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Benin: tribal traditions and vestiges of ancient kingdoms

Benin (République du Bénin/Republic of Benin) is a presidential republic of West Africa, whose capital is Porto Novo, but the seat of the government is Cotonou. It is a former French colony bordered to the west by Togo, to the north by Burkina Faso and Niger, to the east by Nigeria and washed to the south by the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean).

The coast of the country has an extension of 120 km, is low and sandy with lagoons called Ahémé lagoon and Nokoué lagoon. This is the most densely populated area, where the major cities of Benin Porto-Novo, the capital, and Cotonou, an important commercial center and the seat of government, are located. A bit further north you find a fertile plain known as Terre de Barre. Still more to the north the land rises gradually toward the interior of the country to become lower again towards the valley of the Niger, which marks the northern boundary.

The Atacora mountains extend along the north-western border with Togo. Here is the maximum height of Benin: Mount Sokbaro with 658 metres. In the extreme north of the country the river Niger marks for about 150 km the border with the state of the same name, whereas in the south the rivers Ouémé and Kouffo are flowing and in the south-west the Mono river marks the western border with Togo.

The economy of Benin, one of the poorest countries of Africa, is based on agricultural products: copra, palm seeds and palm oil, coffee, cocoa, cotton, cassava and peanuts. Fishing is widely practiced in lagoons and along the coast. In recent years oil has been discovered in the territorial waters in the Gulf of Guinea.

English text correction by Dietrich Köster.

  • Area: 112,622 sq km: arable land 16,7%, pastures 3,9%, forests and bushland 30,2%, uncultivated and unproductive land 49,2%
  • Population: 8,439,000 (as of 2005): There are more than 40 ethnic groups in Benin. The largest is the Fon with 39% of the population, followed by the Yoruba 12%, Adja 11%, Houeda 8,5%, Bariba 8% and Fulba 5,5%.
  • State Capital: Porto Novo.
  • Language: Official language is French. Fon and Yoruba are also spoken.
  • Religion: Animists 50%, Christians 30%, Muslims 20%.
  • Currency: CFA-Franc (XOF)
  • Time Zone: UTC+1 hour.

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