African Study: The Country of Delicious Fu-Fu

Benin is an agrarian state which is considered to be one of the least developed countries of the world. The whole economic situation of the country can be estimated by different indicators. Benin's economy is not developed and is based on subsistence agriculture and the cultivation of cotton. The country has oil and gas reserves, but they are not exploited. Other well-known natural resources include iron ore, gold, phosphates, and marble. The wood, in its turn, is also almost exploited. The government of Benin plans to attract foreign investors, primarily by means of tourist business development. The currency of Benin is the West African CFA franc (franc CFA), exchange rate to the U.S. dollar is 578.5550.

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The last census of Benin population was carried out on May 11-25, 2013. According to the census, the population of the country amounted up to 9,983,884 people in 2013. The annual population growth rate is 2.9%. Fertility rate is 5.4 births per woman. Life expectancy accounts for 59 years. Ethnic groups are the Yoruba, the Dendi, the Bariba and the Fula, the Betammaribe and the Somba, the Fon, the Abomey, and the Aja. The national language is French. According to the census in 2002, literacy of the population over 15 years is 34.7%, 48% of men and 23% women.

The share of agricultural sector in GDP is 36.3%, employing 1.55 million of people. Over 80% of Benin's territory is arable and livestock. In the most parts of the country it is possible to gather two crops a year. About 20% of the land is occupied in this sphere. The main export crops  Cotton accounts for the main export crops, amounting to 52%. There are also grown pineapples, bananas, ginger, coconut, coffee, corn, sesame, maize, mango, cassava, oil palm, nutmeg, vegetables, papaya, millet, rice, and sorghum (Hughes & Hughes, 1992, p. 25). The development of poultry farming and livestock - breeding of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs – is also on a high level. Annually about 32.3 thousand ton of marine and freshwater fish is landed in this area. Benin is one of the few countries in Africa which fully provides the population with basic food products.

Industry of Benin is underdeveloped, the GDP share accounts for 14.3%. Nevertheless, mining industry, and particularly mining of gold, limestone, and marble is advanced in the country. The gold industry’s profits amounts to 50 kg per year. Oil production was started in 1982 in the coastal area of Cotonou. The total production constitutes 700 barrels of oil per day. The manufacturing industry is represented by enterprises which process agricultural raw materials and are engaged in the production of palm, peanut, and cottonseed oils, flour, and refined sugar. Ginneries, textile factories, mineral water plant, and cement plant are active in the region. Production is launched in the spheres of toilet and laundry soap, as well as in the shoes production.

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Electricity generation accounts for about 40% of domestic needs. Electricity is produced by hydropower (Nangbeto River Mono) and TPP (the city of Cotonou, etc.) and operates on diesel fuel. Its production is about 285.2 million of kW per h.  The electricity is also imported, majorly from Ghana (300 million. kW per h).

Benin owns a developed transport network. The total length of railways is 578.000 km, while the length of highways is about 7000 km. The main ports include Cotonou and Porto-Novo. There are 5 airports and runways; though only-the international airport in the city of Cotonou has hard coating.

The volume of imports outpaces the volume of exports. In 2008, the exported goods for the United States consisted of cotton, cashew nuts, palm oil, and seafood and accounted for $1.1 billion. Main export partners are China (15.6%), India (12%), and Japan (8.5%) (Central Intelligence Agency, 2014). In 2008, the imported goods from the United States included food, manufactured goods, fuel, etc. and constituted $1.8 billion. Main import partners are China (35.9%), the U.S. (13.2%), and Thailand (6.5%). Benin and the U.S. have established diplomatic relations (Central Intelligence Agency, 2014). The U.S. supports democracy and economic reforms of Benin (U.S. Department of State, 2015).

Tourism in Benin is underdeveloped. As it has been mentioned by Starace (2011), “Foreign tourists are attracted by the picturesque natural landscapes, the wealth of wildlife and cultural identity of indigenous peoples” (150). In 2006, the country was visited by 252.000 people. Main attractions of Benin include the National Museum in the city of Cotonou, the Ethnographic Museum in Porto-Novo, the Historical Museum in the town of Abomey.

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To make a conclusion, it is necessary to note that the economy of Benin is largely dependent on foreign assistance, the total amount of which amounted up to $220 million in 2006. The main donors are France, the World Bank, the European Union, the United States, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the African Development Bank. Japan periodically grants financial assistance, trying to create favorable conditions for Japanese capital in Benin. A significant influx of financial resources is made by the Beninese living abroad with a total amount of about 50% of foreign currency coming into the country from abroad. In order to reduce governmental spendings on subsidies and numerous Beninese political parties and organizations, as well to remove the limitations of party building, in March 2004, the country adopted the law which stipulated that the associations must have at least 120 members.

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