Freedom from Hunger partners with two credit union federations and one non-bank financial institution in Benin with the objective to reach nearly 125,000 clients with Credit with Education by FY14. The institutions regularly provide maternal and child health, business and financial education to their clients. Plans are to initiate Saving for Change in FY13 to reach 27,000 more women and their families in remote, rural areas with self-managed savings group services. Savings group members will build assets, smooth cash flow and improve their businesses while learning how to improve health and financial management.
- Area: 112,622 square km (slightly smaller than Pennsylvania)
- Natural Hazards: Benin is subject to hot, dry, dusty harmattan wind affecting north from December to March
- Agricultural Products: cotton, corn, cassava (tapioca), yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, cashews; livestock
- Population: 9,325,032
- Ethnic Groups: Fon and related 39.2%, Adja and related 15.2%, Yoruba and related 12.3%, Bariba and related 9.2%, Peulh and related 7%, Ottamari and related 6.1%, Yoa-Lokpa and related 4%
- Languages: French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common vernaculars in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north)
- Population Below Poverty Line: 37.4% (2007 est.)
- Infant mortality rate: 61.56 deaths/1,000 live births
Benin is located on the West African coast, bordering the Bight of Benin, between Nigeria and Togo. After their independence in 1960, Benin experienced a succession of military coups brought about many changes of government until 1972. The last of these brought to power Major Mathieu Kerekou as the head of a regime professing strict Marxist-Leninist principles. The Revolutionary Party of the People of Benin (PRPB) remained in complete power until the beginning of the 1990s. In the 1996 presidential poll Kerekou defeated Soglo, and was reelected in 2001. At the end of his second term in 2006, Kerekou successfully handed power over to Boni Yayi, elected with 75% of the votes cast.
Important economic and structural reforms, supported by the IMF and the World Bank, helped Benin sustain growth rates averaging 4.7 percent annually during the last decade, resulting in modest increases in its per capita income (US$680) as well as improvements in human development. Nevertheless, poverty remains widespread and the economy remains undiversified and vulnerable to external shocks. Adult illiteracy, especially among women, and under-five child mortality are both high. Population growth is making it difficult for Benin to achieve sustainable social and economic development.
Benin’s economy relies on the agriculture sector, in particular cotton and transit and re-exports trade. The agriculture sector accounts for about 32 percent of GDP and is the source of livelihood for nearly 70 percent of the country’s workforce. Cotton is the primary export commodity accounting for about 25 to 40 percent of official total exports.