Benin is a country of Africa
with a surface area of 112,622 km² (density of 87.7 inhab./km²). The population of Benin is 9,877,292 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Benin is the city of Porto-Novo which has 230,000 inhabitants. The President of the Republic is Thomas Boni Yayi.
"Fraternity, justice, work"
Benin or Republic of Benin is a country located in West Africa between the Niger River in the north and the coast in the south. It shares borders with Togo, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. The country is bordered on 121 km by the Gulf of Benin forming part of the Gulf of Guinea itself part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Benin at a glance
Political capital: Porto-Novo
Economic capital: Cotonou
Historic Capital: Abomey
Administrative divisions: 12 departments
Population: more than 10 million inhabitants
Main languages: French, fongbe, gungbe
Main Religions: christianity, islam, voodoo
Current Chairman: Patrice Talon
Currency: CFA franc BCEAO or Dolà en fongbe
Conversion into euro: 100 CFA Francs BCEAO = 0.152 euro
Tourism: Tourism is not recommended in some areas of the country, including the W National Park and along the border with Nigeria. The vigilance is recommended when traveling due to attacks by road cutters. The health risks are numerous (Lassa fever, cholera).
A great diversity of reliefs
The coastline of Niger consists of a mainly marshy sandy plain whose altitude does not exceed 10 meters above sea level. It is in this region of the country that the major cities of the country were founded.
A vast wetland area covering 91,600 hectares and regularly flooded is protected by the Ramsar Convention adopted in 1971 (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat).
The relief rises to the north, turning into trays, the hills and finally into a semi-arid mountain range. The highest peak of the country, Mount Sokhabo culminates at 658 meters above sea level. It is part of the Atacora range that extends over Benin and Togo.
The vegetation is abundant in Benin and one-third of the country (in the south) is covered with forests with mangrove areas. In the north of the country, the forests give way to a savannah covered with bushes emerging from the baobabs.
The W and W Pendjari National Park are responsible for managing the flora and fauna of the country and its neighboring states. The elephants, the lions, the crocodiles, the cheetahs, the giraffes, the leopards inhabit the savanna, while the wetlands are inhabited by manatees, hippos, crocodiles, fish and wildlife, many reptiles. Nevertheless, the W National Park is currently strongly not recommended due to insecurity.
An unknown history
The history of Benin's population is still uncertain today and the historians can only rely on the accounts of missionaries and settlers to try to trace the origin of the different ethnic groups. The traditions of each ethnic group are transmitted orally and some of them have been lost over time. The legend it that the peoples of Togo originate from the mating of Aligbonon, a princess of Tado (city of Togo) with a panther.
The different peoples who occupy the territory of Benin form, in the 15th century, the independent kingdoms, originating for some of Togo and others from Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.
The north of the country is mainly occupied by the Bariba, who are found of throughout West Africa, the Dendi, a remarkable sedentary or itinerant trader, and the Somba who settle in the Atacora mountains.
Central and southern Benin are inhabited mainly by the Goun (political capital of the country), the Fons and the Adja from Togo, the Ewes famous for their traditional loincloth production and the Yorubas known for having founded flourishing cities and who were enslaved and sent to the United States and South America during the slave trade. It is estimated that two million slaves left the port of Benin, Ouidah and that of Nigeria, Lagos.
In the 16th century, the present town of Allada in southern Benin, founded by the Fons, was the capital of a powerful kingdom which extended its territories and built Porto-Novo on the shores of Lake Nkoué, a hamlet of fishermen.
At the same time, the king of Abomey, Houégbadja extended his possessions and founded the Kingdom of Dahomey which soon encompasses the neighboring towns and chiefdoms including Ouidah and Porto Novo which becomes the capital of the new state. During his reign, the kingdom was organized through the establishment of numerous laws and the organization of political and religious life.
The successors of Hoégbadja continue the expansion of the kingdom by annexing the kingdom of Allada and dominating a large portion of the Atlantic coast. It reached its peak during the first half of the 19th century.
Dahomey is recognized as a slave state supplying itself mainly among the Yorubas whose physical performances were sought by the Europeans. In 1825, Abeokuta, a refuge town, was built in Nigeria to protect the population from slave hunters in Dahomey, which eventually led to the end of the slave trade in the kingdom.
The French West Africa
Meanwhile, France continued its colonial expansion in Africa, begun by the foundation of the county of Saint-Louis in Senegal in 1659.
Thus, a general government regrouping all the French colonies in West Africa (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali (formerly French Sudan), Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso (formerly Haute- Volta), Togo and Benin (formerly Dahomey) was created under the name of French West Africa or AOF in 1895.
This federation will only end in 1958 following a referendum. The different settlements became independent two years later.
Birth of Benin
The former French colony was then called the Republic of Dahomey, it changed its name to Benin in 1975.
Hubert Maga from the Bariba people becomes the first president of Dahomey, the country will experience a period troubled by tensions with Niger and the various putsches aimed at successive governments.
Mathieu Kérékou was proclaimed president in 1972 following an umpteenth putsch and two years later he founded a Marxist-Leninist party, an ideology that became that of the government. In 1975, the name of the country was changed to the People's Republic of Benin.
In order to get the country out of the crisis by opening up to the outside world, President Kérékou authorizes the creation of several parties and the organization of free elections. He lost the 1991 elections but returned to power from 1996 to 2006. During his last term, Kérékou allowed his country to emerge from a communist regime disastrous for the economy and to evolve to democracy by abandoning the Marxist ideals.
Benin is a multi-party republic, its president is both head of state and head of government. He is elected by an absolute majority and his term of office is five years, renewable only once.
The current president, Patrice Talon, was elected in 2016. He is a businessman in the field of agricultural products and is a head of one of Africa's biggest fortunes. He ran for election without political etiquette.
The legislative power is entrusted to a unicameral parliament, the National Assembly.
The Judiciary power is entrusted to the High Court of Justice, comprising the members of the Constitutional Court, the Parliament and the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the country.
Benin has three capitals: Porto-Novo, political capital, Cotonou, economic capital and Abomey, historical capital.
An economy mainly based on agriculture
Benin is part of the WAEMU (West African Economic and Monetary Union) and has kept the CFA franc (franc of the financial community of Africa) used in most of the former French colonies to enjoy a stable currency (Exchange rate at fixed parity with the euro).
A large part of the population lives in poverty because of an underdeveloped economy with little diversification, the agriculture remaining the second resource of Benin, after the port activity. Most farms are small and only naturally irrigated land is cultivated. A plan to revive agriculture has nevertheless been put in place to help the sector, notably through financial support for the development, mechanization or use of inputs (fertilizers, plant protection products, etc.). The rice, the maize, the cassava and the market gardening are mainly used to feed local populations, while the cotton, the pineapple, the cashew nuts and the palm oil are exported.
In the northern part of the country, the livestock farming is currently undergoing a rapid expansion, enabling it to expand to the rest of the country. However, the production of beef and sheep meat is insufficient to cover the needs of the country to be imported. The same applies to fishery products.
It is estimated that only 20% of the country's agricultural potential is currently exploited.
The industry that accounts for less than 15% of GDP is almost exclusively in the agri-food and cement sectors.
A multi-ethnic population
The total population of Benin has exceeded 10 million inhabitants and has a high fertility rate (close to 5 children per woman) but also a high infant mortality rate.
The population is young and lives mainly in the countryside.
There are many different ethnic groups in Benin. The Fon are the majority and represent 40% of the Beninese. The Aja, the Yoruba, the Bariba, the Peul, the Batammariba and the Dendi all represent 2 to 15% of the population.
Although the official language of Benin is French, a witness to the country's colonial past, there are some fifty African languages, the main ones being Fon, Adja, Yoruba and Goun. French spoken in the streets is mixed with words derived from these languages and is baptized "French of Africa".
Benin is a secular state that respects freedom of thought and religion.
A quarter of the population is Catholic and another quarter is Muslim while nearly 20% of the inhabitants are followers of Voodoo or Animism. It should be noted, however, that many Beninese practice voodoo worship while having another religion.
The Beninese cuisine differs in the north, in the center and in the south of the country according to the products of the soil, the breeding and the fishing. There are local African dishes combined with European and Brazilian influences. They are mainly made from chicken and fish with corn (in the south), millet, yam (in the north) or rice and are very high. Fruits are ubiquitous.
The national drinks are tchapalo (millet beer), bissap (hibiscus-based) and adoyo (corn beer). Sodabi made from palm wine and tchoukoutou made from millet are the most common alcoholic beverages served in Benin.
The tourists are called to the highest vigilance in Benin and some areas are strongly not recommended, especially the National Park of W because of the lack of security in the Sahel. The travelers traveling by car are regularly attacked by bands called "road cutters", in the outskirts of towns and border areas. It is therefore recommended to travel only in convoy, to carry no luxury items and to take only small sums of money.
The photographs must not be photographed or filmed without permission, as are public buildings.
Finally, the pulling currents that can lead an inexperienced swimmer to the open sea make swimming dangerous on the coast.
The tourism is currently underdeveloped in Benin despite the potential of the country. A program was initiated to attract foreigners and the new president decided to develop this sector by financially supporting seven targeted sites.
The lovers of green tourism discover the landscapes and incomparable panoramas of the Atacora range in the north of the country, its fauna, its waterfalls and the Pendjari National Park. In the south, they are seduced by lush vegetation, the mangrove forest and the beaches of the Atlantic coast.
Different seaside resorts have emerged on the coast, in Cotonou, Grand-Popo or Ouidah, which offers a visit to the old facilities used during the slave trade.
The lake town of Ganvié built on Lake Nokoué is well worth the nickname of Venice of Africa. It has become the main tourist attraction of the country. The palaces of the ancient kings of Abomey, the museums tracing the history of the country and the many pre-colonial buildings are also part of the architectural and historical heritage of Benin.