1.

Economy

Benin was rated 159th on the Human Development Index in 2003. Poverty has not been reduced significantly and achieving higher levels of economic growth and poverty reduction will require further economic liberalization and dramatic improvements in the effectiveness of the public service delivery through public expenditure reform, decentralization and reduced corruption. According to the 2007 census, 37.4% of the population lives below the poverty line.

The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Cotton accounts for 40% of GDP and roughly 80% of official export receipts. Other main exports include palm oil products, coffee, crude oil and cocoa beans. The main food crops are manioc, yams, corn, sorghum, beans, rice, sweet potatoes, pawpaws, guavas, bananas, and coconuts. Benin is self-sufficient in food crops, given favorable weather conditions.

The oil and mining industries are two key elements in the economy of the country. There was potential for small-scale gold mining in the Atacora gold zone, in the northwest. Other mineral resources included chromium, rutile, and diamonds; small quantities of industrial diamonds were exported. Additional industries include textiles, food processing, construction materials, and cement.

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 technolog in order to increase growth. The government has recently taken steps to increase domestic power production to influence the growth. Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).

The inflation rate is 2.2% (2009) and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$ 687.01 (2010).


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