Benin is a small country in West Africa that sits on the Gulf of Guinea near the equator. It borders Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. Unlike many other countries in Africa, Benin has never suffered a bloody coup and has remained relatively stable since declaring independence from France in 1960. Benin was one of the first countries to qualify for assistance from the U.S.-based Millennium Challenge Corporation, in 2004, because it has “demonstrated a commitment to political and economic freedom, investments in education and health, control of corruption, and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law”.
The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. The GDP per capita is estimated at $1100, and many people still make less than $1 a day.
Religion and Daily Life
Voodoo is widely practiced in Benin, by an estimated 17% of the population. Approximately 43% of Beninese are Christians while 25% are Muslims. Food in Benin is typically spicy. Yams, rice, corn, and several vegetables are staples, while people eat fish, goat, chicken, and beef more sparingly. Tropical fruits, including mangoes, pineapples, bananas and oranges, are abundant.
Fast Facts about Benin:
- Population: 8.3 million (2008 est.)
- Median age: 17.9 years
- Life expectancy: 54 years
- Literacy est: 40.9% (male 56.2%; female 26.5%)
- Former Name: Dahomey
- Independence: August 1, 1960 (from France)
- Government: Multi-party democracy
- President: Thomas YAYI Boni
- Capital City: Porto Novo
- Commercial Capital: Cotonou
- Other Cities: Abomey, Parakou, Natitingou
- Official Language: French
- Other Languages: Over 50, the most common is Fon
- Currency: CFA Franc