|Form of government||parliamentary presidential republic|
|Time zone||UTC + 1|
|Telephone area code||00229 (Source: ALLCITYCODES)|
The Republic of Benin is located in West Africa and, with an area of 112.622 km², is one of the smaller countries on the African continent (about a third the size of Germany). In the south, Benin borders the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), the coastline is about 125 km long. To the west is Togo,in northwestern Burkina Faso,Benin bordered to the north of Niger and to the east by Nigeria.
The coastal plain is characterized by lagoons, swamps and lakes. To the north, the country gradually rises to a plain (Terre de Barre), which joins the plateau of Central Benin to the north. Island mountains reach a height of up to 250 m here. The country falls towards the northeast to the border river | Niger. In the north-west of Benin is the chain of the Atakora mountains, which reach heights of up to around 650 m.
The largest rivers in Benin are the Niger in the north of the country and Ou¨¦m¨¦, Couffo and Mano in the south. The capital Porto-Novo is in the south of the country, the seat of government is the port city of Cotonou.
Benin has a tropical climate with consistently high temperatures all year round. Average temperatures in the south of the country are between 26 °C and 29 °C per month, in the north between 24 °C and 33 °C. In the south of Benin there is an average of between 1,000 and 1,400 mm of rainfall, there are two rainy seasons (March to July, October). Precipitation decreases to the north, in Middle Benin and in the Niger Basin between 500 and 1,000 mm are measured, here there is a rainy season that lasts from May to September. A hot desert wind (Harmattan) occurs in the north from November to April.
Flora and fauna
The original stocks of tropical rainforest in the south of the country are only preserved in small remains. Today, crops such as oil and coconut palms dominate the landscape. Most of the country is taken up by wet savannah, here too the tree population is decimated by human intervention (eg slash and burn). Dry savannah with light trees and short grasses can be found on the Niger plain.
Most of the animals in Benin are adapted to life in wet and dry savannah. These include antelopes, buffalos, giraffes, warthogs, hippos and lions. The bird and reptile world is rich in species. In the north of Benin there are several designated conservation areas such as the Pandjari National Park.
Around 8.5 million people live in the Republic of Benin, about a third of them in cities. According to COUNTRYAAH, the average population density is 75 people per square kilometer, with the south of the country being more densely populated than the north. The largest city is Cotonou with around one million residents, followed by the capital Porto-Novo with around 250,000 residents.
Around 60 population groups live in Benin. The Fon (which belong to the Ewe) have a share of around 40% of the total population, the second largest group are Yoruba (12%), followed by Adja (11%), Bariba (8%), Somba (6%), Fulbe and Haussa. About 23% of the population practice natural religions; the area of today’s Benin is considered to be the country of origin of the voodoo cult, which is common today in Haiti, for example. The proportion of Christians is officially around 42%, the proportion of Muslims is around 25%.
The official language is French, the languages of the existing ethnic groups are also spoken (eg Fon, Yoruba). Benin is one of the poorest countries in the world. Medical care for the population is particularly poor in rural areas. The average life expectancy is 59 years. Almost half of the Beninese are under the age of 15. Population growth is very high at around 3%. School attendance is compulsory for children between the ages of six and twelve, but literacy is only 35% due to the lack of schools (only around a quarter of women can read and write).
According to the 1990 constitution, Benin is a parliamentary presidential republic (multi-party democracy). The head of state and at the same time head of government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces is the President (since April 2006 Boni Yayi). He is elected by the people for a term of five years (re-election is possible, maximum age of the candidate is 70) and appoints the cabinet ministers. The prime minister, which is not provided for in the constitution and was elected for the first time in May 2011, has a coordinating function and carries out tasks assigned to him by the president.
The legislature lies with the National Assembly, whose 83 deputies are elected by the people for a term of four years. The legal system with a constitutional and supreme court is based on French civil law.
Benin is divided into 12 departments.
Benin is one of the poorer developing countries, a third of the population lives below the poverty line. Due to the rapidly increasing population and high inflation rates, there is no sign of an early change in the situation despite stable overall economic growth since the early 1990s.
The majority of the employed work in the agricultural sector, where around 32% of the gross domestic product (GDP) is generated. Mainly in subsistence farming, corn, millet, cassava, beans, peanuts, sweet potatoes and oil palms are grown, and cotton, cocoa and coffee are exported. Livestock farming is dominated by cattle, sheep, goats and poultry. Fishing in the lagoons of the coastal plain plays an important role in supplying the population in southern Benin. Firewood is still the most important source of energy for the rural population.
The industry focuses on the manufacture of textiles, food and beverages, building materials and cigarettes. Around 13% of GDP is generated in this area. Benin’s most important raw material is crude oil, which is extracted off the coast. So far, deposits of diamonds and limestone have hardly been exploited.
The service sector contributes 54% to GDP and more than a third of the workforce is employed here. Trade and traffic have traditionally been of great importance for the transit country of Benin. The port as an economic factor accounts for over 10% of GDP. China, Indonesia and India are the most important trading partners for the export of (agricultural) products. Mainly foodstuffs, industrial goods, machinery and vehicles are imported, with China, France, the USA and Thailand being the most important suppliers.
Part of the total of around 6,700 km of road network is impassable during the rainy season. The main rail link is between the port of Cotonou and Parakou in central Benin. International airlines fly to Cotonou.
The currency is the CFA franc.