The World Factbook (1990)/Benin


World Factbook (1990) Benin.jpg

 See regional map VII


Total area: 112,620 km²; land area: 110,620 km²

Comparative area: slightly smaller than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries: 1,989 km total; Burkina 306 km, Niger 266 km, Nigeria 773 km, Togo 644 km

Coastline: 121 km

Maritime claims:

Territorial sea: 200 nm

Climate: tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north

Terrain: mostly flat to undulating plain; some hills and low mountains

Natural resources: small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber

Land use: 12% arable land; 4% permanent crops; 4% meadows and pastures; 35% forest and woodland; 45% other; includes NEGL% irrigated

Environment: hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind may affect north in winter; deforestation; desertification

Note: recent droughts have severely affected marginal agriculture in north; no natural harbors


Population: 4,673,964 (July 1990), growth rate 3.3% (1990)

Birth rate: 50 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 16 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: NEGL migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 121 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 48 years male, 52 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 7.1 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Beninese (sing., pl.); adjective—Beninese

Ethnic divisions: 99% African (42 ethnic groups, most important being Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba); 5,500 Europeans

Religion: 70% indigenous beliefs, 15% Muslim, 15% Christian

Language: French (official); Fon and Yoruba most common vernaculars in south; at least six major tribal languages in north

Literacy: 25.9%

Labor force: 1,900,000 (1987); 60% agriculture, 38% transport, commerce, and public services, less than 2% industry; 49% of population of working age (1985) Organized labor about 75% of wage earners


Long-form name: Republic of Benin

Type: dropped Marxism-Leninism December 1989; democratic reforms adopted February 1990; transition to multiparty system by 1991 planned

Capital: Porto-Novo (official), Cotonou (de facto)

Administrative divisions: 6 provinces; Atakora, Atlantique, Borgou, Mono, Ouémé, Zou

Independence: 1 August 1960 (from France; formerly Dahomey)

Constitution: 23 May 1977 (nullified 1 March 1990); new constitution to be drafted by April 1990

Legal system: based on French civil law and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: National Day, 30 November (1975)

Executive branch: president, prime minister, cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral National Revolutionary Assembly (Assemblée Nationale Révolutionnaire) dissolved 1 March 1990 and replaced by a 24-member interim High Council of the Republic during the transition period

Judicial branch: Central People's Court (Cour Central Populaire)

Leaders: Chief of State and Head of Government—President Mathieu KÉRÉKOU (since 27 October 1972)

Political parties and leaders: only party—People's Revolutionary Party of Benin (PRPB), President Mathieu Kérékou, chairman of the Central Committee

Suffrage: universal at age 18

Elections: President—last held July 1989 (next to be held July 1994); results—President Mathieu Kérékou was reelected by the National Revolutionary Assembly;

National Revolutionary Assembly—dissolved 1 March 1990 and replaced by a 24-member interim High Council of the Republic with legislative elections for new institutions planned for February 1991

Communists: dropped Marxism-Leninism December 1989


Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Theophile NATA; Chancery at 2737 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 232-6656; US—Ambassador Harriet ISOM; Embassy at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard, Cotonou (mailing address is B. P. 2012, Cotonou); telephone [229] 30-06-50

Flag: green with a red five-pointed star in the upper hoist-side corner


Overview: Benin is one of the least developed countries in the world because of limited natural resources and a poorly developed infrastructure. Agriculture accounts for almost 45% of GDP, employs about 60% of the labor force, and generates a major share of foreign exchange earnings. The industrial sector contributes only about 15% to GDP and employs 2% of the work force. Persistently low prices in recent years have limited hard currency earnings from Benin's major exports of agricultural products and crude oil.

GDP: $1.7 billion, per capita $335; real growth rate 1.8% (1988)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 4.3% (1988)

Unemployment: NA

Budget: revenues $168 million; expenditures $317 million, including capital expenditures of $97 million (1989)

Exports: $226 million (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—crude oil, cotton, palm products, cocoa; partners—FRG 36%, France 16%, Spain 14%, Italy 8%, UK 7%

Imports: $413 million (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—foodstuffs, beverages, tobacco, petroleum products, intermediate goods, capital goods, light consumer goods; partners—France 34%, Netherlands 10%, Japan 7%, Italy 6%, US 5%

External debt: $1.0 billion (December 1989 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate -0.7% (1988)

Electricity: 28,000 kW capacity; 24 million kWh produced, 5 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: palm oil and palm kernel oil processing, textiles, beverages, petroleum

Agriculture: small farms produce 90% of agricultural output; production is dominated by food crops corn, sorghum, cassava, beans, and rice; cash crops include cotton, palm oil, and peanuts; poultry and livestock output has not kept up with consumption

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $41 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $1.0 billion; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $19 million; Communist countries (1970-88), $101 million

Currency: Communauté Financière Africaine franc (plural—francs); 1 CFA franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes

Exchange rates: Communauté Financière Africaine francs (CFAF) per US$1—287.99 (January 1990), 319.01 (1989), 297.85 (1988), 300.54 (1987), 346.30 (1986), 449.26 (1985)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Railroads: 578 km, all 1.000-meter gauge, single track

Highways: 5,050 km total; 920 km paved, 2,600 laterite, 1,530 km improved earth

Inland waterways: navigable along small sections, important only locally

Ports: Cotonou

Merchant marine: 1 cargo ship (1,000 GRT or over) of 2,999 GRT/4,407 DWT

Civil air: 3 major transport aircraft

Airports: 6 total, 5 usable; 1 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 2,439 m; 4 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: fair system of open wire, submarine cable, and radio relay; 16,200 telephones; stations—2 AM, 2 FM, 1 TV; 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT satellite earth station

Defense Forces

Branches: Army, Navy, Air Force

Military manpower: eligible 15-49, 2,015,206; of the 950,921 males 15-49, 486,620 are fit for military service; of the 1,064,285 females 15-49, 537,049 are fit for military service; about 55,550 males and 53,663 females reach military age (18) annually; both sexes are liable for military service

Defense expenditures: 1.7% of GDP, or $28.9 million (1988 est.)