Benin is an independent republic, with a democratic government, which lies on the Gulf of Guinea and forms part of the West African Region. The capital city is Porto-Novo although the commercial capital is Cotonou. Other major cities are Abomey and Kandi.
The official language is French and various local languages (Hausa in the north and the languages of the Fon and the Yoruba in the south) are also spoken. The local currency is the CFA-Franc. (US$ / CFA Franc – current exchange rate).
Improved management and political stability is helping Benin to keep up an annual growth rate of around 5% in spite of economic underdevelopment and dependency on subsistence agriculture, cotton production and regional trade.
The economy of Benin encourages free trade. The Benin oil industry and mining industry are two key elements in the economy of the country. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility Societe Beninoise d’Electricite et d’Eau (SBEE). Agriculture, Commerce and Transportation make up the largest proportion of the GNP. The manufacturing sector in Benin contributed 7% to the country’s GDP in 1995 and focuses around the agricultural industry, processing products and manufacturing consumer goods and construction materials. The cement and oil refining industries make up the only heavy industry of Benin.
The international time zone for Benin is Greenwich – 1. The international dialling code for Benin is +229. Air Afrique and Air France are served by an international airport at Cotonou while Benin Inter-Regional operates domestic flights to airports at Abomey, Parakpou, Natitingou and Kandi. As from January 1996 all nationals required visas in order to visit Benin except nationals of Denmark, France, Germany and Italy.
Transport infrastructure is improving with road and rail development as well as container facility provision to increase the capacity of the port of Cotonou.
Medical services in Benin can be expensive and may require advance payment. Vaccinations as well as medical insurance should be arranged prior to arriving in Benin. Due to the state of health, the current state of immunisation, location and the local disease situation, there is risk of contracting cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis A, malaria, meningitis, schistomiasis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and yellow fever.