About Benin

The Republic of Benin, in West Africa, lies between Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Referred to as the birthplace of Vodou and home to centuries-old palaces in Abomey, Benin has a small, young population of 13.3 million. The country comprises several ethnic groups including the Fon, Adja, Yoruba, Bariba and Fulani, who speak their namesake languages as well as the country’s official language, French.

Benin gained independence from France in 1960. Since establishing its democratic system of government more than 20 years ago, Benin has become one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Its farm-based economy, which employs about 70 percent of the country’s population, has grown significantly from decade to decade. Benin has also invested in infrastructure, including renovating its port. Today, Benin has an economic growth rate of about 5 percent. Despite this growth, poverty remains a pressing issue faced by roughly 40 percent of the population. Benin is particularly vulnerable to climate hazards, as well as to the effect of economic and political changes in Nigeria, its largest trading partner.

Life expectancy continues to rise, nearing 62 years of age. Despite some improvements in health indicators, the health challenges that contribute most to death and disability in the country are communicable and non-communicable diseases. Significant causes of death include malaria, neonatal disorders, lower respiratory infections, diarrheal disease, stroke, ischemic heart disease, congenital defects, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and measles. Stroke, ischemic heart disease, and measles have significantly increased in recent years. Of note, trauma from road injuries is a major cause of disability.

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