Benin Economics and Business

The economy of Benin is a developing economy that is largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, trading and services. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 171 out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index. The majority of the population lives in rural areas and relies on subsistence farming for their livelihoods. The major crops grown are maize, cassava and groundnuts. Livestock production also plays an important role in the economy with cattle, sheep and goats being raised for meat and dairy products.

According to cheeroutdoor, the manufacturing sector has been growing rapidly in recent years as Benin seeks to diversify its economy away from agriculture. The main industries are textiles, food processing, construction materials and chemicals. Despite this growth, however, industry still only accounts for around 10% of GDP with most of it being small-scale operations concentrated mainly around Cotonou and other coastal cities.

The service sector is an important part of Benin’s economy as it accounts for around 70% of GDP. This includes activities such as banking and insurance services, retail trade, transportation services and tourism which have all been growing significantly over recent years. Tourism has been a particular focus for Benin’s government as they look to capitalize on the country’s natural beauty by encouraging more visitors from abroad which will bring additional foreign exchange into the country.

Benin also has a vibrant informal sector which includes activities such as street vending and small-scale trading which employ a large part of the population but do not contribute significantly to GDP due to their lack of formal recognition or taxation by authorities.

Overall Benin’s economy remains heavily reliant on subsistence agriculture with industry only accounting for 10% of GDP while services account for 70%. The government has been attempting to diversify its economy away from agricultural production through increased investment in manufacturing and services such as tourism but these efforts have yet to bear significant fruit thus far. Despite this however there are some promising signs that greater economic growth could be achieved if more investment was made into infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, ports etc. This would provide greater access between rural areas where much of Benin’s population resides, allowing them to take advantage opportunities available in urban areas.

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Benin GDP (Nominal, $USD) 2003-2017

Note: the capital city of Benin, abbreviated as BEN by, is Porto Novo with a population of 234,000 (however, the President and Government are located in Cotonou). Other major cities include Cotonou with a population of 780 000, Abomey-Calavi with a population of 385 000, Djougou with a population of 237 000, Parakou with a population of 163 800.

Benin Economics and Business



In the region inhabited in the 15th century. from Adja and Popo populations in the Allada area, as a result of infighting they formed in the 16th century. the kingdoms of Iakin (or Porto Novo) and of Dahomey (or Abomey, from the name of the capital). In the 17th century. the expansion of Dahomey began, which in the following century started trading with the English, French and Portuguese, present with their own settlements on the coast and dedicated to the slave trade. The France concluded the first treaty of commerce and protection with Dahomey in 1851 and Porto Novo in 1863. Later occupied the region, giving the name of Etablissements du Benin to the protectorate of coastal regions; the name was changed to Dahomeyafter the occupation of the internal territories. In 1904 the country entered the federation of French West Africa.

In 1960, Dahomey gained independence and gave itself a presidential constitution. The ethnic heterogeneity of the new state and the economic difficulties caused a political instability characterized by repeated coups d’état, until the advent (1972) of a military government headed by M. Kérékou. Reduction of economic dependence on France, nationalization of some key sectors of the economy, more balanced agricultural development, administrative decentralization were the main choices of the new regime, which proclaimed itself Marxist-Leninist and constituted the single party (Parti de la révolution populaire du Benin) and changed the name of the country to the People’s Republic of Benin. With the end of bipolarism following the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, the Benin reoriented in the western sense, abandoning the ideology of the state informed by Marxism-Leninism and opening up to multi-partyism. A new Constitution was adopted (1990) and regular legislative and presidential elections were held (1991), which led to the presidency of the Republic ND Soglo. During the 1990s the Benin maintained relative political-institutional stability, despite the absence of a definite parliamentary majority and despite the social unrest, which took place following the economic reforms launched by the government in agreement with the International Monetary Fund.. In the 1995 legislative elections, popular discontent resulted in an affirmation of the opposition forces, whose alliance allowed the victory of Kérékou in the presidential elections of 1996, who was re-elected in 2001. Returning to power, the former dictator engaged in a policy of national reconciliation. In 2006, Kérékou was unable to reapply having exceeded the age limits set by the Constitution. The elections held in May saw the affirmation of the independent candidate T. Boni Yayi, later supported by the majority who left the vote for the renewal of Parliament in March 2007. In the years following the slowdown in economic growth, a financial scandal that cost the loss of savings to thousands of Beninese and permanent corruption negatively affected the popularity of Boni Yayi, who was nevertheless reconfirmed president in the March 2011 elections, contested by the opposition. The head of state was also able to count, after the parliamentary consultations of the following April, on a majority higher than the previous one. In 2012, entrepreneur P. Talon was accused of leading a plot to assassinate Boni Yayi, but France rejected the request for extradition to Benin. After winning the largest number of seats in the parliamentary elections of April 2015 without however reaching an absolute majority, Boni Yayi – several times at the center of political controversy for alleged attempts to amend the Constitution and remain in power – did not appear in the presidential elections of March 2016; reversing the result of the first round, he won the ballot Talon, reconfirmed in the presidential elections of April 2021. In the general elections held in April 2019 without the participation of the opposition, excluded from the electoral round,the Progressive Union obtained 47 seats in Parliament, while the Republican Bloc won 36 seats.


Royal Palaces of Abomey (1985).


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