Region: Western Africa
Capital: Porto-Novo (official capital), Cotonou (seat of government)
Population: 8,294,941 (July 2008 est.)
Surface area: 112,620 sq km
Currency: CFA franc (XOF)
GDP per capita: Purchasing power parity US $1,500 (2007 est.)
Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French Colony in 1872 and achieved independence on 1 August 1960, as the Republic of Benin. A succession of military governments ended in 1972 with the rise to power of Mathieu Kerekou and the establishment of a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles. A move to representative government began in 1989. Two years later, free elections ushered in former Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo as president, marking the first successful transfer of power in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. Kerekou was returned to power by elections held in 1996 and 2001, though some irregularities were alleged. Kerekou stepped down at the end of his second term in 2006 and was succeeded by Thomas Yayi Boni, a political outsider and independent. Yayi has begun a high profile fight against corruption and has strongly promoted accelerating Benin's economic growth.
Economy – Overview:
The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Growth in real output has averaged around 5% in the past seven years, but rapid population growth has offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. In order to raise growth still further, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology. Specific projects to improve the business climate by reforms to the land tenure system, the commercial justice system, and the financial sector were included in Benin's $307 million Millennium Challenge Account grant signed in February 2006. The 2001 privatization policy continues in telecommunications, water, electricity, and agriculture though the government annulled the privatization of Benin's state cotton company in November 2007 after the discovery of irregularities in the bidding process. 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.
Major Export Commodities: cotton, cashews, shea butter, textiles, palm products, seafood
Remittances: US $134 million (2006)
Human Development Index 2007/2008 ranking: 163 out of 177
Official Development Assistance and Major Development Partners: Net ODA in 2006 was US $ 228.38 million. Major development partners include the IDA, the African Development Fund, France, and the European Community.
Total External Debt: US $1.2 billion (2007)
United Nations membership date: 20 September 1960
New York Mission:
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Benin to the United Nations
125 East 38th Street,
New York, NY 10016
CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. www.cia.gov
World Development Indicators. World Bank www.worldbank.org
Development, Recipient Aid Charts. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. www.oecd.org
Human Development Report 2007/2008.United Nations Development Programme. www.undp.org
Updated June 2008