Benin: Background & Geography

Introduction Benin
Present day Benin was the site of Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom that rose in the 15th century. The territory became a French Colony in 1872 and achieved independence on 1 August 1960, as the Republic of Benin. A succession of military governments ended in 1972 with the rise to power of Mathieu KEREKOU and the establishment of a government based on Marxist-Leninist principles. A move to representative government began in 1989. Two years later, free elections ushered in former Prime Minister Nicephore SOGLO as president, marking the first successful transfer of power in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. KEREKOU was returned to power by elections held in 1996 and 2001, though some irregularities were alleged.
Geography Benin
Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo
Geographic coordinates:
9 30 N, 2 15 E
Map references:
total: 112,620 sq km
water: 2,000 sq km
land: 110,620 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Pennsylvania
Land boundaries:
total: 1,989 km
border countries: Burkina Faso 306 km, Niger 266 km, Nigeria 773 km, Togo 644 km
121 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 200 NM
tropical; hot, humid in south; semiarid in north
mostly flat to undulating plain; some hills and low mountains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Sokbaro 658 m
Natural resources:
small offshore oil deposits, limestone, marble, timber
Land use:
arable land: 15.28%
permanent crops: 1.36%
other: 83.36% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
120 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind may affect north from December to March
Environment - current issues:
inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching threatens wildlife populations; deforestation; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
sandbanks create difficult access to a coast with no natural harbors, river mouths, or islands

See Also: