TopographyBenin can be divided into five natural regions: A coastal area, low, sandy and about 2 to 5 kilometers wide, bounded by lagoons; A plateau zone called "La terre de barre" made of iron clay cut with marshy dips; A silica clayey plateau with wooded savannah extending North of Abomey to the foothills of the Atakora hills; - A hilly region in the Northwest, the Atakora, with elevation ranging from 500 to 800 metres and constituting the water reservoir for Benin and Niger Republics. Niger plains which are vast fertile silica-clayey areas.
VegetationThe forest thins out considerably in the center and gives way to grassland. Elsewhere, cultivated crops predominate, including the immense palmgroves of lower Benin and the coconut plantations on the 124 kilometers long coastline and along the lagoons.
ClimatologyBenin is characterized by unusually dry conditions. This is due primarily to two very important factors. First, the situation of the coast which is rather well protected from the western winds; second, the Atakora Barrier in the West and North West which decreases the amount of rainfall.
The great part of the country is under the influence of transitional tropical conditions. Rainfall is not as abundant as found in areas with the same latitude thereby giving rise to tropical conditions known as the BENIN variant. These conditions are marked by a dry season from November to the beginning of April and a rainy season from the latter part of April to October.
The Southern portion of the Republic of Benin, i.e. the Coastal zone, is under the influence of a Northern transitional equatorial climate characterized by a long dry season from November to the end of March, a first rainy season from April to July, a small dry period in August and a second rainy season in September and October.
The Northern portion of the country is subject to a true tropical climate. A long dry season in winter can be observed with a long rainy season in the summer.
The mean temperature is between 77oF and 82oF (25o to 28oC).
The best time to visit the Southern area is from December to March and July/August while visiting period for the Northern part of the Country is between December and April.
CommunicationsThe geographic setting of Benin serves to integrate the region and provides direct access to the bordering states by water, rail, airlines and railways.
5-seaters ply between Cotonou and Lome, Cotonou and Lagos to name the nearest other capital cities while buses and lorries are available for such long distance trips as Cotonou-Parakou, Parakou-Kandi, Parakou-Malanville, Parakou- Djougou .
Roads: 8,000 kilometers with 1,000 km or bitumenized roads
Railways: 570 kilometers in joint venture with the Republic of NIGER.
Airport: Main airport is in Cotonou with many foreign air companies.
Port: International harbor with modern facilities in Cotonou. Telecommunications: Infrastructures are performing more than 16,000 lines with direct contact with the external world.
There is a full range of postal services in most towns and localities. Telex and Fax facilities are available in Cotonou.
The Constitution at a glance
A multi-party system country
President/ Head of State/ Head of GovernmentA one-man-one-vote suffrage to elect the President/Head of Government who may be a member to a Party. His tenure of office is five (5) years and is renewed only once. He should be of Beninese nationality for at least ten (10) years. The vacancy (resignation, death...) of the presidency is filled by the Speaker of the National Assembly. The new Head of State is elected within forty (40) days. The President/ Head of State/ Head of Government addresses the Nation on the state of the Nation in the National Assembly Hall once in a year
National AssemblyA one-man-one-vote suffrage to elect the Members of Parliament (MP). His 4-years mandate is renewable. There is one MP for 70,000 inhabitants. The vacancy (resignation, death...) at the speakership is filled by his successor elected within fifteen (15) days when the House is in session or at an immediate meeting held in compliance with its rules of procedure. The vacancy of an MP is filled by his substitute also elected in the same manner. There are two ordinary sessions starting within the first fortnight of April and the second fortnight of October respectively. Each session cannot exceed three (3) months. The decision is taken by a simple majority.
The National Flag was, for the first time, hoisted formally on the independence day, August 1, 1960 to replace the French Flag.
The colors are green, red and yellow.
As explained in the second verse of the National Anthem, the green denotes hope for renewal, the red evokes the ancestors' courage while the yellow calls to mind the country's richest treasures.
But when the country went red in 1975 after a military coup on October 26,1972 the then one-party regime, with its Marxist-Leninist ideology, decided to change the National Flag. It became a plain green flag with a red star on its upper left part.
Fed up with a centrally governed State whose ideology had but retarded the country's development in all fields, a National Conference in which all walks of life participated from February 19 to 28, 1990 decided among other things to re-establish the above-mentioned flag of August 1,1960.
Demography and Languages
DemographyThe population of BENIN is estimated at 5,500,000 inhabitants largely concentrated in Southern coastal region near the major port city of Cotonou (700,000 inhabitants) the chief town of the Atlantic Department, the capital city of Porto Novo (200,000 inhabitants) in the OUEME Department as well as the "Royal City" of Abomey (80,000 inhabitants) in the Central Department of ZOU. The annual growth rate is 3.1%. Other important towns are Ouidah, Allada, Abomey, Grand Popo, Lokossa, Save, Savalou, Parakou, Djougou, Natitingou, Malanville, Kandi.
LanguagesOver half the people speak Fon. Yoruba, Mina, Bariba and Dendi are the other important languages. French is the official language. Beside the French language, English is necessarily one of the two foreign languages taught in secondary schools.
Greetings in Fon - Good morning: AH-FON
Places of Interest
Ouidah:Spelt "WHYDAH" in history books written in English, it is the "Museum City". It is evocative of European penetration with its ancient Portuguese, English, Danish and French trading posts or strongholds. There can be seen the remains of the ancient port from which slaves were boarded and shipped to the Americas.
Abomey:Referred to as the "Royal City", it is the capital of Dan-Home, the ancient Kingdom. It has one of the most impressive museums of Africa. Its artists and craftsmen, be they weavers, jewelers, woodcarvers, iron and brass workers are famous far beyond the boundaries of the Republic of BENIN.
Allada:It is the city, the cradle of "voodoos" in vogue in the Americas, namely in Brazil, West Indies, the Caribbean countries.
Nikki:The historic capital of the Baatonu people.
Natitiogou:Its castle-type "TATA-Sombas" and the traditional huts of the Tanekas and other tribes in the North where there are the richly varied fauna of the National Parks of Pendjari and "W". Ganvie. During the trip, there are Akadjas made of stakes and bushes in the shape of open circles or triangles driven into the bed of the plantless Lake. Seeking shelter among the foliage, the fish can thus be easily caught or kept for breeding.
Visa Requirements1/ Two (2) application forms in legible writing.
2/ Two (2) passport size photos.
3/ International certificate of vaccination (yellow fever and cholera).
4/ Visa is issued for fifteen (15) days: Entry and transit within 3 months. Extensions may be obtained at the Immigration Office.
5/ A $ 20.00 (twenty dollars) fee for each applicant (cash, money order of certified cheque only. No personal cheque please.)
6/ A letter of guarantee from employer
of travel agency or Xerox of round trip ticket or a Bank letter
HistoryIt may be recalled that Benin, former Dahomey, is perhaps the "most beaten track by Europeans of any Africa". The history of Benin is a succession of kingdoms. In 1704, France received permission to erect a port at Ouidah, and in 1752 the Portuguese founded Porto Novo. On June 22, 1894, the territory was named by decree the "Colony of Dahomey and its dependences" and was granted autonomy which it retained until October 18, 1904 when it became part of French West Africa. On December 4, 1958 the Republic was proclaimed. Dahomey became independent on August 1, 1960 and is a UN member country.
If the first independent Government was
ousted by a military coup on October 28, 1963, Dahomey, during
the ensuing years up to 1972, went through a lot of political
upheavals that always climaxed in military coups. That of
October 26, 1972 was the starting point of a 17-year regime
which three years later went red with a Marxist Leninist
ideology. In other words, on November 30, 1975 Dahomey was under
a centrally controlled government and eventually became the
People's Republic of Benin. At the National Conference held in
Cotonou (February 19-28, 1990) and at which all walks of life
were represented, fundamental decisions were taken,
Coat of ArmsIt is an escutcheon with: - in the first quarter, a gold Somba castle.
- in the second quarter in silver, the Star of Benin painted to the life, that is to say an eight azure point cross with, at its angle, silver radiuses and sand in abyss.
- in the third quarter, a sinople silver palmtree laden with heralds.
- in the fourth quarter, a ship evocative of European penetration into the Country.
Supporters: Two gold brindled
Industry and TradingIndustry accounts for only a small percentage of the gross domestic product. Fishing industry meets only local consumption, so does textile industry. Palm processing facility needs improving; a sugar complex and a cement factory are jointly owned with Negeria. Breweries, soap unit... meet only local demand. Possotome village is, however, known for its internationally recognized mineral water.
Apart from limestone found in open quarry at ONIGBOLO, deposits of gold, phosphates, iron ore, marble, clay... are yet to be explored. The development of off- shore fields at SEME and elsewhere are underway. A Benin/Togo hydroelectric power has just been completed on the Mono river (the NANGBETO dam). There are attractive industrial projects and feasibility studies are available for some of them. The Beninese code of investment has been reviewed to insert, among other things, more incentives for investors. Benin is the natural gateway to Togo and Nigeria and to such landlocked countries as Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.
Direct investments by American companies are promoted and strongly encouraged by the Benin Government. There can be joint ventures between Benin private sector and American companies to carry out such industrial undertakings as canning, paper processing units, glass manufacturing, salt processing units, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, clothing, palm oil, building materials,chemicals and any other items reflective of an industrial developing nation.
Banks, Working Time, Public Holidays
Banks- Central Bank of West Africa P.O. Box 325 Cotonou
- Bank of Africa
- Financial Bank
- International Bank of Benin (B.I.B.)
- Ecobank Benin
The currency is the CFA franc divided into 100 centimes; the parity with the French franc is fixed:
1 FF = 100 CFA francs.
Business hours Monday - Friday: 8a.m. to 12:30 a.m 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Government Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. to 12:30 3 p.m. 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
January 1: New Year's Day Easter Monday Ascension Day May 1: May Day Whitmonday August 1: National Day August 15: Assumption Day November 1: All Saints' Day December 25: Christmas Day Ramadan Ad-el-FlTR MaouloudThe details regarding Muslim Holidays are but approximative since they are observed following the sightings of the moon.
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