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Benin

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Benin, is a country in Western 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 capital is Porto Novo, but the seat of government is Cotonou.

› Facts and figures

  • Benin MapOfficial Name: Republic of Benin
  • Area: 110.620 Km2
  • Population: 8.5 million people (approximately)
  • Capital City: Porto-Novo (317,000)
  • Largest Cities: Cotonou, Porto-Novo, Parakou
  • Currency: CFA Franc
  • Latitude/Longitude: 6º48 N, 2º63 E
  • Languages: French (official), tribal languages
  • National Day: August 1st
  • Religions: Muslim, Christian, traditional beliefs
  • Climate: Benin is tropical; hot and humid in south; semiarid (quite dry) in north. Overall, the dry season runs from November to April, and a rainy season from the end of April through September. The mean temperature is near 80 degrees.

› Culture

It is believed that Vodun (or "Voodoo", as it is commonly known) originated in Benin and was introduced to the Caribbean Islands and parts of North America by slaves taken from this particular area of the Slave Coast. The indigenous religion of Benin is practiced by about 60% of the population. Since 1992 Vodun has been recognized as one of Benin's official religions, and a National Vodun Holiday is celebrated on January 10.

› Government

Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, was a French colony from 1902 until it achieved its independence in 1960. Its name was changed to Benin in 1972 following a military coup d’état. Since a national conference in 1990 that shook the foundation of the "Marxist-Leninist" state that had been established in 1972, Benin has become a multiparty democracy with Mr. Nicephore Soglo defeating the former military leader Mr. Kerekou to become president in the March 1991 election. Mr. Kerekou returned to office in the election of 1996, and was re-elected in March 2001 for a second and last five-year term as stipulated in the Constitution. The transparent presidential elections of March 2006 led to the election as Head of State of an independent candidate, Mr. Yayi Boni, the former President of the West African Development Bank, and resulted in major political changes. Increased freedom of the press and strengthening of civil society institutions have reinforced the country's democratic foundations. Market-oriented economic policies have been implemented since 1991 and there is broad political consensus for these policies.

› Economy

Macroeconomic management has remained sound despite a difficult environment. Macroeconomic performance under the three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility arrangement approved by the IMF Board in August 2005 has been satisfactory with strong fiscal performance, containment of inflation, and satisfactory, albeit lower than expected, growth. Macroeconomic performance has picked up slightly in 2006 – 2007 with real GDP growth rate recovering to 4.6 percent in 2007 from 2.9 percent in 2005 following a rebound in cotton and services sectors, while inflation has been broadly contained under the WAEMU convergence criterion of 3.0 percent in 2006 - 2007 despite increases in the international prices of oil and foods. The external current account deficit (excluding current official grants) has remained broadly in line with the IMF-supported program targets at 6.7 percent of GDP in 2007 as compared with 7.9 percent of GDP in 2004 while the overall budget deficit (on a payment order basis and excluding grants) narrowed from 4.6 percent of GDP in 2005 to 3.7 percent of GDP in 2007. Finally, debt cancellation under HIPC Initiative and MDRI helped to steadily reduce the country’s total public external debt from 58.3 percent in 2000 to around 13.6 percent of GDP at end-2007.

Macroeconomic management has remained sound despite a difficult environment. Macroeconomic performance under the three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility arrangement approved by the IMF Board in August 2005 has been satisfactory with strong fiscal performance, containment of inflation, and satisfactory, albeit lower than expected, growth. Macroeconomic performance has picked up slightly in 2006 – 2007 with real GDP growth rate recovering to 4.6 percent in 2007 from 2.9 percent in 2005 following a rebound in cotton and services sectors, while inflation has been broadly contained under the WAEMU convergence criterion of 3.0 percent in 2006 - 2007 despite increases in the international prices of oil and foods. The external current account deficit (excluding current official grants) has remained broadly in line with the IMF-supported program targets at 6.7 percent of GDP in 2007 as compared with 7.9 percent of GDP in 2004 while the overall budget deficit (on a payment order basis and excluding grants) narrowed from 4.6 percent of GDP in 2005 to 3.7 percent of GDP in 2007. Finally, debt cancellation under HIPC Initiative and MDRI helped to steadily reduce the country’s total public external debt from 58.3 percent in 2000 to around 13.6 percent of GDP at end-2007. Despite these achievements on the macroeconomic front, available data suggests that Benin would not be able to reach all the MDG targets by 2015. In particular, Benin is unlikely to meet the health MDGs without enhanced targeted measures and sharp acceleration of current trends. The gender-related MDG targets would also be difficult to achieve without substantial progress. Overall, enhancing economic growth, further strengthening of the country’s implementation capacity as well as increased financing will be required for Benin to meet the majority of the MDGs.

PSC Thematic Areas and Benin

› Gender

In Benin, participation of women in economic activities is high. However, patriarchal structures and attitudes are deeply rooted in some religions and cultures, which make the participation in social and political life rather sensible. Setting up a careful dialogue is important to widen perspectives in order to make the voice of women heard.

› Access to sustainable energy and efficient energy use

Benin requires more energy everyday for its development, while household energy consumption increases progressively with changing lifestyles. Production of energy has a high impact on the environment and may contribute to the continuous deterioration of natural resources. In Benin, electricity is generated by conventional methods. The majority of rural and poor households depend on wood and charcoal as sources of fuel.

› Conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity

Overexploitation, contamination and habitat destruction are among the threats that affect the natural resources of Benin. Conflicting interests may enhance social confrontations and manoeuvre people into opposition instead of collaboration.

› Sustainable production and consumption chains

Bhutan, Benin and Costa Rica share patterns of constraints related to the generation of income and increasing employment through sustainable supply chains. Rural production systems are either geared towards self-sufficiency or focus on environmentally unfriendly commodity production. Polices to specifically promote sustainable production initiatives are scarce. Producer organisations often lack the human capacities and organisational strengths to adequately support producers in their quest for more sustainable production systems and markets for their products. Export of products to Europe is frequently hampered by high quality standards, regulations and import restrictions. In Benin, various organisations have developed experience with the cultivation of and trade in organic cotton and cashew nuts.

› Sustainable tourism

All three PSC partner countries dispose of natural, social and cultural resources that are valuable assets for tourism. While tourism is a major source of foreign currency and may contribute to income generation, its benefits are often poorly distributed while communities that are object of tourism may be confronted with serious side effects. These may include, among others: habitat destruction and other forms of pressure on natural resources; social disruption; prostitution; child abuse; and cultural erosion. Local communities and tourism organisations often lack the knowledge and information of how to reduce the negative effects and enhance the sustainability of tourism operations, thus contributing to local income generation.

In Benin, tourism is gaining importance and interventions by public and private actors are required to develop the sector in a sustainable way.

› Benin links

Taken from www.worldatlas.com and www.en.wikipedia.org