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What Should I Know About Benin?

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  • Written By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2014
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Benin is a West African country located on the site of the 15th century kingdom of Dahomey. After becoming a French colony in 1872, the Republic of Benin declared independence in August 1960. During the next 12 years, the country was under the rule of Mathieu Kerekou, who established a socialist government. In 1989, the country began operating under a representative government, with the first elections in 1991.

The election of Nicephore Soglo as president was the first successful African transition from a dictatorship to a democracy. Kerekou was elected and re-elected after Soglo, although many think that the election was not completely honest. In 2006, Thomas Yayi Boni was elected president and vowed to fight government corruption and help Benin grow economically.

Benin borders the Bight of Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Niger, and Burkina Faso. The country is located in a tropical climate, with generally hot temperatures. The mostly flat country has some low mountains and hills, and is humid in the southern part and semiarid in the northern part of the country.

The country has ongoing border disputes with several of its neighbors. Along the border that is shared with Burkina Faso, two villages are disputed. A large portion of the Niger-Benin border is undemarcated, and Benin alleged that Burkina Faso moved boundary pillars. Nigeria and Benin also have tense relations along the border.

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Like many other countries in the area, Benin faces a variety of environmental problems such as deforestation, desertification, and a lack of potable water. Poaching is another problem in Benin, threatening endangered wildlife populations. In addition, Benin does not have a large amount of land that can be used for farming.

With a total population of slightly over eight million people in 2008, Benin's people have an average lifespan of 53 years. AIDS is prevalent in this country, as are waterborne diseases such as hepatitis A, bacterial diarrhea, and typhoid fever. Malaria, yellow fever, and meningitis are other common diseases among the Beninese.

Although French is the official language of Benin, Yoruba and Fon are spoken in the south, and a variety of tribal languages are spoken in the country's north. Benin has a very underdeveloped economy, although there are attempts to increase tourism and foreign investments in the country. The average GDP per capita is equivalent to just $1,500 US Dollars.

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