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The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish settlements in the region of present-day Benin. They built significant ports on the coastal areas and soon, other European traders came, such as the French, Dutch, and the British.
The Dahomey government and the Fon dominance collapsed in the 19th century when slavery was gradually abolished in European countries and in America. This also coincided with the French annexation in 1863. Dahomey leaders still retained a sense of power when they were sent to other French colonies in West Africa and appointed as leaders.
In 1960, the region gained independence and their name was changed to Republique du Dahomey. The new government was met with many years of political unrest. In the span of 12 years, the region changed governments 9 times and went through 4 military coup d'etats.
The last of these coup d'etats and the most successful was in 1972 through the leadership of Major Mathieu Kerekou. The country's name was then changed to People's Republic of Benin.
In 1989, in response to the country's failing economy, the French government promised financial assistance in exchange for the Benin government to move from a single-party government to a multiparty republic.
In 1990, the country's name was changed once again, and this time, its name became the Republic of Benin. The country's first free elections were held in 1991.
Benin is located in the Sub-Saharan region of West Africa. Its borders are Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, and Bight of Benin to the south.
The country is narrow-shaped with the Niger River found on the north and the Atlantic Ocean found on its southern coastal region. The country's terrain is mostly flat with some hills and mountains.
23.53% of the total land area is arable land and 2.37% are permanent crops.
Benin is a presidential representative democratic republic. The President is elected into office for a 5-year term, and can only serve a maximum of 2 terms. The President is head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government and legislative power is exercised by the government and the legislative branch.
The judiciary branch of government is independent of the executive and legislative branches.
Benin is not one of the most popular Western African travel destinations but it's still a great country to visit. Traveling in the country is considered to be one of the safest in the region. The peak season is from December to February during the dry season.
The waters on the coastal regions of Benin are not ideal for swimming due to the rough seas, but they're still a great place to spend an hour or two for their calmness and tranquility. The town of Grand Popo on the southwestern region of the country used to be a center for slave trade. However, the area is half-deserted and people depend on fishing and crafts for livelihood. The dark golden sand and wide beaches stretch all the way to Lome in Togo and several restaurants and bars can be found on the beach.
Ouidah is the spiritual home of Voodoo and if this religion interests you, this is the best place in the entire world to learn and understand the belief. There are Voodoo temples all around and it is home to the Python Temple - which is the site of Benin's ancient snake cult. Abomey was the capital of the Dahomey kingdom in its heyday and it's filled with ruined temples and the royal palaces found here are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The bas reliefs and the structures that remain provide evidence of the kingdom's wealth brought about by the slave trade.
Benin's literacy rate is among the lowest in the world. The national rate is 42.4%, where the rate for females is 30.3% and 55.2% for males. Before 2007, primary education was not free but since the 2007 Education Forum, academic fees have been abolished.
Education is free and compulsory for students ages 6-11 and the school levels are divided into primary, junior high school, senior high school, bachelor's, and master's. There are over 90 higher learning institutions in Benin and most schools use French as the language of instruction.
- 55% of the people of Benin practice animism and Voodooism as their religion. They believe that photographs steal a part of their soul so tourists must ask permission before taking photos of people.
- 80% of the country's export is cotton.
- French is the country's official language and the national anthem is also sung in French.
Last Updated On : January 8, 2015