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Republic of Benin
République du Bénin
Flag Coat of arms
Motto"Fraternité, Justice, Travail"  (French)
"Fraternity, Justice, Labour"
AnthemL'Aube Nouvelle  (French)
The Dawn of a New Day

Capital Porto-Novo1
6°28′N 2°36′E / 6.467°N 2.6°E / 6.467; 2.6
Largest city Cotonou
Official language(s) French
Vernacular Fon, Yoruba
Demonym Beninese; Beninois
Government Multiparty democracy
 -  President Yayi Boni
Independence from France 
 -  Date August 1, 1960 
 -  Total 112,622 km2 (101st)
43,484 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.02%
 -  2009 estimate 8,791,832[1] (89th)
 -  2002 census 6,769,914 
 -  Density 78.1/km2 (120th)
202.2/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $13.035 billion[2] (140th)
 -  Per capita $1,608[2] (166th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $6.712 billion[2] 
 -  Per capita $828[2] 
Gini (2003) 36.5 (medium
HDI (2007) 0.492 (low) (161st)
Currency West African CFA franc (XOF)
Time zone WAT (UTC+1)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+1)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .bj
Calling code 229
1 Cotonou is the seat of government.
2 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 and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.

Benin (pronounced /bɨˈnɪn/), officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north; its short coastline to the south leads to the Bight of Benin.

Its size is just over 110000 km2 with a population of almost 8,500,000. Its capital is the Yoruba founded city of Porto-Novo but the seat of government is the Fon city of Cotonou.

A democratic government between 1960 and 1972 was followed by a self-proclaimed "Marxist-Leninist" dictatorship between 1972 and 1991, which was highly repressive and led to economic collapse. Multiparty elections have taken place since 1991. About a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.[3] Main income sources are subsistence agriculture and cotton.



During the colonial period and at independence, the country was known as Dahomey. It was renamed on November 30, 1975, to Benin after the body of water on which the country lies, the Bight of Benin, which had in turn been named after the Benin Empire. The country of Benin has no direct connection to Benin City in modern Nigeria, nor to the Benin bronzes.

The new name, Benin, was chosen for its neutrality. Dahomey was the name of the former Kingdom 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, which covered the northeastern third.


The Kingdom of Dahomey formed from a mixture of ethnic groups on the Abomey plain. Historians theorized that the insecurity caused by slave trading may have contributed to mass migrations of groups to modern day Abomey, including some Aja, a Gbe people who are believed to have founded the city. Those Aja living in Abomey mingled with the local Fon people, 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, (a member of an Aja dynasty that in the 16th century along with the Aja populace had come from Tado before settling and ruling separately in what is now Abomey, Allada, 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 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 navy. 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. This emphasis on military preparation and achievement earned Dahomey the nickname of "black Sparta" from European observers and 19th century explorers like Sir Richard Burton.

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 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 12000 at the beginning of the 1800s. The decline was partly due to the banning of the trans-Atlantic 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 Dahomey within the French West Africa colony. In 1958, France granted autonomy to the Republic of Dahomey, 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, Sourou Apithy, Justin Ahomadegbé and Emile Derlin Zinsou — the first three of them 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 overthrew the ruling triumvirate, becoming president, and stating that the country will not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology, and wants neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism", then on November 30 announcing that the country was officially Marxist, 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.

In 1979, the CNR was dissolved, and Kérékou arranged show elections where he was the only allowed candidate. Establishing relations with the People's Republic of China, North Korea, and Libya, he put nearly all businesses and economic activities under state control, causing foreign investment in Benin to dry up.[4] Kérékou attempted to reorganize education, pushing his own aphorisms such as "Poverty is not a fatality", resulting in a mass exodus of teachers, along with a large number of other professionals.[4] The regime financed itself by contracting to take nuclear waste from France.[4]

In 1980, Kérékou converted to Islam 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. A convention forced Kérékou to release political prisoners and arrange elections.[4]

The name of the country was changed to the Republic of Benin on March 1, 1990, once the newly formed country's constitution was complete, after the abolition of Marxism-Leninism in the nation in 1989.[5][6]

In 1991, Kérékou was defeated by Nicéphore Soglo, 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[citation needed] 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 between Yayi Boni and Adrien Houngbédji. 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. Benin is considered by a few to be a model democracy in Africa, but with such a short track record that only time will tell.


Benin's politics take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, where the President of Benin is both head of state and head of government, within a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the legislature. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system is derived from the 1990 Constitution of Benin and the subsequent transition to democracy in 1991.

In its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Benin 53rd out of 169 countries.

Benin scored highly in the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which comprehensively measures the state of governance across the continent. Benin was ranked 13th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries, and scored particularly well in the categories of Safety & Security and Participation & Human Rights.[7]

Departments and communes

Alibori Atakora Atlantique Borgou Collines Donga Couffo Littoral Mono Ouémé Plateau Zou
Departments of Benin

Benin is divided into 12 departments (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
  2. Atakora
  3. Atlantique
  4. Borgou
  5. Collines
  6. Donga
  7. Kouffo
  8. Littoral
  9. Mono
  10. Ouémé
  11. Plateau
  12. Zou


Map of Benin

Benin, a narrow, north-south strip of land in west Africa, lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. Benin's latitude ranges from 6°30′N to 12°30′N and its longitude from 1°E to 3°40′E. Benin is bounded by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east, and the Bight of Benin to the south.

With an area of 112622 km2, Benin extends from the Niger River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south, a distance of 650 km (400 mi). Although the coastline measures 121 km (75 mi) the country measures about 325 km (200 mi) at its widest point.

It is one of the smaller countries in West Africa: eight times smaller than Nigeria, its neighbor to the east. It is, however, twice as large as Togo, its neighbor to the west. A relief map of Benin shows that it has little variation in elevation (average elevation 200 m).[8]

The country can be divided into four areas from the south to the north. The low-lying, sandy, coastal plain (highest elevation 10 m) is, at most, 10 km wide. It is marshy and dotted with lakes and lagoons communicating with the ocean. Behind the coast lies the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic covered plateaus of southern Benin (altitude between 20 m and 200 m) are split by valleys running north to south along the Couffo, Zou, and Oueme Rivers.

Then an area of flat lands dotted with rocky hills whose altitude seldom reaches 400 m 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, at 658 m.

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 trees. Some forests line the banks of rivers. In the north and the northwest of Benin the Reserve du W du Niger and Pendjari National Park attract tourists eager to see elephants, lions, antelopes, hippos, and monkeys.[8]

Benin's climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall in the coastal area averages 36 cm (14 in)—not particularly high for coastal West Africa. 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, the average maximum temperature is 31 °C (89 °F); the minimum is 24 °C (75 °F).[8]

Variations in temperature increase when moving north through a savanna and plateau toward the Sahel. A dry wind from the Sahara called the Harmattan blows from December to March. 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.[8]


The economy of Benin remains underdeveloped and dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Cotton accounts for 40% of GDP and roughly 80% of official export receipts.[9] 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, which is pegged to the euro.

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.[10]

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.[1]

Although trade unions in Benin represent up to 75% of the formal workforce, the large informal economy has been noted by the International Trade Union Confederation (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.[11]

Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).[12]

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. 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 (since 2001), keeping the price of data extremely high. Relief is expected with initiation of the Africa Coast to Europe cable in 2011.


The majority of Benin's population lives in the south. The population is young, with a life expectancy 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 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 and the Fulbe (Peul) 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.[8]

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 5500 European population.[8] A small part of the European population consists of Beninese citizens of French ancestry, whose ancestors ruled Benin and left after independence.


During the 1980s, less than 30% of the population had access to 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 1000 live births. Only one in three mothers had access to child healthcare services. The Bamako Initiative changed that dramatically by introducing community-based healthcare reform, resulting in more efficient and equitable provision of services.[13] 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.[14]




Beninese literature had a strong oral tradition long before French became the dominant language.[15] Felix Couchoro wrote the first Beninese novel, L'Esclave in 1929.

Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba.

Singer Angélique Kidjo and actor Djimon Hounsou were both born in Cotonou, Benin. Composer Wally Badarou is also of Beninese descent.

Customary names

Many Beninois in the south of the country have Akan-based names indicating the day of the week on which they were born.


Local languages are used as the languages of instruction in elementary schools, with French only introduced after several years. Beninese languages are generally transcribed with a separate letter for each speech sound (phoneme), rather than using diacritics as in French or digraphs as in English. This includes Beninese Yoruba, which in Nigeria is written with both diacritics and digraphs. For instance, the mid vowels written é è, ô, o in French are written e, ɛ, o, ɔ in Beninese languages, whereas the consonants written ng and sh or ch in English are written ŋ and c. However, digraphs are used for nasal vowels and the labial-velar consonants kp and gb, as in the name of the Fon language Fon gbe /fõ ɡ͡be/, and diacritics are used as tone marks. In French-language publications, a mixture of French and Beninese orthographies may be seen.


Celestial Church of Christ baptism in Cotonou. Five percent of Benin's population belongs to the Celestial Church of Christ, an African Initiated Church.

In the 2002 census, 42.8% of the population of Benin were Christian (27.1% Roman Catholic, 5% Celestial Church of Christ, 3.2% Methodist, 7.5% other Christian denominations), 24.4% were Muslim, 17.3% practices Vodun, 6% other traditional local religious groups, 1.9% other religious groups, and 6.5% claim no religious affiliation.[16]

Indigenous religions include local animistic religions in the Atakora (Atakora and Donga provinces) and Vodun and Orisha or Orisa veneration among the Yoruba and Tado peoples in the center and south of the country. The town of Ouidah on the central coast is the spiritual center of Beninese Vodun.

The major introduced religions are Islam, introduced by the Songhai Empire and Hausa merchants, and now followed throughout Alibori, Borgou, and Donga provinces, as well as among the Yoruba (who also follow Christianity), and Christianity, followed throughout the south and center of Benin and in Otammari country in the Atakora. Many, however, continue to hold Vodun and Orisha beliefs and have incorporated into Christianity the pantheon of Vodun and Orisha.


Education is neither free nor mandatory. Literacy is below 40 %, particularly women are subject to illiteracy.

See also


  1. ^ a b Central Intelligence Agency (2009). "Benin". The World Factbook. Retrieved February 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Benin". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  3. ^ Human Development Indices, Table 3: Human and income poverty, p. 35. Retrieved on 1 June 2009
  4. ^ a b c d Martha Kneib. Benin. pp. 22–25. 
  5. ^ Benin
  6. ^ A short history of the People's Republic of Benin (1974–1990)
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Background Note: Benin". U.S. Department of State (June 2008). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ Background Note: Benin
  10. ^ Benin at Millennium Challenge Corporation
  11. ^ "Serious violations of core labour standards in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali". ICFTU Online. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  12. ^ The business law portal in Africa,, retrieved 2009-03-22 
  13. ^ "Bamako Initiative revitalizes primary health care in Benin". Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  14. ^ "Implementation of the Bamako Initiative: strategies in Benin and Guinea". Retrieved 2006-12-28. 
  15. ^ Benin,, retrieved 2007-09-30 
  16. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Benin. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (September 14, 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

External links

General information
News media
Education Initiatives

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Quick Facts
Capital Porto-Novo is the official capital; Cotonou is the seat of government
Government Republic under multiparty democratic rule
Currency Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Area total: 112,620 km2
water: 2,000 km2
land: 110,620 km2
Population 7,862,944 (July 2006 est.)
Language French (official), Fon, Yoruba, other tribal languages
Religion Indigenous beliefs (Animism & Voodoo) 50%, Christian 30%, Muslim 20%
Electricity 220
Calling Code 229
Time Zone GMT+1

Benin [1] is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north.


Benin is a great country to visit on any West African itinerary. You'll find a large quantity of palatial ruins and temples of the once powerful Kingdom of Dahomey (1800s–1894). Moreover, Benin is the birthplace of Vodun (Voodoo) and all that goes with it—to this day Voodun remains the official religion of the country, and an important part of the life of ordinary Beninese. The national parks of Benin are also well worth a visit for their wildlife. Benin is also, fortunately, one of the most stable and safe countries of the region for traveling.


The Portuguese arrived in Benin's territory in the fifteenth century, and established significant trading posts in Benin's coastal areas. Soon following the Portuguese came French, Dutch, and British traders. Over time Benin's coast developed into the largest center of the slave trade in Africa, run by the Fon people, who dominated the Dahomey government and actively sold their neighboring peoples to the Europeans. As the slave trade increased in volume (10,000–20,000 slaves shipped off per day), the coast of Benin became known as the Slave Coast. Around this time the port cities of Porto-Novo and Ouida were founded and quickly became the largest and most commercially active cities in the country, while Abomey became the Dahomey capital.

The fall of the Dahomey Kingom was precipitated by the banning of slavery throughout Europe in the mid-19th century, followed by the French annexation of the territory under colonial rule. Much of the Dahomey leadership broke even in the annexation, being appointed to top government posts throughout all the French colonies in West Africa. In 1960 Dahomey gained its independence, under the name République du Dahomey, which set off a long and destabilizing series of coups. In the course of just one decade, 1960—1972, the government changed hands nine times, and experienced four violent coups.

In 1972 Major Mathieu Kérékou, a staunch Marxist, organized the fourth of the military coups, and renamed the country the People's Republic of Benin. Kérékou's regime proved more successful at maintaining power, and reorganized the country on his interpretation of the Maoist model. In 1989 the French government, in exchange for financial support of Benin's flailing economy, persuaded the Benin government to abandon its one-party Socialist rule, and to move to a multiparty republic. In 1990 the country was renamed the Republic of Benin, and in 1991 Benin held its first free elections with significant success, and Kereku lost to Nicephore Soglo—Benin was thus the first African nation to successfully coordinate a peaceful transfer of power from a dictatorship to a functioning democracy. Soglo remained president through 1996, but his administration was marred by poor economic performance, leading to his electoral defeat to Mathieu Kérékou in 1996, who ruled the country and maintained popularity despite corruption scandals until 2006. The current president of Benin is today Yayi Boni, a technocrat who served under the tutelage of former President Soglo.


The equatorial south of Benin experiences two rainy seasons of the year, from April to mid July and from mid-September through the end of October. The rainy period in the subequatorial north runs from March until October. The best time of the year to visit the country is from November to February, when the temperature moderates, and the weather is dry with low humidity.


Benin, compared to its neighbors, is geographically smaller, being 112,620 square kilometers—the size of Honduras or the U.S. state of Ohio. The country is basically divided into five geographic zones, from south to north: the Coastal plain, the plateau, the elevated plateau and savannah, hills in the northwest, and fertile plains in the north.


The nation consists of more than 60 ethnic groups. The major tribes include the Fon (40%), Aja (15%), and Yoruba (12%) in the south of the country, and the Bariba (9%), Somba (8%), and Fulbe (6%) in the north.

The most widespread religion is Christianity (43%), predominiantly in the south, and Islam in the north (24%). Most interesting for many visitors, however, is the strong influence of Vodun on Benin, practiced as a principal religion by a good 18% of the populace, and which was spread about the globe largely by the massive quantity of slaves exported by the Dagomey Kingdom.

  • Pendjari National Park

Get in

By plane

There are many international flights arriving at the main airport in Cotonou. From here you can connect to Paris, Amsterdam, Moscow, and a variety of cities in West Africa. In order to enter the country you will need proof that you have had a yellow fever shot, and this will need to be readily available at the airport.

By train

There are no train routes into Benin.

Get around

By bus

There is an extremely timely and reliable bus system that runs your average tour-style bus through every major city in Benin everyday, and even some in and out of Benin. Their are many major lines with a range of quality of buses. The main systems are Confort Lines and Benin-Routes. Confort Lines seems to provide more of a variety of routes, and you even get some water and a little sandwich for long trips. Reservations for Confort Lines can be made in advance for 500f CFA at any regional office or by calling (001 229) Bus lines run through: Porto-Novo, Cotonou, Calavey, Bohicon, Dassau, Parakou, Djougou, Natitingou, Tanguieta, Kandi, and even all the way up to Malanville.

Buses run on the two major paved roads running north and south, and you can have the bus stopped at any point you would like to get off at, and for differing rates. No discussion of prices is needed with the bus, as they used fixed rates. To give you an idea of prices, buses running from Cotonou to Natitingou (or vice versa) costs 7.500f CFA one way, and Cotonou to Parakou (or vice versa) costs 5.500f CFA. These are examples, because there are also buses that go as far as Tanguieta and Malanville.

By bush taxi

Bush Taxi is possible between most cities, every day in major cities, periodically for the more remote ones. The total price for long distances will be a little higher than by bus, and comfort and security are significantly lower. Drivers are often trying to maximize the number of people in the car so one can expect an intimate experience with the local population. However, bush taxis do offer flexibility that the bus systems do not; you can always find a taxi fairly quickly (at the autogarres). For trips of 3 hours (approx 150km) or less, a bush taxi might be a more flexible and reasonable option. Unlike the buses though, prices MUST be discussed in advance. Cost depends on the destination and price of gas. Ask other passengers what they are paying and always try to pay on arrival, although the latter is not always possible. A decent option for travelers not trying to go on the cheap is to buy up all the seats in a bush taxi, or at least all the seats in one row. It not only avoids having to wait until the taxi driver has filled up every seat, but it's much more comfortable than being crammed in with lots of sweaty people! If you do this, you'll typically need to give the driver some money up front so he can buy petrol along the way.

By car

Hired drivers cost more and is the typical means of transport for foreigners. The price depends on the driver and a a local (Beninois) helping to negotiate is recommended. For example, a three hour car ride from the south central region :::to?::: along the main highway costs about 30 000 - 40 000 FCFA if the car is hired, but a bush taxi would cost about 5000 - 10000 FCFA.

Traffic is chaotic and the rules of the road are rarely enforced. If you are planning on driving yourself in Benin, an International Driver's license is required. Traffic flows on the same side of the road as the US and Canada.

Hiring a local guide is recommended.

Police roadblocks at night occur regularly and traveling alone with a driver (especially if you are a woman) may put the driver in an awkward position explaining and/or bribing the police.

Travelling by car is recommended only between major cities. For example to travel from Cotonou to Porto Novo or Cotonou to Abomey etc. Most of the time you would be required to share the car with many other travellers who are going it the same direction as you. Expect to be cramped and hot as most bush taxis are in hard shape and drivers try to cram as many people as possible into the car to make the trip as financially rewarding as possibly. However if you want to throw the extra money you can hire a car to take you personally where ever you want to go with no stops. The price would depend on the driver and you would definatly need a local (Beninois) to help you to negotiate the price or you will be taken advantage of. For example a 3 hour car ride from the South Central region along the main highway would cost you about 30 000 - 40 000 CFA if only 2 passengers are present, where as if you share the ride and pick people up on the way you would only speand about 5000 - 10000 CFA. This of course all depends on if you have a local present or not. Travelling in such a manner is not recommended without a local present. The danger is minimal but the financial price would be excessive. Also random police roadblocks at night occur regularly as a way of policing the highways and if you were traveling alone with a driver (esspecially if you are a woman) it may put him in an awkward position explaining to the police and it may cost you more money. Traveling by car within the city is not recommended at all due to the fact that it is simply unneccessary and uneconomical. The best way to travel in any city or village is by motorcycle taxi. The are very cheap and the drivers know the city well. You can recognize them by their yellow shirts in most cities. Choose your driver carefully, drinking and driving in Benin is very common. These guys a very reliable if you need to go somewhere and enter a building for example, for a little extra money they will wait outside for as long as you want, just make sure you don't pay them first! For example you can go just about anywhere in Cotonou by zem (zémidjan = moto taxi) for as little as 500-1000 CFA if you get a local to negotiate. It is recommended to travel with a local as much as possible, mainly from a financial aspect. Also driving yourself around in a car is not a good idea. The roads are mostly of hard packed sand, with a few paved main roads in the cities and on the highways between the major cities. Traffic is chaotic, there are no rules of the road. If you are planning on driving in Benin an International Driver's license is required. Traffic drives on the same side of the road as the US and Canada.

By moto

The cheapest way to travel within a city or village is by motorcycle taxi (moto, zemidjan or zem). They are cheap and the drivers usually know the city well. An average ride costs between 100f CFA - 300f CFA, and they are easily recognizable by their matching colored shirts with their ID numbers on them. Prices must be discussed beforehand, and payment is made upon arrival. Remember the driver's ID number as you would a taxi driver's ID in New York City, just in case. Choose your driver carefully, drinking and driving in Benin is very common and moto drivers are someimes involved in crime rings in major cities.

Motos have colors for different cities (for example): Cotonou: yellow Natitingou: green with yellow shoulders or light blue with yellow shoulders Kandi: light blue with yellow shoulders Parakou: yellow with green shoulders Kérou: green with yellow shoulders

By boat

There are many pirogues (kayak/canoe) used for the fishing industry. Normally one can use a pirogue to visit the lake villages.

By train

There is a train route that goes halfway up the country, from Cotonou to Parakou. While it takes longer than a bush taxi, it's a much more relaxing way of traveling. First class tickets are only slightly more than second class ones and are worth the extra expenditure. The train leaves Cotonou three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) at 8AM precisely and returns the next day, leaving at 8AM from the Parakou train station.


The official language is French - the language of the former colonial power. Native African languages such as Fon and Yoruba in the south, Bariba and Dendi in the north, and over 50 other African languages and dialects. English is on the uprise.


The West African CFA franc has a fixed exchange rate to the euro. Roughly 650 CFA francs is equal to €1, and roughly 500 CFA is equal to 1 US dollar. There are banks in all the major cities, and most of the banks have cash machines. Keep in mind that many businesses and offices, including banks, close for several hours in the middle of the day.

Prices for goods purchased in a store, restaurant, hotel, bus tickets, etc. are non-negociable, but almost everything else is. Depending on the item, it's not uncommon for foreigners to be quoted a price that is double the final purchase price.

One can find any type of African commodity all over Benin.


In every city/village one will find street vendors selling anything from beans and rice to grilled chicken, goat and/or turkey. Prices are nominal. But one must be careful, always choose a vendor whose food is still hot, and they have taken care to keep the bowls covered with a lid and/or cloth.


The beer is cheap and good! Local pubs (buvettes) are on every corner in every neighborhood. You can get a bottle of local beer "La Béninoise", Heineken, Guinness, Castel and others depending on the bar. They all cost about 250 CFA for a small bottle or 500 CFA for a large bottle. In the nightclubs beer is excessively expensive, like 30000 CFA a bottle! So stick to the local pubs, or avoid buying beer at the nightclub. Local whiskey (moonshine) is also available, it costs about 2000 CFA for a liter and it is VERY strong stuff. There is also the local vin de palme (palm wine), an alcoholic beverage that is made from from sap of the palm tree.


Bénin's sleeping habit is a vast contrast compared to Westerners. While most rise before the crack of dawn, they all work hard straight til Noon:30, when most take a 2-1/2 hour siesta. Then it's back to work for 3 hours.

Depending on how far they've commuted to work, most are back home by 7PM. The next 3 hours are consumed by preparing dinner, t.v., dancing or mingling with friends and neighbors. Then it's time for bed around 10PM, to rest and do it all over again tomorrow.


Be safe to work over there

Stay safe

The best way to stay safe in Benin is to always always always be in the presence of a local person whom you can trust, such as a friend or even a hired tourist guide. They know which areas are safe and which are not, they know the prices of things so you won't get ripped off, they speak the native languages, they know which venues sell good food that is safe for westerners to eat. For women, avoid travelling alone, try to be in the company of other people as much as possible. Do not travel at night alone, attacks along the beaches are frequent, and of course near hotels, nightclubs and other venues. Ignore any person who whistles at you during the night if you are alone. Benin is a peaceful country and the people are very kind and generous, but that being said muggings and robberies occur everywhere no matter how peaceful the place so be on guard. If you are a victim of a crime, contact the Gendarme (Police) immediately.

Stay healthy

Watch what you eat/drink and where you eat/drink it. If you are going to eat street food, make sure it is served very very hot, since bacteria will not live in hot food. The most common causes of sickness is e.coli bacteria found in undercooked meat. Drinking water is readily available, if you want bottled water there is "Possatome"- a natural spring water bottled in the city with the same name. It is very good and about 500 CFA a bottle. In Cotonou, the tap water is safe to drink but is treated with chlorine which some people may be sensitive to. Malaria is a reality in Benin. Mosquitoes appear from dusk to dawn, standing water is mosquito; available by prescription only. The only compulsory vaccination needed to enter the country is against Yellow Fever. The customs agents at the airport generally do not check to see if you have it, but it is strongly advised to get it before entering for your own health. Along with vaccines against polio, hepatitis A and B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Lock Jaw, Rabies and all the other standard childhood vaccines (as per Canadian public school standards). AIDS is an issue in Benin as in all sub-Saharan African countries; use of a condom is highly recommended if entering into a sexual relationship with a Beninese partner. Other risks pertaining to unprotected sex are the same as in any other country whether developed or not: Syphilis, Chlamydia, HPV, etc. If traveling to Benin it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you speak to a doctor who specializes in travel. Ask your family doctor or public health nurse for the name of a travel clinic in your area. Go to them about 6 months prior to travel to Benin if possible. This information is designed as a guide and should not be taken as an expert account on how to stay healthy in Benin, only a licensed health professional can provide such information.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BENIN, the name of a country, city and river of British West Africa, west of the main channel of the Niger, forming part of the protectorate of Southern Nigeria. The name was formerly applied to the coast from the Volta, in o° 40' E., to the Rio del Rey, in 8° 40' E., and included the Slave Coast, the whole delta of the Niger and a small portion of the country to the eastward. Some trace of this earlier application remains in the name "Bight of Benin," still given to that part of the sea which washes the Slave Coast, whilst up to 1894 "Benin" was used to designate the French possessions on the coast now included in Dahomey.

In its restricted sense Benin is the country formerly ruled by the king of Benin city. This area, at one time very extensive, gradually contracted as subject tribes and towns acquired independence. It may be described as bounded W. by Lagos, S. by the territory of the Jakri and other tribes of the Niger delta, E. by the Niger river, and N. by Yorubaland. The coast-line held by Benin had passed out of its sovereignty by the middle of the 19th century. In physical characteristics,my reccommend climate, flora and fauna, Benin in no way differs from the rest of the southern portion of Nigeria. The coast is low, intersected by creeks, and forms one huge mangrove swamp; on the rising ground inland are dense forests in which the cotton and mahogany trees are conspicuous.

Benin river (known also as the Jakri outlet), though linked to the Niger system by a network of creeks, is an independent stream. It is formed by the junction of two rivers, the Ethiope and the Jamieson, which rise (north of 6° N.) on the western side of the hills which slope east to the Niger river. They unite about 50 m. above the sea. The general course of the Benin is westerly. It enters the Atlantic in about 5° 46' N., 5° 3' E., and at its mouth is 2 m. wide. It is here obstructed by a sand-bar over which there is 12-14 ft. of water at high tide. The river is navigable by small steamers up to Sapele, a town on the south bank immediately below the junction of the head streams. The Ologi and Gwato creeks enter the Benin on the right or north bank, and on the same side (8 m. above the mouth of the river) a channel, the Lagos creek, 170 m. long, branches off to the north-west, affording a waterway to Lagos. From the south or left bank of the Benin the Forcados mouth of the Niger can be reached by the Nana creek.

The Beni are a pure negro tribe, speaking a distinct language, but having many characteristics common to those of the Yorubaand Ewe-speaking tribes. Like the Ashanti and Dahomeyans the Beni had a well-organized and powerful government and possessed a culture rare among negro races (see below, History). Benin city is situated in a clearing of the forest, about 25 m. from the river-port of Gwato, on Gwato creek. The principal building is the British residency, which is constructed of brick and timber. A primary school, supported by the native chiefs, was opened in 1901, and a meteorological station was established in 1902. In 1904 the town was placed in telegraphic communication with the rest of the protectorate and with Europe. Of the ancient city, whose buildings excited the admiration of travellers in the 17th and 18th centuries, scarcely a trace remains. The houses are neatly built of clay, coloured with red ochre, and frequently ornamented with rudely carved pillars. The port of Gwato, which lies about 30 m. north-north-east of the mouth of the Benin river, has a special interest as the place where Giovanni Belzoni, the explorer of Egyptian antiquities, died in 1823 when starting on an expedition to Timbuktu. No trace of his grave can now be found. Wari (formerly known also as Owari, Oywhere, &c.) is a much-frequented port on a branch of the Niger of the same name reached from the Forcados mouth, and is 55 m. south of Benin city.

Since the abolition of the slave trade the chief export of the country is palm-oil. Other trade products were from time to time - with the desire to preserve the isolation and independence of the country - placed under fetish, i.e. their export was forbidden, so that in 1897 the only article in which trade was allowed by the king was palm-oil. After the British occupation, an extensive trade developed in oil, kernels, timber, ivory, rubber, &c. In the rubber and timber industries great strides have been made. The chiefs and people have shown considerable aptitude in adapting themselves to the new order of things. Among the articles prized by the Beni is coral, of which the chiefs wear great quantities as ornaments.


Benin was discovered by the Portuguese about the year 1485, and they carried on a brisk trade in slaves, who were taken to Elmina and sold to the natives of the Gold Coast. At that time and for more than two centuries afterwards, Benin seems to have been one of the most powerful states of West Africa. It was known to Europeans in the 17th century as the Great Benin. The towns of Lagos and Badagry were both founded by Benin colonists. Benin city was the seat of a theocracy of priests, in whose hands the oba or king, nominally supreme, appears to have often been a puppet. He was revered by his subjects as a species of divinity, and seldom left the enclosure surrounding the royal palace. The religion and mythology of the Beni, like those of the Yorubas, are based on spiritand ancestor-worship (see Negro and Africa: Ethnology); the chief spirit or juju was worshipped with human sacrifices to an appalling extent, the Benin fetish being considered the most powerful in all West Africa. The usual form of sacrifice was crucifixion. Many chiefs, in no way politically dependent on Benin, used to send annual presents to the juju. The Benin people do not appear to have indulged in wanton cruelty, and it is stated that they usually stupefied the victims before putting them to death. The people were skilled in brass work; their carving and design were alike excellent. Carved ivory objects abound, and there are many evidences of the skill attained by native artists, who perhaps owed something to their contact with the Portuguese. The weaving of cloth was also carried on. The Beni remained politically and socially almost unaffected by European influence until the occupation of their country by the British in 1897, their connexion with the white men having previously been almost confined to matters of trade. The Portuguese withdrew from the coast in the 18th century, but one of the most striking proofs of their commercial influence is the fact that a corrupt Lusitanian dialect was spoken by the older natives up to the last quarter of the 19th century. The first English expedition to Benin was in 1553; after that time a considerable trade grew up between England and that country, ivory, palm-oil and pepper being the chief commodities exported from Benin. The Dutch afterwards established factories and maintained them for a considerable time, chiefly with a view to the slave trade. In 1788 Captain Landolphe founded a factory called Barodo, near the native village of Obobi for the French Compagnie d'Oywhere; and it lasted till 1792, when it was destroyed by the English. In 1863 Sir Richard Burton, then British consul at Fernando Po, went to Benin to try and put a stop to human sacrifices, an attempt in which he did not succeed. At that time the decline in power of the kingdom of Benin was obvious, and the city was in a decaying condition. In 1885 the coast-line of Benin was placed under British protection, and steps were taken to enter into friendly relations with the king. Consul G. F. N. B. Annesley l saw the king in 1890, with the hope of making a treaty, but failed in his object. In March 1892 Captain H. L. Gallwey,. British vice-consul, succeeded in concluding a treaty with the king Overami. The treaty, however, proved of no avail, and the king kept as aloof as of old from any outside interference. In January 1897 J. R. Phillips, acting consul-general, and eight Europeans were brutally massacred on the road from Gwato to Benin city, whilst on a mission to the king. Phillips had persisted in starting for Benin despite the repeated request of the king. that he should delay his visit until he (the king) had finished the celebration of the annual "customs." Two Europeans, Captain Alan Boisragon and R. F. Locke, alone escaped. A punitive expedition was organized under the command of Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, the success of which was a remarkable example of good organization hastily improvised. The news of the massacre of Phillips's party reached Rear-Admiral Rawson, the commander-in-chief on the Cape station, on the 4th of January 1897. The flagship was at Simons Town. The small craft were dispersed. Two ships at Malta had been ordered to join the Cape command. A transport was chartered in the Thames for the purposes of the expedition. In twenty-nine days a force of 1200 men, coming from three places between 3000 and 4500 m. from the Benin river, was landed, organized, equipped and provided with transport. Five days later the city of Benin was taken, and in twelve days more the men were re-embarked, and the ships coaled and ready for any further service. On the 17th of February Benin was occupied after considerable fighting. The town, which was found to be reeking of human sacrifices, was partly burned, and on the 22nd the expedition started on its return. The king and chiefs responsible for the massacre were placed on their trial by Sir Ralph Moor, high commissioner for Southern Nigeria; the king was deposed and deported to Calabar, and the chiefs, six in all, were executed. The chief offender was not brought to justice until a second punitive expedition in 1899 completed the pacification of the country. After the removal of the king in September 1897 a council of chiefs was appointed. This council carries on the government of the whole Beni country, and is presided over by a British resident.

1 Mr Annesley (b. 1851), after having served in the Prussian army,. and in the Turkish army during the war of 1877, was in the British consular service from 1879 to 1892. In 1888 he became consul to the Congo Free State.

Authorities. - H. L. Roth, Great Benin, its Customs, Art and Horrors (Halifax, 1903), a comprehensive and profusely illustrated work, with an annotated bibliography; C. H. Read and O. M. Dalton, Antiquities from Benin. .. in the British Museum (1899); Pitt Rivers, Works of Art from Benin (1900) R. E. Dennett, At the Back of the Black Man's Mind (London, 19061; Sir R. Burton, Wanderings in West Africa (London, 1863); H. L. Gallwey, "Journeys in the Benin Country," Geog. Jnl., vol. i., London, 1893; A. Boisragon, The Benin Massacre (London, 1897); R. H. Bacon, Benin, the City of Blood (London, 1898), by a member of the punitive expedition of 1897; the annual Reports on Southern Nigeria, issued by the ' Colonial Office, London.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



Proper noun




  1. A country in Western Africa. Official name: Republic of Benin.


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  1. Benin


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Benin m.

  1. Benin


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Finnish Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia fi

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  1. Benin



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Hungarian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia hu

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Italian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Benin m.

  1. Benin

Derived terms


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  1. Benin

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Proper noun

Benin m.

  1. Benin


Singular Plural
Nominative Benin Beniny
Genitive Beninu Beninów
Dative Beninowi Beninom
Accusative Benin Beniny
Instrumental Beninem Beninami
Locative Beninie Beninach
Vocative Beninie Beniny

Derived terms

  • Benińczyk m., Beninka f.
  • adjective: beniński


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Simple English

Repubic of Benin
File:Flag of File:Benin
Official flag Coat of Arms
National information
National motto: Fraternity, Justice and Labour
National anthem: The Dawn of a New Day
About the people
Official languages: French
Other languages: Fon, Yoruba
Population: (# of people)
  - Total: 8,791,832 (ranked 89th)
  - Density: 78.1 per km²
Geography / Places
[[Image:|250px|none|country map]] Location of Benin
Capital city: Porto-Novo
Largest city: Cotonou
  - Total: 112,622 (ranked 101st)
Politics / Government
Established: August 1, 1960
Leaders: President Yayi Boni
Economy / Money
(Name of money)
CFA franc
International information
Time zone: +1
Telephone dialing code: 229
Internet domain: .bj

Benin is a country in Africa. It used to be called Dahomey and was a colony of France. The Fon people who live here are closely related to the people of Haiti. The official language is French, and the president is Yayi Boni.



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