Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a West African kingdom that rose to prominence in about 1600 and over the next two and a half centuries became a regional power, largely based on its slave trade. Coastal areas of Dahomey began to be controlled by the French in the second half of the 19th century; the entire kingdom was conquered by 1894. French Dahomey achieved independence in 1960; it changed its name to the Republic of Benin in 1975.
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, who won a second five-year term in March 2011. Patrice TALON, a wealthy businessman, took office in 2016 after campaigning to restore public confidence in the government.



Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo

Geographic coordinates

9 30 N, 2 15 E

Map references



total: 112,622 sq km
land: 110,622 sq km
water: 2,000 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries

total: 2,123 km
border countries (4): Burkina Faso 386 km, Niger 277 km, Nigeria 809 km, Togo 651 km


121 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 200 nm


tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north


mostly flat to undulating plain; some hills and low mountains


mean elevation: 273 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Mont Sokbaro 658 m

Natural resources

small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber

Land use

agricultural land: 31.3%
arable land 22.9%; permanent crops 3.5%; permanent pasture 4.9%
forest: 40%
other: 28.7% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

230 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind may affect north from December to March

Environment - current issues

inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching threatens wildlife populations; deforestation; desertification

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

sandbanks create difficult access to a coast with no natural harbors, river mouths, or islands

People and Society


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2016 est.)


noun: Beninese (singular and plural)
adjective: Beninese

Ethnic groups

Fon and related 38.4%, Adja and related 15.1%, Yoruba and related 12%, Bariba and related 9.6%, Fulani and related 8.6%, Ottamari and related 6.1%, Yoa-Lokpa and related 4.3%, Dendi and related 2.9%, other 0.9%, foreigner 1.9% (2013 est.)


French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)


Muslim 27.7%, Catholic 25.5%, Protestant 13.5% (Celestial 6.7%, Methodist 3.4%, other Protestant 3.4%), Vodoun 11.6%, other Christian 9.5%, other traditional religions 2.6%, other 2.6%, none 5.8% (2013 est.)

Demographic profile

Benin has a youthful age structure – almost 65% of the population is under the age of 25 – which is bolstered by high fertility and population growth rates. Benin’s total fertility has been falling over time but remains high, declining from almost 7 children per women in 1990 to 4.8 in 2016. Benin’s low contraceptive use and high unmet need for contraception contribute to the sustained high fertility rate. Although the majority of Beninese women use skilled health care personnel for antenatal care and delivery, the high rate of maternal mortality indicates the need for more access to high quality obstetric care.
Poverty, unemployment, increased living costs, and dwindling resources increasingly drive the Beninese to migrate. An estimated 4.4 million, more than 40%, of Beninese live abroad. Virtually all Beninese emigrants move to West African countries, particularly Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. Of the less than 1% of Beninese emigrants who settle in Europe, the vast majority live in France, Benin’s former colonial ruler.
With about 40% of the population living below the poverty line, many desperate parents resort to sending their children to work in wealthy households as domestic servants (a common practice known as vidomegon), mines, quarries, or agriculture domestically or in Nigeria and other neighboring countries, often under brutal conditions. Unlike in other West African countries, where rural people move to the coast, farmers from Benin’s densely populated southern and northwestern regions move to the historically sparsely populated central region to pursue agriculture. Immigrants from West African countries came to Benin in increasing numbers between 1992 and 2002 because of its political stability and porous borders.

Age structure

0-14 years: 43.04% (male 2,358,838/female 2,264,204)
15-24 years: 20.32% (male 1,110,607/female 1,072,196)
25-54 years: 30.24% (male 1,641,547/female 1,606,185)
55-64 years: 3.56% (male 165,496/female 217,192)
65 years and over: 2.84% (male 120,629/female 184,564) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 82%
youth dependency ratio: 76.7%
elderly dependency ratio: 5.3%
potential support ratio: 19% (2015 est.)

Population growth rate

2.75% (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 18 years
male: 17.7 years
female: 18.4 years (2016 est.)

Birth rate

35.5 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

8 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 44% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 3.67% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

PORTO-NOVO (capital) 268,000 (2014); COTONOU (seat of government) 682,000; Abomey-Calavi 757,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.76 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.66 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Child labor - children ages 5-14

total number: 1,020,981
percentage: 46% (2006 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

405 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 54.2 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 57.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 51 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 61.9 years
male: 60.5 years
female: 63.3 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

4.86 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

12.9% (2011/12)

Health expenditures

4.6% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density

0.06 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density

0.5 beds/1,000 population (2010)

Drinking water source

urban: 85.2% of population
rural: 72.1% of population
total: 77.9% of population
urban: 14.8% of population
rural: 27.9% of population
total: 22.1% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 35.6% of population
rural: 7.3% of population
total: 19.7% of population
urban: 64.4% of population
rural: 92.7% of population
total: 80.3% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

1.06% (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

69,100 (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

2,800 (2015 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

8.1% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

18% (2014)

Education expenditures

4.3% of GDP (2014)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 38.4%
male: 49.9%
female: 27.3% (2015 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years
male: 14 years
female: 11 years (2013)

Mother's mean age at first birth

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2011/12 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 2.4%
male: 1.5%
female: 3.1% (2010 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Benin
conventional short form: Benin
local long form: Republique du Benin
local short form: Benin
former: Dahomey
etymology: named for the Bight of Benin, the body of water on which the country lies

Government type

presidential republic


name: Porto-Novo (official capital); note - Cotonou (seat of government)
geographic coordinates: 6 29 N, 2 37 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)


1 August 1960 (from France)

Administrative divisions

12 departments; Alibori, Atacora, Atlantique, Borgou, Collines, Couffo, Donga, Littoral, Mono, Oueme, Plateau, Zou

National holiday

National Day, 1 August (1960)


previous 1946, 1958 (preindependence); latest adopted by referendum 2 December 1990, promulgated 11 December 1990 (2016)

Legal system

civil law system modeled largely on the French system and some customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Benin
dual citizenship recognized: yes
residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Patrice TALON (since 6 April 2016); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Patrice TALON (since 6 April 2016); Prime Minister (vacant)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); last held on 6 March and 20 March 2016 (next to be held in 2021)
election results: Patrice TALON elected president; first round percent of vote - Lionel ZINSOU (FCBE) 28.4%, Patrice TALON (independent) 24.8%, Sebastien AJAVON (independent) 23.0%, Abdoulaye Bio TCHANE (ABT) 8.8%, Pascal KOUPAKI (NC) 5.9%, other 9.1%; second round percent of vote - Patrice TALON 65.4%, Lionel ZINSOU 34.6%

National symbol(s)

leopard; national colors: green, yellow, red

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (83 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held on 26 April 2015 (next to be held in April 2019)
election results: percent of vote by party - FCBE 30.2%, UN 14.4%, PRD 10.6%, AND 7.6%, RB-RP 7.1%, other 30.1%; seats by party - FCBE 33, UN 13, PRD 10, AND 5, RB-RP 7, other 15

Political pressure groups and leaders

other: economic groups; environmentalists; political groups; teachers' unions and other educational groups

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (consists of the court president and 3 chamber presidents organized into an administrative division, judicial chamber, and chamber of accounts); Constitutional Court or Cour Constitutionnelle (consists of 7 members including the court president); High Court of Justice (consists of the Constitutional Court members, 6 members appointed by the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court president); note - jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice is limited to cases of high treason by the national president or members of the government while in office
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court president and judges appointed by the national president upon the advice of the National Assembly; judges appointed for single renewable 5-year terms; Constitutional Court members - 4 appointed by the National Assembly and 3 by the national president; members appointed for single renewable 5-year terms; High Court of Justice "other" members elected by the National Assembly; member tenure NA
subordinate courts: Court of Appeal or Cour d'Appel; district courts; village courts; Assize courts

Political parties and leaders

Alliance for a Triumphant Benin or ABT [Abdoulaye BIO TCHANE]
African Movement for Development and Progress or MADEP [Sefou FAGBOHOUN]
Benin Renaissance or RB [Lehady SOGLO]
Cowrie Force for an Emerging Benin or FCBE [Yayi BONI]
Democratic Renewal Party or PRD [Adrien HOUNGBEDJI]
New Consciousness Rally or NC [Pascal KOUPAKI]
Patriotic Awakening or RP [Janvier YAHOUEDEOU]
Social Democrat Party or PSD [Emmanuel GOLOU]
Sun Alliance or AS [Sacca LAFIA]
Union Makes the Nation or UN [Adrien HOUNGBEDJI] (alliance superceded Alliance for Dynamic Democracy or ADD)
United Democratic Forces or FDU [Mathurin NAGO]
note: approximately 20 additional minor parties

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Omar AROUNA (since 21 May 2014)
chancery: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-6656
FAX: [1] (202) 265-1996

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Lucy TAMLYN (since 8 November 2015)
embassy: Caporal Bernard Anani, 01 BP 2012, Cotonou
mailing address: 01 B. P. 2012, Cotonou
telephone: [229] 21-30-06-50
FAX: [229] 21-30-03-84

Flag description

two equal horizontal bands of yellow (top) and red (bottom) with a vertical green band on the hoist side; green symbolizes hope and revival, yellow wealth, and red courage
note: uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia

National anthem

name: "L'Aube Nouvelle" (The Dawn of a New Day)
lyrics/music: Gilbert Jean DAGNON
note: adopted 1960


Economy - overview

The free market economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Cotton is a key export commodity; high prices supported export earnings. Growth in real output has averaged about 5% s

An insufficient electrical supply continues to hamper Benin's economic growth though the government recently has taken steps to increase domestic power production. Private foreign direct investment is small, and foreign aid accounts for the majority of in

Benin’s 2001 privatization policy continues in telecommunications, water, electricity, and agriculture. Benin has appealed for international assistance to mitigate piracy against commercial shipping in its territory. Though security remains a problem, the

GDP (official exchange rate)

$8.93 billion (2015 est.)

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$24.31 billion (2016 est.)
$23.24 billion (2015 est.)
$22.14 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP - real growth rate

4.6% (2016 est.)
5% (2015 est.)
6.5% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$2,200 (2016 est.)
$2,100 (2015 est.)
$2,100 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving

16.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
16.7% of GDP (2015 est.)
16.3% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 68%
government consumption: 14.2%
investment in fixed capital: 26.3%
investment in inventories: 0.5%
exports of goods and services: 24.3%
imports of goods and services: -33.3% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 22.9%
industry: 24.9%
services: 52.2% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

cotton, corn, cassava (manioc, tapioca), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, cashews; livestock

Industrial production growth rate

4.2% (2016 est.)


textiles, food processing, construction materials, cement

Labor force

3.662 million (2007 est.)

Unemployment rate


Population below poverty line

37.4% (2007 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3.1%
highest 10%: 29% (2003)

Distribution of family income - Gini index

36.5 (2003)


revenues: $1.5 billion
expenditures: $1.939 billion (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

16.8% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-4.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt

40.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
37.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1% (2016 est.)
0.3% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate

4.25% (31 December 2010)
4.25% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate


Stock of narrow money

$2.215 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$2.172 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$4.165 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$3.61 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$1.639 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.631 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares


Current account balance

-$892 million (2016 est.)
-$893 million (2015 est.)


$1.713 billion (2016 est.)
$1.841 billion (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

cotton, cashews, shea butter, textiles, palm products, seafood

Exports - partners

India 24.2%, Gabon 14.6%, China 7.2%, Niger 6%, Bangladesh 5%, Nigeria 4.9%, Vietnam 4.2% (2015)


$2.591 billion (2016 est.)
$2.727 billion (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, capital goods, petroleum products

Imports - partners

China 42.1%, US 8.9%, India 5.7%, Malaysia 4.8%, Thailand 4.3%, France 4% (2015)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$645.5 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$731.6 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external

$2.34 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$2.115 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

Communaute Financiere Africaine francs (XOF) per US dollar -
605.7 (2016 est.)
591.45 (2015 est.)
591.45 (2014 est.)
494.42 (2013 est.)
510.53 (2012 est.)


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 7,300,000
electrification - total population: 29%
electrification - urban areas: 57%
electrification - rural areas: 9% (2013)

Electricity - production

200 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

1 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

1.1 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

163,000 kW (2015 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

99.4% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

0.6% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

8 million bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

41,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

4,914 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

44,950 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

1.133 billion cu m (1 January 2016 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

5 million Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 194,666
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 9.318 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 89 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: inadequate system of open-wire, microwave radio relay, and cellular connections; fixed-line network characterized by aging, deteriorating equipment
domestic: fixed-line teledensity only about 2 per 100 persons; spurred by the presence of multiple mobile-cellular providers, cellular telephone subscribership has been increasing rapidly
international: country code - 229; landing point for the SAT-3/WASC fiber-optic submarine cable that provides connectivity to Europe and Asia; long distance fiber-optic links with Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria; satellite earth stations - 7 (Intelsat-Atlantic Oc (2015)

Broadcast media

state-run Office de Radiodiffusion et de Television du Benin (ORTB) operates a TV station with multiple channels providing a wide broadcast reach; several privately owned TV stations broadcast from Cotonou; satellite TV subscription service is available; (2007)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 709,000
percent of population: 6.8% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 1
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 112,392
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 805,347 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

TY (2016)


6 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 5
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)


total: 438 km
narrow gauge: 438 km 1.000-m gauge (2014)


total: 16,000 km
paved: 1,400 km
unpaved: 14,600 km (2006)


150 km (seasonal navigation on River Niger along northern border) (2011)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Cotonou
LNG terminal(s) (import): Cotonou


Military branches

Benin Armed Forces (Forces Armees Beninoises, FAB): Army (l'Arme de Terre), Benin Navy (Forces Navales Beninois, FNB), Benin Air Force (Force Aerienne du Benin, FAB) (2013)

Military service age and obligation

18-35 years of age for selective compulsory and voluntary military service; a higher education diploma is required; both sexes are eligible for military service; conscript tour of duty - 18 months (2013)

Military expenditures

1.03% of GDP (2012)
NA% (2011)
1.03% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

talks continue between Benin and Togo on funding the Adjrala hydroelectric dam on the Mona River; Benin retains a border dispute with Burkina Faso near the town of Koualou; location of Benin-Niger-Nigeria tripoint is unresolved

Illicit drugs

transshipment point used by traffickers for cocaine destined for Western Europe; vulnerable to money laundering due to poorly enforced financial regulations (2008)