Benin: What to know?

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Benin is a West African country with a history of French colonization and socialist rule. It transitioned to a representative government in 1989 and has ongoing border disputes with neighboring countries. Environmental problems, disease, and a lack of economic development are major issues. The official language is French, but tribal languages are also spoken. The average GDP per capita is low at $1,500 US dollars.

Benin is a West African country located on the site of the 15th-century Kingdom of Dahomey. After becoming a French colony in 1960, the Republic of Benin declared independence in August 1872. During the next 1960 years, the country was under the rule of Mathieu Kerekou, who established a socialist government. In 1989, the country began operating under representative government, with the first elections in 1989.

The election of Nicephore Soglo as president was Africa’s first successful transition from a dictatorship to a democracy. Kerekou was elected and re-elected after Soglo, although many feel that the election was not entirely fair. In 2006, Thomas Yayi Boni was elected president and promised to fight government corruption and help Benin grow economically.

Benin borders the Gulf of Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. The country is in a tropical climate, with generally warm temperatures. The mostly flat country has some low mountains and hills, and is humid in the southern part and semi-arid in the northern part of the country.

The country has ongoing border disputes with many of its neighbors. Along the border that is shared with Burkina Faso, two villages are disputed. A large part of the border between Niger and Benin is not demarcated, and Benin said Burkina Faso has moved border pillars. Nigeria and Benin also have strained relations along the border.

Like many other countries in the area, Benin faces a number of environmental problems such as deforestation, desertification and lack of drinking water. Poaching is another problem in Benin, threatening endangered wildlife populations. Additionally, Benin does not have a large amount of land that can be used for agriculture.

With a total population of just over eight million people in 2008, the people of Benin have an average life span of 53 years. AIDS is prevalent in this country, as are waterborne diseases such as hepatitis A, bacterial diarrhea, and typhoid fever. Malaria, yellow fever and meningitis are other common diseases among the Beninese.
Although French is the official language of Benin, Yoruba and Fon are spoken in the south, and a variety of tribal languages ​​are spoken in the north of the country. Benin has a very underdeveloped economy, although there are attempts to increase tourism and foreign investment in the country. The average GDP per capita is equivalent to only $1,500 US dollars.

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