Porto Novo (administrative). Population: 223,600 (2002). (Cotonou is the economic capital with an estimated population of 828,000 in 2003.)
Republic. Gained independence from France in 1960.
Head of state:
President Yayi Boni since 2006.
220 volts AC, 50Hz.
Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, was one of the first countries in the 1990s to successfully effect the transition from dictatorship to a pluralistic political system. Today, it is one of the most stable countries in Africa.
Although Benin has seen economic growth over the past few years, and has a high standing with the international community, it remains among the world's poorest countries. Within West Africa, Benin enjoys stable relations with Nigeria, the main regional power. The only significant problem has been a long-running border dispute with Benin's northern neighbour, Niger, over ownership of islands in the Niger River. This was finally resolved by the International Court of Justice in July 2005, which awarded 16 islands to Niger and nine to Benin. Both countries accepted the ruling.