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Government of Republic of Benin
Official name République du Bénin (Republic of Benin)
Form of government multiparty republic with one legislative house (National Assembly [83])
Head of state and government President assisted by Prime Minister1
Capital Porto-Novo2
Official language French
Official religion none
Monetary unit CFA franc (CFAF)
Population estimate (2009) 8,792,000
Total area (sq mi) 43,484
Total area (sq km) 112,622

Industry

Manufacturing plants and secondary industries include several palm-oil-processing plants in Ahozon, Avrankou, Bohicon, Cotonou, Gbada, and Pobé; cement plants at Onigbolo and Pobé; several cotton-ginning facilities in the north; a textile mill at Parakou; a sugar refining complex at Savé; a soft-drink plant; a brewery; and two shrimp-processing plants.

Electricity is generated thermally by plants located at Bohicon, Parakou, Cotonou, and Porto-Novo. About half of Benin’s demand for electricity is met by importing power from Ghana’s Volta River Project at Akosombo. In 1988 operations commenced at the hydroelectric installation of the Mono River Dam, a joint venture between Benin and Togo on their common southern boundary.

Finance

Liquidation of Benin’s three state-owned banks took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of economic privatization, and four private banks opened, including the Bank of Africa-Benin. Citizens of Benin began to transfer their savings from foreign banks. With the advent of privatization, foreign aid and assistance grew, particularly funding for developmental projects from the United States and the European Economic Community (later succeeded by the European Union), the latter of which also agreed to help pay the wages of civil servants. France continues to provide financial assistance. The currency of Benin is the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine), which is fully guaranteed by and pegged to the French franc.

Trade

Benin’s export earnings rely on agricultural products, such as cotton, palm oil, cocoa, and coffee, exported to such countries as Portugal, Italy, France, Thailand, Taiwan, and the United States. Informal trade (smuggling) across the border with Nigeria has also affected Benin’s negative trade balance. One of Benin’s main, albeit underexploited, trade assets is the deepwater port at Cotonou, which serves as a sea outlet for the Republic of Niger and as a secondary port for Nigeria and thus holds a potential to earn lucrative customs duties. Benin has traditionally imported various manufactured products, machinery, chemicals, beverages, and tobacco, as well as cereals.