Benin is a small country in Western Africa that counts 10.05 million people (according to 2012 figures).
Three-quarters of population live in the South of the country, particularly in big cities such as Cotonou and Porto-Novo (the administrative capital). 45% of inhabitants live in urban central parts of the country.
Benin has low human development with per capita income of 540 US$. Despite its progress, on the global level Benin is ranked 163d country out of 177 with regard to HDI.
Recent Benin history
Benin becomes independent in 1960. The country’s first years of existence are marked by great political instability. In this way, in 1960s three coups d’état follow (in 1963, in 1968 and in 1972).
The last coup d’état in 1972 lets Mathieu Kerekou take power and establish a revolutionary military government. The country becomes the People’s Republic of Benin. The new constitution is adopted and is in effect till 1990. The State is the head of all sectors of economy; it implements the agrarian reform and develops industrialization according to the USSR model.
The State tries to put in place vast economic and social development programs, but without any convincing results. Bad management and corruption undermine economy. The industrialization strategy leads to the escalation of the external debt.
In 1986, the economic situation of Benin becomes critical: agriculture is disrupted, the Commercial Bank of Benin is ruined, and authorities are paralyzed due to the lack of budget. Agreements are signed with the IMF to reduce the country’s debt but they entail draconian measures (tax increases, recruitment freezes).
As for the political area, violations of human rights contribute to social tensions. Social and political problems, bad economic situation and the collapse of communist regimes in Europe lead Kerekou to accept to end his own regime. A new constitution is adopted in 1990. This is the return of democracy and the multi-party system.
The Benin economy mostly depends on the trading of goods and on cotton production. Benin plays the role of the hub in the commercial market of Niger, Burkina Faso and especially Nigeria. Benin is mostly an agricultural country. The crops are mainly food-producing.
The informal sector has played a crucial role in Benin economy for the latest 20 years. It provides for around 40% of the real GDP and helps the majority of the population make a living.
Even if some economic figures have improved with time, poverty is still widespread and 40% of the population still lives under the poverty line.
What is more, the rapid increase of urban population creates crucial problems, such as employment of more and more young population, schooling, urban planning, urban transport planning, service road, and district maintenance problems.