Map of Benin



Benin is a country in western Africa, formerly known as Dahomey. It has a coastline of 121 km on the Gulf of Guinea. This wedge-shaped land extends inland, to the north, about 670 km, making it one of the smaller African countries.

Benin has a tropical climate. Its economy is based primarily on agriculture and many of the country’s farmers work at a subsistence level. Although Benin experienced considerable economic growth during the 1990s, it remains one of the poorest countries in Africa.

Many different ethnic groups live in Benin. The Fon, along with the closely related Adja, are by far the largest. French is the official language of the country, but Fon and other African languages are widely spoken.

Benin was a colony within French West Africa from 1899 until it gained independence in 1960 as Dahomey. Dahomey was the name of one of the great African kingdoms of the 1700s and 1800s. It was based in Benin.

A series of military leaders brought many changes of government between 1960 and 1972, when a marxist regime took charge. The country was renamed The People’s Republic of Benin in 1975. In 1989 the government renounced marxist ideology. A new constitution and democratic reforms were introduced in 1990.


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Map: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.