Benin Country Facts

By | May 21, 2024
Capital city Porto-Novo
Surface 112,622 km²
Population 12,450,000
Road network length 1,357 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway N/A
Motorway name N/A
Traffic drives Right
License plate code DY

Benin (French: Bénin), formally the Republic of Benin (République du Bénin) is a small country in western Africa. The country is approximately 3 times the size of the Netherlands and has more than 12.5 million inhabitants. The capital is Porto-Novo, the largest city is Cotonou.


Benin is a smaller country in West Africa, sandwiched between Nigeria to the east, Togo to the west, and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. The country is stretched in the north-south direction, the coastline on the Gulf of Guinea is only 120 kilometers, but the country measures over 650 kilometers from north to south.

Much of Benin is in the tropical savanna zone, only the extreme north is drier. The country is mostly flat, most of the land is between 100 and 400 meters above sea level. The 658 meter high Mont Sokbaro on the border with Togo is the highest point in Benin. The coastline of Benin consists of sandy beaches with lagoons and wetlands behind. The coastline is therefore only developed to a limited extent, actually only around the city of Cotonou. The great river Niger forms part of the northern border with the country of Niger.

Benin has a hot and humid climate. The average maximum temperature in Cotonou is between 28 and 32 °C all year round. There is approximately 1300 mm of precipitation per year in Cotonou, with a strong peak from April to July and a drier period in December and January.


Benin had only 2.2 million inhabitants in 1950 and grew to 10 million inhabitants after 2015. The country has 5 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, 4 of which are located around the port city of Cotonou and the nearby capital Porto-Novo. The main city in the interior is Parakou. There are 42 ethnic groups in Benin, divided into 3 larger groups: Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asian. More than 50 languages ​​are spoken in the country, of which French is the official language. For a large part of the inhabitants, French is the second language. Most media is exclusively in French. English is on the rise, partly due to trade with neighboring Nigeria.


Benin is a developing country with a large informal economy. A large part of the population works in agriculture for their own food supply. There is little industry in Benin outside the port city of Cotonou. About 40% of the inhabitants live below the poverty line, this is even increasing because the economy does not grow as fast as the population. A major barrier to economic growth is the lack of education, many Beninese cannot read or write. The infrastructure is flawed.


Present-day Benin includes three historic regions that had their own culture and governance before French colonization. After 1600, the kingdom of Dahomey began to emerge in the coastal region, which is now southern Benin. This kingdom existed until 1894, when the last king was defeated by the French. The region was colonized relatively late, although slave trade with the Portuguese already took place from the 18th century. In 1899, the French colony of Dahomey was established as part of the greater French West Africa. This was a border region, to the east lay the British colony of Nigeria.

Under the French colonial era, infrastructure was built, notably the port of Cotonou and railway lines to the interior. Education was established by Catholic churches. Dahomey gained autonomy in 1958 and became formally independent from France in 1960. The 1960s were marked by unrest and coups. In 1974 the Marxist People’s Republic of Benin was proclaimed. The country established relations with China, North Korea and Libya and placed almost the entire economy under the state, drying up foreign investment. Marxism was renounced in 1989 and the country was renamed the Republic of Benin in 1990. Since then, the country has become democratic, but the economic situation has not improved significantly, but the country has become more stable.

Road Network

Benin’s road network is limited, in fact there are two main paved main roads, the coastal road from the Nigerian border via Cotonou to Togo, and the road from Cotonou to the Niger border in the north. Other roads are often in poor condition and mostly unpaved. The coastal route is largely 2×2, but no motorway. There are no motorways at all in Benin. In Cotonou only the main roads are paved, the side streets are almost always unpaved and of very poor quality. The border crossing with Niger is one of the most important in the north and is located at Malanville. Here are two bridges over the Niger next to each other. There is one paved border crossing with Burkina Faso. There are a number of border crossings with neighboring Togo, but most are unpaved.

Cotonou has a number of multi-lane roads with chaotic traffic. There are three bridges over the waterway that separates Lac Nokoué from the Atlantic Ocean, the newest of which was commissioned around 2004.

Road safety in Benin is poor, road lighting is almost completely lacking, as is road marking. Getting fuel is quite good in the south, but less so in the north where there are only a limited number of gas stations. Well-known gas stations are also found in Benin. Smuggled petrol from Nigeria is often sold in bottles by the roadside, but is generally of poor quality and often diluted with water. West Africa is an important market for end-of-life European cars of French and Japanese manufacture, which are sold again in Benin, among other places.

Main road network

The trunk road network was established in 2001 when 6,076 kilometers of road were designated as part of the Réseau routier national (national road network). Of these, the 7 routes of the Route Nationale Inter-Etat make up 2,178 kilometers. In 2014 1,837 kilometers of national roads were asphalted and 4,239 kilometers unpaved. In 2007, the quality of the national road network was determined to be 24% good, 54% passable, 14% poor and 8% under construction. The road network has been financed from the road fund (routier fund) since 1970. Since 1997, the road fund has been partly financed by tolls.

Main roads in Benin

Toll roads

In Benin, a toll is levied on some roads to finance the road fund. The first toll road was the RNIE1 at the border with Togo, where tolls have been levied since 1987. For a long time this was the only toll road, since 1997 tolls are levied on more roads. The toll roads have been placed under concession, in 2014 there were 4 concessionaires in Benin.

Road numbering

There are two road number layers in Benin, the international routes abbreviated with RNIE, and the Route Nationales, which are abbreviated with RN. The highest number is the RN11.


Originally, the RNIE routes largely coincided with the RN routes. The original RN numbering ranged from RN1 to RN10. Later the road numbering was changed. The RNIE routes have been kept, but the old RN routes have been deleted, and a new numbering has been introduced with RN numbers between RN11 and RN39. More than half of the new RN roads are less than 50 kilometers long.


The signage in Benin is identical to that of France, with white signs with black letters.


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