Benin

Benin

Overview
Benin officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

. It borders Togo
Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

 to the west, Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 to the east and Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso – also known by its short-form name Burkina – is a landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the southwest.Its size is with an estimated...

 and Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

 to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin
Bight of Benin
The Bight of Benin is a bight on the western African coast that extends eastward for about 400 miles from Cape St. Paul to the Nun outlet of the Niger River. To the east it is continued by the Bight of Bonny . The bight is part of the Gulf of Guinea...

 is where a majority of the population is located. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo
Porto-Novo
Porto-Novo is the official capital of the West African nation of Benin, and was the capital of French Dahomey. The commune covers an area of 110 square kilometres and as of 2002 had a population of 223,552 people.Porto-Novo is a port on an inlet of the Gulf of Guinea, in the southeastern portion...

, but the seat of government is located in the country's largest city of Cotonou
Cotonou
-Demographics:*1979: 320,348 *1992: 536,827 *2002: 665,100 *2005: 690,584 The main languages spoken in Cotonou include the Fon language, Aja language, Yoruba language and French.-Transport:...

. Benin covers an area of approximately 110,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi), with a population of approximately 9.05 million.
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Encyclopedia
Benin officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

. It borders Togo
Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

 to the west, Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 to the east and Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso – also known by its short-form name Burkina – is a landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the southwest.Its size is with an estimated...

 and Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

 to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin
Bight of Benin
The Bight of Benin is a bight on the western African coast that extends eastward for about 400 miles from Cape St. Paul to the Nun outlet of the Niger River. To the east it is continued by the Bight of Bonny . The bight is part of the Gulf of Guinea...

 is where a majority of the population is located. The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo
Porto-Novo
Porto-Novo is the official capital of the West African nation of Benin, and was the capital of French Dahomey. The commune covers an area of 110 square kilometres and as of 2002 had a population of 223,552 people.Porto-Novo is a port on an inlet of the Gulf of Guinea, in the southeastern portion...

, but the seat of government is located in the country's largest city of Cotonou
Cotonou
-Demographics:*1979: 320,348 *1992: 536,827 *2002: 665,100 *2005: 690,584 The main languages spoken in Cotonou include the Fon language, Aja language, Yoruba language and French.-Transport:...

. Benin covers an area of approximately 110,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi), with a population of approximately 9.05 million. Benin is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, with substantial employment and income arising from subsistence farming
Subsistence agriculture
Subsistence agriculture is self-sufficiency farming in which the farmers focus on growing enough food to feed their families. The typical subsistence farm has a range of crops and animals needed by the family to eat and clothe themselves during the year. Planting decisions are made with an eye...

.

The official language of Benin is French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

, however, indigenous languages such as Fon
Fon language
Fon is part of the Gbe language cluster and belongs to the Volta–Niger branch of the Niger–Congo languages. Fon is spoken mainly in Benin by approximately 1.7 million speakers, by the Fon people...

 and Yoruba
Yoruba language
Yorùbá is a Niger–Congo language spoken in West Africa by approximately 20 million speakers. The native tongue of the Yoruba people, it is spoken, among other languages, in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo and in communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas...

 are commonly spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, Vodun and Protestants. Benin is a member of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, the African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...

, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone
South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone
The South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone was created in 1986 through a UN resolution on Brazil's initiative, with the aim of promoting regional cooperation and the maintenance of peace and security in the region...

, La Francophonie
La Francophonie
Francophonie is an international organization of politics and governments with French as the mother or customary language, where a significant proportion of people are francophones , or where there is a notable affiliation with the French language or culture.Formally known as the Organisation...

, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States
Community of Sahel-Saharan States
CEN-SAD or the Community of Sahel-Saharan States aims to create a free trade area...

, the African Petroleum Producers Association
African Petroleum Producers Association
thumb|Map of states belonging to the APPA as of June 2009.African Petroleum Producers Association, APPA is an organisation of African countries producing petroleum. It was founded in 1986...

 and the Niger Basin Authority
Niger Basin Authority
The Niger Basin Authority is an intergovernmental organisation in West Africa aiming to foster co-operation in managing and developing the resources of the basin of the River Niger...

.

From the 17th to the 19th century, modern day Benin was ruled by the Kingdom of Dahomey
Dahomey
Dahomey was a country in west Africa in what is now the Republic of Benin. The Kingdom of Dahomey was a powerful west African state that was founded in the seventeenth century and survived until 1894. From 1894 until 1960 Dahomey was a part of French West Africa. The independent Republic of Dahomey...

. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast
Slave Coast
The Slave Coast is the name of the coastal areas of present Togo, Benin and western Nigeria, a fertile region of coastal Western Africa along the Bight of Benin. In pre-colonial time it was one of the most densely populated parts of the African continent...

 from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of slaves shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. After the abolition of slavery, France took over the country and renamed it French Dahomey
French Dahomey
Dahomey was a French colony of and a part of French West Africafrom 1904 to 1958. After World War II, by the establishment of the French Fourth Republic in 1947, Dahomey became part of the French Union with an increased autonomy. On 11 December 1958, the French Fifth Republic was established and...

. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France, bringing in a democratic government for the next 12 years.

A Marxist-Leninist dictatorship
Dictatorship
A dictatorship is defined as an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. It has three possible meanings:...

 called the People's Republic of Benin
People's Republic of Benin
The People's Republic of Benin was a socialist state located in the Gulf of Guinea on the African continent, which would become present-day Benin. The People's Republic was established on November 30, 1975, shortly after the 1972 coup d'état in the Republic of Dahomey...

 existed between 1972 and 1990. This regime led to repression and the collapse of the economy. The Republic of Benin was formed in 1991 which brought in multiparty elections.

Etymology


During the colonial period and at independence, the country was known as
Geographical renaming
Geographical renaming is the changing of the name of a geographical feature or area. This can range from the uncontroversial change of a street name to a highly disputed change to the name of a country. Some names are changed locally but the new names are not recognised by other countries,...

 Dahomey. It was renamed on November 30, 1975, to Benin after the body of water on which the country lies - the Bight of Benin
Bight of Benin
The Bight of Benin is a bight on the western African coast that extends eastward for about 400 miles from Cape St. Paul to the Nun outlet of the Niger River. To the east it is continued by the Bight of Bonny . The bight is part of the Gulf of Guinea...

 - which, in turn, had been named after the Benin Empire
Benin Empire
The Benin Empire was a pre-colonial African state in what is now modern Nigeria. It is not to be confused with the modern-day country called Benin, formerly called Dahomey.-Origin:...

. The country of Benin has no direct connection to Benin City
Benin City
Benin City, is a city and the capital of Edo State in southern Nigeria. It is a city approximately twenty-five miles north of the Benin River. It is situated 200 miles by road east of Lagos...

 in modern Nigeria, nor to the Benin bronzes
Benin Bronzes
The Benin Bronzes are a collection of more than 3000 brass plaques from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin . They were seized by a British force in the Punitive Expedition of 1897 and given to the British Foreign Office...

.

The new name, Benin, was chosen for its neutrality. Dahomey was the name of the former Kingdom of Dahomey
Dahomey
Dahomey was a country in west Africa in what is now the Republic of Benin. The Kingdom of Dahomey was a powerful west African state that was founded in the seventeenth century and survived until 1894. From 1894 until 1960 Dahomey was a part of French West Africa. The independent Republic of Dahomey...

, which covered only the southern third of the present country and therefore did not represent the northwestern sector Atakora nor the kingdom of Borgu
Borgu
Borgu was a 15th-16th century state in West Africa, partitioned between the Great Britain and France by the Anglo-French Convention of 1898. It lies in what is now Nigeria and the Republic of Benin.People of Borgu were known as Bariba and Borgawa....

, which covered the northeastern third.

History


The Kingdom of Dahomey formed from a mixture of ethnic groups on the Abomey
Abomey
When UNESCO designated the royal palaces of Abomey as a World Heritage Site in 1985 it statedFrom 1993, 50 of the 56 bas-reliefs that formerly decorated the walls of King Glèlè have been located and replaced on the rebuilt structure...

 plain. Historians theorize that the insecurity caused by slave trading may have contributed to mass migrations of groups to modern day Abomey, including some Aja
Aja people
The Aja are a group of people native to south-western Benin and south-eastern Togo.According to tradition, the Aja migrated to southern Benin in the 12th or 13th centuries from Tado on the Mono River and in the early 17th century, three brothers, Kokpon, Do-Aklin, and Te-Agdanlin, fought for the...

, a Gbe
Gbe languages
The Gbe languages form a cluster of about twenty related languages stretching across the area between eastern Ghana and western Nigeria. The total number of speakers of Gbe languages is between four and eight million. The most widely spoken Gbe language is Ewe , followed by Fon...

 people who are believed to have founded the city. Those Aja living in Abomey mingled with the local Fon people
Fon people
The Fon people, or Fon nu, are a major West African ethnic and linguistic group in the country of Benin, and southwest Nigeria, made up of more than 3,500,000 people. The Fon language is the main language spoken in Southern Benin, and is a member of the Gbe language group...

, also a Gbe people, creating a new ethnic group known as "Dahomey".

The Gbe peoples are said to be descendents of a number of migrants from Wyo. Gangnihessou
Gangnihessou
Gangnihessou, or Ganye Hessou, is the first of the traditional "twelve kings of Dahomey." Dahomey was an African kingdom situated in what is now Benin.- Descent :...

  (a member of an Aja dynasty that in the 16th century along with the Aja populace had come from Tado
Tado
Tado is a village in south east Togo, near the border with Benin.Tradition states that Tado was the birthplace of the Aja people at some point in the 12th or 13th century. Today the Aja populate the south part of Togo and Benin...

 before settling and ruling separately in what is now Abomey
Abomey
When UNESCO designated the royal palaces of Abomey as a World Heritage Site in 1985 it statedFrom 1993, 50 of the 56 bas-reliefs that formerly decorated the walls of King Glèlè have been located and replaced on the rebuilt structure...

, Allada
Allada
Allada is a town, arrondissement, and commune located in the Atlantique Department of Benin.Allada was the capital of the most powerful king in Ajaland before it fell to the armies of Dahomey....

, and Porto Novo) became the first ruler of the Dahomey Kingdom. Dahomey had a military culture aimed at securing and eventually expanding the borders of the small kingdom with its capital at modern day Abomey.

The Dahomey Kingdom
Dahomey
Dahomey was a country in west Africa in what is now the Republic of Benin. The Kingdom of Dahomey was a powerful west African state that was founded in the seventeenth century and survived until 1894. From 1894 until 1960 Dahomey was a part of French West Africa. The independent Republic of Dahomey...

 was known for its culture and traditions. Young boys were often apprenticed to older soldiers, and taught the kingdom's military customs until they were old enough to join the army. Dahomey was also famous for instituting an elite female soldier corps, called Ahosi or "our mothers" in the Fongbe language, and known by many Europeans as the Dahomean Amazons
Amazons
The Amazons are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia...

. This emphasis on military preparation and achievement earned Dahomey the nickname of "black Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

" from European observers and 19th century explorers like Sir Richard Burton.

The kings of Dahomey
Dahomey
Dahomey was a country in west Africa in what is now the Republic of Benin. The Kingdom of Dahomey was a powerful west African state that was founded in the seventeenth century and survived until 1894. From 1894 until 1960 Dahomey was a part of French West Africa. The independent Republic of Dahomey...

 sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery; otherwise the captives would have been killed in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs
The annual customs of Dahomey
Every year in the Kingdom of Dahomey, a huge festival in honor of the ancestors was organized called the annual "customs".In the customs, the king would assemble the entire court, foreign dignitaries, and the populace...

. By c.1750, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling Africans to the European slave-traders. Though the leaders of Dahomey appeared initially to resist the slave trade, it flourished in the region of Dahomey for almost three hundred years (beginning in 1472 with a trade agreement with Portuguese
Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese Empire , also known as the Portuguese Overseas Empire or the Portuguese Colonial Empire , was the first global empire in history...

 merchants), leading to the area being named "the Slave Coast". Court protocols, which demanded that a portion of war captives from the kingdom's many battles be decapitated, decreased the number of enslaved people exported from the area. The number went from 20,000 per year at the beginning of the seventeenth century to 12,000 at the beginning of the 19th century. The decline was partly due to the banning of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Britain and other countries. This decline continued until 1885, when the last Portuguese slave ship departed from the coast of the present-day Benin Republic.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, Dahomey started to lose its status as the regional power. This enabled the French to take over the area in 1892. In 1899, the French included the land called French Dahomey
French Dahomey
Dahomey was a French colony of and a part of French West Africafrom 1904 to 1958. After World War II, by the establishment of the French Fourth Republic in 1947, Dahomey became part of the French Union with an increased autonomy. On 11 December 1958, the French Fifth Republic was established and...

 within the French West Africa
French West Africa
French West Africa was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan , French Guinea , Côte d'Ivoire , Upper Volta , Dahomey and Niger...

 colony. In 1958, France granted autonomy to the Republic of Dahomey
Republic of Dahomey
The Republic of Dahomey was established on December 11, 1958, as a self-governing colony within the French Community. Prior to attaining autonomy it had been French Dahomey, part of the French Union...

, and full independence as of August 1, 1960. The president who led them to independence was Hubert Maga.

For the next twelve years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence. There were several coups and regime changes, with four figures dominating — Hubert Maga
Hubert Maga
Coutoucou Hubert Maga was a politician from Dahomey .Dahomey was renamed Benin in 1975. See . He arose on a political scene where one's power was dictated by what region in Dahomey they lived...

, Sourou Apithy, Justin Ahomadegbé and Emile Derlin Zinsou
Emile Derlin Zinsou
Emile Derlin Zinsou is a Beninese political figure who was the President of Dahomey from 17 July 1968 until 10 December 1969, supported by the military regime that took power in 1967. Zinsou also served in the French senate from 1955 to 1958. He was previously Minister of Foreign Affairs from...

 — the first three representing a different area and ethnicity of the country. These three agreed to form a presidential council after violence marred the 1970 elections.

On May 7, 1972, Maga turned over power to Ahomadegbe. On October 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Mathieu Kérékou
Mathieu Kérékou
Mathieu Kérékou, was President of Benin from 1972 to 1991 and again from 1996 to 2006. After seizing power in a military coup, he ruled the country for 17 years, for most of that time under an officially Marxist-Leninist ideology, before he was stripped of his powers by the National Conference of...

 overthrew the ruling triumvirate, becoming president and stating that the country will not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

, and wants neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism". On November 30, however, he announced that the country was officially Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, under the control of the Military Council of the Revolution (CNR), which nationalized the petroleum industry and banks. On November 30, 1975, he renamed the country to People's Republic of Benin
People's Republic of Benin
The People's Republic of Benin was a socialist state located in the Gulf of Guinea on the African continent, which would become present-day Benin. The People's Republic was established on November 30, 1975, shortly after the 1972 coup d'état in the Republic of Dahomey...

.

In 1979, the CNR
CNR
-Science, technology, computing and communications:*Carrier-to-noise ratio *CNR , the quantity "Contrast to Noise Ratio" in diagnostic imaging*Cisco Network Registrar, a DHCP, DNS and TFTP server suite offered by Cisco...

 was dissolved, and Kérékou arranged show election
Show election
A show election, also known as a sham election or rubber stamp election, is an election that is held purely for show, that is, without any significant political purpose...

s where he was the only allowed candidate. Establishing relations with the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

, North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, and Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

, he put nearly all businesses and economic activities under state control, causing foreign investment in Benin to dry up. Kérékou attempted to reorganize education, pushing his own aphorisms such as "Poverty is not a fatality", resulting in a mass exodus
Emigration
Emigration is the act of leaving one's country or region to settle in another. It is the same as immigration but from the perspective of the country of origin. Human movement before the establishment of political boundaries or within one state is termed migration. There are many reasons why people...

 of teachers, along with a large number of other professionals. The regime financed itself by contracting to take nuclear waste from France.

In 1980, Kérékou converted to Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and changed his first name to Ahmed, then changed his name back after claiming to be a born-again Christian.

In 1989, riots broke out after the regime did not have money to pay its army. The banking system collapsed. Eventually Kérékou renounced Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 and a convention forced Kérékou to release political prisoners and arrange elections.

The name of the country was changed to the Republic of Benin on March 1, 1990, once the newly formed country's constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 was complete, after the abolition of Marxism–Leninism in the nation in 1989.

In 1991, Kérékou was defeated by Nicéphore Soglo
Nicéphore Soglo
Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo is a Beninois politician who was Prime Minister of Benin from 1990 to 1991 and President from 1991 to 1996. He has been the Mayor of Cotonou since 2003.-Biography:Soglo was born in Togo...

, and became the first black African president to step down after an election. Kérékou returned to power after winning the 1996 vote. In 2001, a closely fought election resulted in Kérékou winning another term, after which his opponents claimed election irregularities.

Kérékou and former president Soglo did not run in the 2006 elections, as both were barred by the constitution's restrictions on age and total terms of candidates. Kérékou is widely praised for making no effort to change the constitution so that he could remain in office or run again, unlike many African leaders.

On March 5, 2006, an election was held that was considered free and fair. It resulted in a runoff
Two-round system
The two-round system is a voting system used to elect a single winner where the voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate...

 between Yayi Boni
Yayi Boni
Dr. Thomas Yayi Boni , a Beninese banker and politician, is the current President of Benin. He took office on 6 April 2006 after winning elections held in the previous month.-Biography:...

 and Adrien Houngbédji
Adrien Houngbédji
Adrien Houngbédji is a Beninese politician and the leader of the Democratic Renewal Party , one of Benin's main political parties. He was President of the National Assembly of Benin from 1991 to 1995, Prime Minister of Benin from 1996 to 1998, and President of the National Assembly for a second...

. The runoff election was held on March 19, and was won by Boni, who assumed office on April 6. The success of the fair multi-party elections in Benin won praise internationally.

Politics



Benin's politics take place in a framework of a presidential
Presidential system
A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it....

 representative democratic
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

 republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, where the President of Benin is both head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

, within a multi-party system
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

. Executive power
Executive Power
Executive Power is Vince Flynn's fifth novel, and the fourth to feature Mitch Rapp, an American agent that works for the CIA as an operative for a covert counter terrorism unit called the "Orion Team."-Plot summary:...

 is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the legislature. The judiciary
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

 is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system is derived from the 1990 Constitution of Benin
Constitution of Benin
The Constitution of Benin was adopted by referendum on 2 December 1990.-External links:** from the listing of "International Humanitarian Law - National Implementation" from the International Committee of the Red Cross...

 and the subsequent transition to democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 in 1991.

In its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders is a France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press. It was founded in 1985, by Robert Ménard, Rony Brauman and the journalist Jean-Claude Guillebaud. Jean-François Julliard has served as Secretary General since 2008...

 ranked Benin 53rd out of 169 countries.

Benin scored highly in the 2009 Ibrahim Index of African Governance
Ibrahim Index of African Governance
The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is an attempt to statistically monitor African governance levels throughout all the countries of Africa. Funded and led by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, it uses a number of different indicators to compile an overall ranking of countries, which is designed to be...

, which comprehensively measures the state of governance across the continent. Benin was ranked 15th out of 53 Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n countries, and scored particularly well in the categories of Safety & Security and Participation & Human Rights.

Benin has been rated equal-88th out of 159 countries in a 2005 analysis of police, business and political corruption.

Departments and communes



File:Benin departments named.png|thumb|right|Departments of Benin
rect 96 41 108 60 Alibori
Alibori Department
Alibori is the largest and northernmost départements of Benin, with an area of 25,683 km² and a population of 355,950 . The department is subdivided into 6 communes, each centered at one of the principal towns: Banikoara, Gogounou, Kandi, Karimama, Malanville, and Ségbana. The department borders...


rect 43 70 56 89 Atakora
Atakora Department
Atakora is the northwestern department of Benin, bordering Togo to the west and Burkina Faso to the north. Also, it borders the departments of Alibori, Borgou, and Donga. It is the most mountainous region of Benin, and the birth place of the president, Mathieu Kérékou...


rect 68 237 80 256 Atlantique
Atlantique Department
Atlantique is one of the twelve departments of Benin.Atlantique is divided into the communes of Abomey-Calavi, Allada, Kpomassè, Ouidah, Sô-Ava, Toffo, Tori-Bossito, and Zè.In 1999 the Littoral Department was split off from Atlantique....


rect 85 105 98 125 Borgou
Borgou Department
Borgou is one of the twelve departments of Benin. Borgou borders the country of Nigeria and the departments of Alibori, Atakora, Collines and Donga. The capital of Borgou is Parakou and the total area is 25,310 km.² or 9,772 mi.²....


rect 68 176 81 196 Collines
Collines Department
Collines is one of the twelve departments of Benin. Collines was created in 1999 after the Benin government split up the former six departments of Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou, Mono, Oueme and Zou into twelve. Collinies was split from Zou. Since 2008, the capital is Savalou. The departments that...


rect 48 116 60 134 Donga
Donga Department
Donga is one of the twelve departments of Benin. Donga was created in 1999 when the government split up the original six departments into twelve. Donga was split from Atakora. The capital of Donga is Djougou. The total area is 10,691 km.² or 4,128mi.²....


rect 50 224 62 242 Couffo
Kouffo Department
Kouffo is one of the twelve departments of Benin. The area of Kouffo is 2,404 km.² . Kouffo borders the country of Togo and it also borders the departments of Mono, Zou, and Atlantique. Since 2008, the capital is Aplahoué...


rect 84 254 97 271 Littoral
Littoral Department
Littoral is one of the twelve departments of Benin, and is divided into 13 arrondissements. It contains just one commune/city, Cotonou, the largest in the country and the economic capital. Littoral is the smallest of the twelve departments. The area is . Littoral was split from the Atlantique...


rect 53 242 65 257 Mono
Mono Department
Mono is one of the twelve departments of Benin. The capital of this department is Lokossa. The department of Kouffo was part of Mono until 1999 when the Benin government split up some of the departments and made new departments. The Gen language is only spoken in this department in Benin...


rect 98 237 118 255 Ouémé
Ouémé Department
Ouémé is one of the twelve departments of Benin.In 1999 the northern part of the department was split off to form the new Plateau Department....


rect 98 206 117 224 Plateau
Plateau Department
Plateau is one of the twelve departments of Benin.Plateau is divided into the communes of Ifangni, Adja-Ouèrè, Kétou, Pobè and Sakété....


rect 62 211 78 229 Zou
Zou Department
Zou is one of the twelve departments of Benin.Zou is divided into the communes of Abomey, Agbangnizoun, Bohicon, Cové, Djidja, Ouinhi, Za-Kpota, Zangnanado, and Zogbodomey....




Benin is divided into 12 departments
Department (subnational entity)
Department is the name given to the administrative and political subdivisions of many countries.As a territorial unit, "department" was first used by the French Revolutionary governments, apparently to emphasize that each territory was simply an administrative sub-division of the united sovereign...

 (French: départements), and subdivided into 77 communes. In 1999, the previous six departments were each split into two halves, forming the current 12. The six new departments have not been assigned an official capital yet.
  1. Alibori
    Alibori Department
    Alibori is the largest and northernmost départements of Benin, with an area of 25,683 km² and a population of 355,950 . The department is subdivided into 6 communes, each centered at one of the principal towns: Banikoara, Gogounou, Kandi, Karimama, Malanville, and Ségbana. The department borders...

  2. Atakora
    Atakora Department
    Atakora is the northwestern department of Benin, bordering Togo to the west and Burkina Faso to the north. Also, it borders the departments of Alibori, Borgou, and Donga. It is the most mountainous region of Benin, and the birth place of the president, Mathieu Kérékou...

  3. Atlantique
    Atlantique Department
    Atlantique is one of the twelve departments of Benin.Atlantique is divided into the communes of Abomey-Calavi, Allada, Kpomassè, Ouidah, Sô-Ava, Toffo, Tori-Bossito, and Zè.In 1999 the Littoral Department was split off from Atlantique....

  4. Borgou
    Borgou Department
    Borgou is one of the twelve departments of Benin. Borgou borders the country of Nigeria and the departments of Alibori, Atakora, Collines and Donga. The capital of Borgou is Parakou and the total area is 25,310 km.² or 9,772 mi.²....

  5. Collines
    Collines Department
    Collines is one of the twelve departments of Benin. Collines was created in 1999 after the Benin government split up the former six departments of Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou, Mono, Oueme and Zou into twelve. Collinies was split from Zou. Since 2008, the capital is Savalou. The departments that...

  6. Donga
    Donga Department
    Donga is one of the twelve departments of Benin. Donga was created in 1999 when the government split up the original six departments into twelve. Donga was split from Atakora. The capital of Donga is Djougou. The total area is 10,691 km.² or 4,128mi.²....

  7. Kouffo
    Kouffo Department
    Kouffo is one of the twelve departments of Benin. The area of Kouffo is 2,404 km.² . Kouffo borders the country of Togo and it also borders the departments of Mono, Zou, and Atlantique. Since 2008, the capital is Aplahoué...

  8. Littoral
    Littoral Department
    Littoral is one of the twelve departments of Benin, and is divided into 13 arrondissements. It contains just one commune/city, Cotonou, the largest in the country and the economic capital. Littoral is the smallest of the twelve departments. The area is . Littoral was split from the Atlantique...

  9. Mono
    Mono Department
    Mono is one of the twelve departments of Benin. The capital of this department is Lokossa. The department of Kouffo was part of Mono until 1999 when the Benin government split up some of the departments and made new departments. The Gen language is only spoken in this department in Benin...

  10. Ouémé
    Ouémé Department
    Ouémé is one of the twelve departments of Benin.In 1999 the northern part of the department was split off to form the new Plateau Department....

  11. Plateau
    Plateau Department
    Plateau is one of the twelve departments of Benin.Plateau is divided into the communes of Ifangni, Adja-Ouèrè, Kétou, Pobè and Sakété....

  12. Zou
    Zou Department
    Zou is one of the twelve departments of Benin.Zou is divided into the communes of Abomey, Agbangnizoun, Bohicon, Cové, Djidja, Ouinhi, Za-Kpota, Zangnanado, and Zogbodomey....


Geography





Benin, a narrow, north-south strip of land in west Africa, lies between the Equator
Equator
An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and containing the sphere's center of mass....

 and the Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Cancer
The Tropic of Cancer, also referred to as the Northern tropic, is the circle of latitude on the Earth that marks the most northerly position at which the Sun may appear directly overhead at its zenith...

. Benin lies between latitudes
6th parallel north
The 6th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 6 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Ocean, South America and the Atlantic Ocean....

 and 13°N
13th parallel north
The 13th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 13 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean....

, and longitudes
Prime Meridian
The Prime Meridian is the meridian at which the longitude is defined to be 0°.The Prime Meridian and its opposite the 180th meridian , which the International Date Line generally follows, form a great circle that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.An international...

 and 4°E
4th meridian east
The meridian 4° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Africa, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

. Benin is bounded by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso – also known by its short-form name Burkina – is a landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the southwest.Its size is with an estimated...

 and Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

 to the north, Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 to the east, and the Bight of Benin
Bight of Benin
The Bight of Benin is a bight on the western African coast that extends eastward for about 400 miles from Cape St. Paul to the Nun outlet of the Niger River. To the east it is continued by the Bight of Bonny . The bight is part of the Gulf of Guinea...

 to the south.

With an area of 112622 km² (43,484 sq mi), Benin extends from the Niger River
Niger River
The Niger River is the principal river of western Africa, extending about . Its drainage basin is in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea...

 in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south, a distance of 650 km (404 mi). Although the coastline measures 121 km (75 mi) the country measures about 325 km (202 mi) at its widest point.

It is one of the smaller countries in West Africa, one-eighth the size of Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, its neighbor to the east. It is, however, twice as large as Togo
Togo
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...

, its neighbor to the west.

Benin shows little variation in elevation and can be divided into four areas from the south to the north, starting with the low-lying, sandy, coastal plain (highest elevation 10 m (32.8 ft)) which is, at most, 10 km (6.2 mi) wide. It is marshy and dotted with lakes and lagoons communicating with the ocean. Behind the coast lies the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic
Guinean forest-savanna mosaic
The Guinean forest-savanna mosaic is an ecoregion of West Africa, a band of interlaced forest, savanna, and grassland running east to west and dividing the tropical moist forests near the coast from the West Sudanian savanna of the interior.-Setting:...

-covered plateaus of southern Benin (altitude between 20 and 200 m (65.6 and 656.2 ft)), which are split by valleys running north to south along the Couffo, Zou
Zou River
The Zou is a river of south-western Benin.The river banks are inhabited in parts by the Mahi people near the Togo border....

, and Oueme River
Ouémé River
The Ouémé River is a river in the countries of Benin and Nigeria. It flows into the Atlantic Ocean near the large city of Cotonou, Benin .Also known as the Weme River, this river has its source in the Atakora Mountains of Benin...

s.

Then an area of flat lands dotted with rocky hills whose altitude seldom reaches 400 m (1,312 ft) extends around Nikki and Save. Finally, a range of mountains extends along the northwest border and into Togo; this is the Atacora, with the highest point, Mont Sokbaro
Mont Sokbaro
Mont Sokbaro is the highest point of Benin, with an altitude of . It is located on the border between Benin and Togo.-External links: , Geonames.org...

, at 658 m (2,159 ft).

Benin has fields of lying fallow, mangroves, and remnants of large sacred forests. In the rest of the country, the savanna is covered with thorny scrubs and dotted with huge baobab
Baobab
Adansonia is a genus of eight species of tree, six native to Madagascar, one native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and one to Australia. The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island....

 trees. Some forests line the banks of rivers. In the north and the northwest of Benin the Reserve du W du Niger
W National Park
The W National Park is a major national park in West Africa around a meander in the River Niger shaped like a "W". The park includes areas of the three countries Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso, and is governed by the three governments...

 and Pendjari National Park
Pendjari National Park
The Pendjari National Park lies in north western Benin, adjoining the Arli National Park in Burkina Faso. Named for the Pendjari River, the national park is known for its wildlife and his home to some of the last populations of big game like elephants, West African lions, hippopotamuses, buffalo...

 attract tourists eager to see elephants, lions, antelopes, hippos, and monkeys. Historically Benin has served as habitat for the endangered Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus; however, this canid is thought to have been locally extirpated.

Benin's climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall in the coastal area averages 1300 mm or about 51 inches. Benin has two rainy and two dry seasons per year. The principal rainy season is from April to late July, with a shorter less intense rainy period from late September to November. The main dry season is from December to April, with a short cooler dry season from late July to early September. Temperatures and humidity are high along the tropical coast. In Cotonou
Cotonou
-Demographics:*1979: 320,348 *1992: 536,827 *2002: 665,100 *2005: 690,584 The main languages spoken in Cotonou include the Fon language, Aja language, Yoruba language and French.-Transport:...

, the average maximum temperature is 31 °C (87.8 °F); the minimum is 24 °C (75.2 °F).

Variations in temperature increase when moving north through a savanna
Savanna
A savanna, or savannah, is a grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently small or widely spaced so that the canopy does not close. The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of C4 grasses.Some...

 and plateau toward the Sahel. A dry wind from the Sahara called the Harmattan
Harmattan
The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March...

 blows from December to March, during which grass dries up, the vegetation turns reddish brown, and a veil of fine dust hangs over the country, causing the skies to be overcast. It also is the season when farmers burn brush in the fields.

Economy


The economy of Benin is dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Cotton accounts for 40% of GDP and roughly 80% of official export receipts. 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. Benin uses the CFA franc
CFA franc
The CFA franc is the name of two currencies used in Africa which are guaranteed by the French treasury. The two CFA franc currencies are the West African CFA franc and the Central African CFA franc...

, which is pegged to the euro.

Benin’s economy has continued to strengthen over the past years, with real GDP growth estimated at 5.1 percent and 5.7 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The main driver of growth is the agricultural sector, with cotton being the country’s main export, while services continue to contribute the largest part of GDP largely because of Benin’s geographical location, enabling trade, transportation, transit and tourism activities with its neighbouring states.

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. 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 US$307 million Millennium Challenge Account grant signed in February 2006.

The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation, with Benin benefiting from a G8 debt reduction announced in July 2005, while pressing for more rapid structural reforms. An insufficient electrical supply continues to adversely affect Benin's economic growth though the government recently has taken steps to increase domestic power production.

Although trade unions in Benin
Trade unions in Benin
Trade unions in Benin operate in relative freedom, with approximately 75% of the formal sector being unionized. There are, however, concerns expressed by the International Labour Organization and the International Trade Union Confederation about the discrepancies between the government's Labour...

 represent up to 75% of the formal workforce, the large informal economy has been noted by the International Trade Union Confederation
International Trade Union Confederation
The International Trade Union Confederation is the world's largest trade union federation. It was formed on November 1, 2006 out of the merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Confederation of Labour...

 (ITCU) to contain ongoing problems, including a lack of women's wage equality, the use of child labour, and the continuing issue of forced labour
Unfree labour
Unfree labour includes all forms of slavery as well as all other related institutions .-Payment for unfree labour:If payment occurs, it may be in one or more of the following forms:...

.

Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA
Ohada
OHADA is a system of business laws and implementing institutions adopted by sixteen West and Central African nations. OHADA is the French acronym for "Organisation pour l'Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires", which translates into English as "Organisation for the Harmonization of...

).

Cotonou harbors the country's only seaport and international airport. A new port is currently under construction between Cotonou and Porto Novo. Benin is connected by 2 lane asphalted roads to its neighboring countries (Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria). Mobile telephone service is available across the country through various operators
Mobile Network Code
A Mobile Network Code is used in combination with a Mobile Country Code to uniquely identify a mobile phone operator/carrier using the GSM/LTE, CDMA, iDEN, TETRA and UMTS public land mobile networks and some satellite mobile networks...

. ADSL connections are available in some areas. Benin is connected to the Internet by way of satellite connections (since 1998) and a single submarine cable SAT-3/WASC
SAT-3/WASC (cable system)
SAT-3/WASC or South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable is a submarine communications cable linking Portugal and Spain to South Africa, with connections to several West African countries along the route. It forms part of the SAT-3/WASC/SAFE cable system, where the SAFE cable links South Africa...

 (since 2001), keeping the price of data extremely high. Relief is expected with initiation of the Africa Coast to Europe
ACE (cable system)
The ACE submarine communications cable is a cable system undergoing construction along the west coast of Africa between France and South Africa, planned by the ACE consortium which was initiated on June 5, 2010....

 cable in 2011.

Currently, about a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

1.25 per day.

Demographics



The majority of Benin's population lives in the south. The population is young, with a life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 of 59 years. About 42 African ethnic groups live in this country; these various groups settled in Benin at different times and also migrated within the country. Ethnic groups include the Yoruba
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

 in the southeast (migrated from Nigeria in the 12th century); the Dendi in the north-central area (they came from Mali in the 16th century); the Bariba
Bariba people
The Bariba people, self designation Baatonu , are the principal inhabitants of Borgou Department, Benin, and cofounders of the Borgu kingdom of what is now northeast Benin and northwest Nigeria. There are perhaps a million Bariba, 80% of them in Benin, where they are the fourth largest ethnic group...

 and the Fula
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

  in the northeast; the Betammaribe and the Somba in the Atacora Range; the Fon in the area around Abomey in the South Central and the Mina, Xueda, and Aja (who came from Togo) on the coast.

Recent migrations have brought other African nationals to Benin that include Nigerians, Togolese, and Malians. The foreign community also includes many Lebanese and Indians involved in trade and commerce. The personnel of the many European embassies and foreign aid missions and of nongovernmental organizations and various missionary groups account for a large part of the European population. A small part of the European population consists of Beninese citizens of French ancestry
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

, whose ancestors ruled Benin and left after independence.

Health


During the 1980s, less than 30 percent of the population had access primary health care services. Benin had one of the highest death rates for children under the age of five in the world. Its infant mortality rate stood at 203 deaths for every live births. Only one in three mothers had access to child health care services. The Bamako Initiative
Bamako Initiative
The Bamako Initiative was a formal statement adopted by African health ministers in 1987 in Bamako, Mali, to implement strategies designed to increase the availability of essential drugs and other healthcare services for Sub-Saharan Africans....

 changed that dramatically by introducing community-based health care reform, resulting in more efficient and equitable provision of services. A comprehensive approach strategy was extended to all areas of health care, with subsequent improvement in the health care indicators and improvement in health care efficiency and cost. Demographic and Health Surveys
Demographic and Health Surveys
The MEASURE Demographic and Health Surveys Project is responsible for collecting and disseminating accurate, nationally representative data on health and population in developing countries. The project is implemented by Macro International, Inc...

 has completed three surveys in Benin since 1996.

Arts



Beninese literature had a strong oral tradition long before French became the dominant language. Felix Couchoro wrote the first Beninese novel, L'Esclave in 1929
1929 in literature
The year 1929 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Candide by Voltaire is declared obscene by the United States Customs and seized in 1930....

.

Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghana
Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

ian highlife
Highlife
Highlife is a musical genre that originated in Ghana in the 1900s and spread to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and other West African countries by 1920...

, French cabaret
Cabaret
Cabaret is a form, or place, of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue: a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables watching the performance, as introduced by a master of ceremonies or...

, American rock
Rock and roll
Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, primarily from a combination of African American blues, country, jazz, and gospel music...

, funk
Funk
Funk is a music genre that originated in the mid-late 1960s when African American musicians blended soul music, jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground...

 and soul
Soul music
Soul music is a music genre originating in the United States combining elements of gospel music and rhythm and blues. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of...

, and Congo
Music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Describing the music of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is difficult, due to vagaries surrounding the meanings of various terms. The country itself was formerly called Zaire and is now sometimes referred to as Congo-Kinshasa to distinguish it from the Republic of the Congo...

lese rumba.

Singer Angélique Kidjo
Angélique Kidjo
Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo, commonly known as Angélique Kidjo is a Grammy Award–winning Beninoise singer-songwriter and activist, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Time Magazine has called her "Africa's premier diva". The BBC has...

 and actor Djimon Hounsou
Djimon Hounsou
Djimon Diaw Hounsou is a Beninese actor and model. As an actor, Hounsou has been nominated for two Academy Awards.-Early life:Djimon Hounsou was born in Cotonou, Benin, in 1964, to lbertine and Pierre Hounsou, a cook. He emigrated to Lyon in France at the age of thirteen with his brother, Edmond....

 were both born in Cotonou, Benin. Composer Wally Badarou
Wally Badarou
Wally Badarou is a musician from Benin.-Biography:A synthesiser specialist, Badarou was the longtime associate of the British band Level 42, known for its blend of funk, pop, soul and rock...

 and singer Gnonnas Pedro
Gnonnas Pedro
Gnonnan Sossou Pierre Kouassivi, known by the stage name Gnonnas Pedro was a singer and musician from Benin. He is perhaps best known as the lead singer of Africando between 1995 and his death in 2004, but had been well known in his home country of Benin since the 1960s.Pedro produced the song Feso...

 are also of Beninese descent.

Customary names


Many Beninois in the south of the country have Akan-based names
Akan name
The Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born....

 indicating the day of the week on which they were born. This is due to influence of the Akan people
Akan people
The Akan people are an ethnic group found predominately in Ghana and The Ivory Coast. Akans are the majority in both of these countries and overall have a population of over 20 million people.The Akan speak Kwa languages-Origin and ethnogenesis:...

 likely the Akwamu
Akwamu
The Akwamu was a state set up by the Akan people in Ghana which existed in the 17th century and 18th century. Originally immigrating from Bono state, the founders settled in Twifo-Heman. The Akwamu created an expansionist empire in the 16th and 17th century...

 and others.

Language



Local languages are used as the languages of instruction in elementary schools, with French only introduced after several years. In wealthier cities, however, French is usually taught at an earlier age. Beninese languages are generally transcribed with a separate letter for each speech sound (phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

), rather than using diacritic
Diacritic
A diacritic is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός . Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute and grave are often called accents...

s as in French or digraph
Digraph (orthography)
A digraph or digram is a pair of characters used to write one phoneme or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined...

s as in English. This includes Beninese Yoruba
Yoruba language
Yorùbá is a Niger–Congo language spoken in West Africa by approximately 20 million speakers. The native tongue of the Yoruba people, it is spoken, among other languages, in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo and in communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas...

, which in Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

 is written with both diacritics and digraphs. For instance, the mid vowel
Mid vowel
A mid vowel is a vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel...

s written é è, ô, o in French are written e, ɛ, o, ɔ in Beninese languages, whereas the consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

s written ng and sh or ch in English are written ŋ and c. However, digraphs are used for nasal vowel
Nasal vowel
A nasal vowel is a vowel that is produced with a lowering of the velum so that air escapes both through nose as well as the mouth. By contrast, oral vowels are ordinary vowels without this nasalisation...

s and the labial-velar consonant
Labial-velar consonant
Labial–velar consonants are doubly articulated at the velum and the lips. They are sometimes called "labiovelar consonants", a term that can also refer to labialized velars, such as and the approximant ....

s kp and gb, as in the name of the Fon language
Fon language
Fon is part of the Gbe language cluster and belongs to the Volta–Niger branch of the Niger–Congo languages. Fon is spoken mainly in Benin by approximately 1.7 million speakers, by the Fon people...

 Fon gbe /fõ ɡ͡be/, and diacritics are used as tone marks
Tone (linguistics)
Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called...

. In French-language publications, a mixture of French and Beninese orthographies may be seen.

Religion



In the 2002 census, 42.8% of the population of Benin were Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 (27.1% Roman Catholic, 5% Celestial Church of Christ
Celestial Church of Christ
The Celestial Church of Christ is an African Initiated Church founded by the Rev. Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oschoffa on 29 September 1947 in Porto-Novo, Benin...

, 3.2% Methodist, 7.5% other Christian denominations), 24.4% were Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

, 17.3% practices Vodun, 6% other traditional local religious groups, 1.9% other religious groups, and 6.5% claim no religious affiliation.

Indigenous religions include local animistic
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

 religions in the Atakora (Atakora and Donga provinces) and Vodun and Orisha
Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

 or Orisa veneration among the Yoruba and Tado peoples in the center and south of the country. The town of Ouidah
Ouidah
Ouidah , also Whydah or Juda, is a city on the Atlantic coast of Benin.The commune covers an area of 364 square kilometres and as of 2002 had a population of 76,555 people.-History:...

 on the central coast is the spiritual center of Beninese Vodun.

The major introduced religions are Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, introduced by the Songhai Empire
Songhai Empire
The Songhai Empire, also known as the Songhay Empire, was a state located in western Africa. From the early 15th to the late 16th century, Songhai was one of the largest Islamic empires in history. This empire bore the same name as its leading ethnic group, the Songhai. Its capital was the city...

 and Hausa merchants, and now followed throughout Alibori, Borgou, and Donga
Donga Department
Donga is one of the twelve departments of Benin. Donga was created in 1999 when the government split up the original six departments into twelve. Donga was split from Atakora. The capital of Donga is Djougou. The total area is 10,691 km.² or 4,128mi.²....

 provinces, as well as among the Yoruba (who also follow Christianity), and Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, followed throughout the south and center of Benin and in Otammari country in the Atakora. Many, however, continue to hold Vodun and Orisha
Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

 beliefs and have incorporated into Christianity the pantheon of Vodun and Orisha
Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....

. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the larger of two communities that arose from the Ahmadiyya movement founded in 1889 in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian . The original movement split into two factions soon after the death of the founder...

, a sect originating in the 19th century is also present, in significant minority.

Education



The literacy
Literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 rate in Benin is among the lowest in the world: in 2002 it was estimated to be 34.7% (47.9% for males and 23.3% for females).
Although at one time the education system was not free, Benin has abolished school fees and is carrying out the recommendations of its 2007 Educational Forum.

Cuisine




Beninese cuisine is known in Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 for its and exotic ingredients and flavorful dishes. Beninese cuisine involves lots of fresh meals served with a variety of sauces. In southern Benin cuisine, the most common ingredient is corn
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

, often used to prepare dough
Dough
Dough is a paste made out of any cereals or leguminous crops by mixing flour with a small amount of water and/or other liquid. This process is a precursor to making a wide variety of foodstuffs, particularly breads and bread-based items , flatbreads, noodles, pastry, and similar items)...

 which is mainly served with peanut
Peanut
The peanut, or groundnut , is a species in the legume or "bean" family , so it is not a nut. The peanut was probably first cultivated in the valleys of Peru. It is an annual herbaceous plant growing tall...

- or tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

-based sauce
Sauce
In cooking, a sauce is liquid, creaming or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted...

s. Fish
Fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

 and chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

 are the most common meats used in southern Beninese cuisine is, but beef
Beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

, and bush rat
Bush Rat
The bush rat is a small Australian nocturnal animal. It is an omnivore. It is one of the most common species of rats and is found in many heathland areas of Victoria and NSW...

 are also consumed. The main staple in northern Benin is Yam
Yam (vegetable)
Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea . These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania...

s, also often served with stated sauces. The population in the northern provinces uses beef and pork
Pork
Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig , which is eaten in many countries. It is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC....

 meat which is also fried in palm or peanut oil or cooked in sauces. Cheese
Cheese
Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms....

 is also frequently used in some dishes. Couscous
Couscous
Couscous is a Berber dish of semolina traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. Couscous is a staple food throughout Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.-Etymology:...

, rice, and bean
Bean
Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae used for human food or animal feed....

s are also commonly eaten, along with fruits such as mango
Mango
The mango is a fleshy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is native to India from where it spread all over the world. It is also the most cultivated fruit of the tropical world. While...

s, oranges, avocados, bananas, kiwi fruit, and pineapples.

Meat is usually quite expensive, and meals are generally light on meat and generous on vegetable fat. Frying in palm or peanut oil is the most common meat preparation, and smoked fish
Smoked fish
Smoked fish are fish that have been cured by smoking.Foods have been smoked by humans throughout history. Originally this was done as a preservative...

 is also commonly prepared in Benin. Grinders are used to prepare corn flour, which is made into a dough and served with sauces. "Chicken on the spit" is a traditional recipe in which chicken is roasted over fire on wooden sticks. Palm
Arecaceae
Arecaceae or Palmae , are a family of flowering plants, the only family in the monocot order Arecales. There are roughly 202 currently known genera with around 2600 species, most of which are restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates...

 roots are sometimes soaked in a jar with saltwater and sliced garlic to tenderize it, which is then used in various dishes. Many people have mud stoves for cooking, which are located outside of their homes.

See also




Further reading

  • Butler, S., Benin (Bradt Travel Guides), (Bradt Travel Guides, 2006)
  • Caulfield, Annie, Show Me the Magic: Travels Round Benin by Taxi, (Penguin Books Ltd., 2003)
  • Kraus, Erika and Reid, Felice, Benin (Other Places Travel Guide), (Other Places Publishing, 2010)
  • Seely, Jennifer, The Legacies of Transition Governments in Africa: The Cases of Benin and Togo, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

External links


  • Country Profile from BBC News
    BBC News
    BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

  • Benin from UCB Libraries GovPubs
  • Benin Politics


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