Benin is located on a narrow, strip of land in West Africa; it lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer and runs from north to south.
The country covers an area of 43,483 square miles (112,622 square kilometers). It shares borders with Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Togo. It is one of the smaller countries in West Africa, one-eighth the size of Nigeria, which lies to the east. It is, however, twice as large as Togo, located to the west.
There are five distinct geographic zones within Benin: In the south there is a narrow coastal strip broken by lagoons and creeks and in the north there is a plateau of fertile iron clay soil that is interspersed with marshy areas. The central zone of the country is a wooded savanna with some hilly areas. In the northwest lies the mountain range called The Atacora and in the northeast the Niger River basin.
The area that used to be known as The Kingdom of Dahomey was the origin of the modern day state – this kingdom was made up of a mixture of ethnic groups that settled on the Abomey plain. It is thought by some modern day historians that insecurity caused by slave trading may have contributed to mass migrations of groups to modern day Abomey, including some Aja, a Gbe people who are believed to have founded the city. Those Aja living in Abomey mingled with the local Fon people, also a Gbe people, created a new ethnic group known as “Dahomey”.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Dahomey started to lose its status as the regional power. This enabled the French to take over the area in 1892. In 1899, the French included the land called French Dahomey within the French West Africa colony. In 1958, France granted autonomy to the Republic of Dahomey, and full independence as of August 1, 1960. The president who led them to independence was Hubert Maga.
The majority of Benin’s population live in the south of the country. Life expectancy is 59 years. About 42 African ethnic groups live in this country; these various groups settled in Benin at different times and also migrated within the country.
Ethnic groups include the Yoruba in the southeast (migrated from Nigeria in the 12th century); the Dendi in the north-central area (they came from Mali in the 16th century); the Bariba and the Fula in the northeast; the Betammaribe and the Somba in the Atacora Range; the Fon in the area around Abomey in the South Central and the Mina, Xueda, and Aja (who came from Togo) on the coast.
Recent migrations have brought other African nationals to Benin – these include Nigerians, Togolese, and Malians. The foreign community also includes many Lebanese and Indians involved in trade and commerce. The personnel of the many European embassies and foreign aid missions and of nongovernmental organizations and various missionary groups account for a large part of the European population which numbers approx. 5500. A small part of the European population consists of Beninese citizens of French ancestry, whose ancestors used to rule Benin and left after independence.
French is the national language, and English is taught in secondary schools.There are about fifty local languages and dialects. Most people speak at least two languages.Fifty percent of the population speaks Fon; other important languages include Yoruba, Aja, Mina, Goun, Bariba, Dendi, Ditamarri, Nateni, and Fulfulde. Approximately 36 percent of the population is illiterate.
The economy of Benin is dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Cotton accounts for 40% of GDP and roughly 80% of official export receipts. Growth in real output has averaged around 5% in the past seven years, but rapid population growth has offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. Benin uses the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro.
Benin’s economy has continued to strengthen over the past years, with real GDP growth estimated at 5.1 percent and 5.7 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The main driver of growth is the agricultural sector, with cotton being the country’s main export, while services continue to contribute the largest part of GDP largely because of Benin’s geographical location, enabling trade, transportation, transit and tourism activities with its neighbouring states.
Benin’s climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall in the coastal area averages 1300 mm or about 51 inches. Benin has two rainy and two dry seasons per year. The principal rainy season is from April to late July, with a shorter less intense rainy period from late September to November. The main dry season is from December to April, with a short cooler dry season from late July to early September.
Temperatures and humidity are high along the tropical coast. In Cotonou, the capital, the average maximum temperature is 31 °C; the minimum is 24 °C.
Variations in temperature increase when moving north through a savanna and plateau toward the Sahel. A dry wind from the Sahara called the Harmattan blows from December to March, during which grass dries up, the vegetation turns reddish brown, and a veil of fine dust hangs over the country, causing the skies to be overcast. It also is the season when farmers burn brush in the fields.
Benin, formerly known as Dahomey, is one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Although Benin has seen economic growth over the past few years, it ranks among the world’s poorest countries. The economy relies heavily on trade with its eastern neighbor, Nigeria.
Porto-Novo (also known as Hogbonou and Adjacé) is the official capital of the West African nation of Benin, and was the capital of French Dahomey. It is Benin’s second largest city; however, the city of Cotonou is more important, culturally and politically. The region around Porto-Novo produces palm oil, cotton and kapok. Petroleum was discovered off the coast of the city in the 1990s, and has become an important export.
Main expatriate destination cities:
Cotonou is the economic and business capital of Benin, as well as its largest city. The urban area continues to expand, notably towards the west. The city lies in the southeast of the country, between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Nokoué. In addition to being Benin’s largest city, it houses many of its government and diplomatic services; thus, it is Benin’s de facto capital, even though the official capital is Porto-Novo. The city is a major port, and is also home to an airport and a railway that links to Parakou. This is the major destination for expatraites relocating into the country.
Main foreign investors:
The Government of Benin (GOB) officially favors and encourages foreign investment. Many opportunities for foreign investment have historically been linked to the privatization of state-owned enterprises.
The country’s 1990 current investment code, revised and adopted in July 2008 authorizes the industrial sector to invest over USD 20 million (10 billion Francs CFA) in the country. The code establishes the conditions to obtain benefits under different investment regimes and grants extensive discretionary power to the Investment Control Commission at the Ministry of Commerce (MC). The MC has a “guichet unique” or one-stop shop to help dispense with unnecessary and time-consuming formalities facing investors.
The government has also set up the Business Registration Center in the Cotonou headquarters of the Benin Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIB) to facilitate the registration of new businesses. Using the center it is possible to register a new company within 2 weeks depending on the type of company.
As with all countries within Africa, Benin presents a unique set of challenges for expatriates: heavy traffic in the capital city, uncollected rubbish, poor telephone service, as well as the country’s social institutions and infrastructure can prove frustrating for an expatriate.
Benin is one of the most expensive African countries. The country produces little in the way of agricultural products, and as a result, most of what is consumed must be importeded at great expense (milk, wheat flour, jam, butter, breakfast cereal, cookies). The dependence on imports makes just about everything expensive, from gasoline to bread to shoelaces to butter: it all comes in on ships.
Benin is the birthplace of voodoo and superstitions and beliefs of this religion infiltrate much of every day life. Large parts of Benin believe in voodoo but there are lots of Christians and Muslims as well, many practicing a mixture of voodoo and the religion of their choice.
The birthrate and maternal mortality rate are high. Malaria and diarrheal dehydration are endemic. Only half the population is vaccinated. Over three-quarters of the population does not have access to primary health care. AIDS is straining the health care system. The rates of infection is three times higher in rural areas. People often employ more than one system of healing. Even those who have access to an infirmary or clinic may visit herbalists or other healers.
Leisure activities and opportunities:
There are three famous football teams namely, AS Dragons FC de l’Ouémé, Mogas 90 FC and Requins de l’Atlantique FC. The two major football competitions that are held in the Benin Sports every year include the Benin Cup and the Benin Premier League.
Limited facilities are available for the water-sports in Benin, which are mostly enjoyed in the coastal regions. Foreign visitors must remain aware that the tides and currents can transform the sea into a very dangerous area. Other sports facilities available in most high level hotels and resorts include tennis, gym, swimming.
Prepare and Plan Visit
In this initial contact the Relocation Coordinator will brief the Transferee, introducing destination services commissioned, and provide access codes to HTLC Network on-line City-Specific Resource Guides. In addition, the Relocation Coordinator will help the Transferee assess personal and family’s housing needs, as well as their hopes and plans for the sojourn in your new destination. The Transferee will be asked to fill out a Personal Needs Analysis Form, which will enable customized service delivery. After gaining a sense of the Transferee’s needs, the Relocation Coordinator will arrange appointments with schools and real estate agents, an appointment will be set up with one of the Local Counsellors for a city briefing and a programme will be finalised for accompanied property and school viewings.
Airport Pickup and Greeting The Transferee and family will be met at the airport by a Local Counsellor and accompanied to designated hotel.
Destination Country and City Information
The Transferee will be given a briefing on the local city and life in your new destination in general, and will be encouraged to ask any questions. An Information Pack on the destination city will be provided. This Pack includes an information sheet with the HTLC Network office and Local Counsellor contact information and emergency telephone numbers. Further, it includes a city and transport map as well as a hard copy of HTLC Network own City-Specific Resource Guide, which contains a wealth of information such as telephone access codes, English-speaking doctors and expatriate clubs. When available, a copy of the English Yellow Pages, local English language periodicals and other relevant information will also be included in the Information Pack.
City by Zone Tour
The purpose of this tour is to familiarise the Transferee with selected areas of the city and type of housing and amenities available, in order to be better prepared to select the neighbourhood most suitable for personal and family needs. The City By Zone Tour is often delivered in conjunction with a house hunting programme.
International Schooling The Transferee will be briefed on educational opportunities in the area. The Relocation Coordinator will schedule appointments at the selected schools, and the Local Counsellor will accompany the Transferee to pre-arranged appointments although the appointments will be privately held between the Transferee and school administrators. Where possible, the Relocation Coordinator will organise enrolment procedure and arrange for company invoicing.
Full-Day Househunting Programme Following an in-depth briefing by the Relocation Coordinator a programme of property viewings will be arranged. The Local Counsellor will accompany the Transferee to pre-arranged viewings of up to eight properties.
Two-Day Househunting Programme Following an in-depth briefing by the Relocation Coordinator a programme of property viewings will be arranged. The Local Counsellor will accompany the Transferee to pre-arranged viewings of up to fifteen properties.
Lease Negotiation After the Transferee has selected a property, the Relocation Coordinator will negotiate lease conditions with the real estate agency or landlord according to The national destination law. HTLC Network coordinator will prepare a contract that ensures legal protection for the client. Particular attention is given to include a break clause, as international assignments often change in duration and the aim is to give maximum flexibility within the limits of the national destination law.
Property Inspection and Inventory Once the lease has been signed, a thorough property inspection is taken in the presence of the Transferee. This includes an inventory of any furnishings, general condition of the property, and meter readings for utility contracts.
Utility Connections, Phone Line and Bank Account The Relocation Coordinator will arrange all utility and telephone connections, and a Local Counsellor will accompany the Transferee to open a bank account in the selected area.
Settling-In Assistance The Local Counsellor will spend time with the Transferee and family, assisting with requested elements of the relocation process, such as arranging language training, obtaining a satellite decoder or internet service provider, shopping for furniture or securing house contents insurance. Duration of this service depends on various company authorizations.
Car Purchase or Lease The Relocation Coordinator will brief the Transferee on the logistics of making an automobile purchase and will research reputable dealers in the area. The Local Counsellor will accompany the Transferee to dealers and act as a translator. Once the Transferee has made the selection, HTLC Network will take care of necessary documentation including insurance cover. For long-term rental HTLC Network will advise local availability of this service.
If the Transferee requests, and is eligible, the Local Counsellor will assist with National Health Registration. City hall registration is a separate service and if authorizied, HTLC Network will assist with the whole bureaucratic procedure at the relative cityhall.
Ongoing Phone Support The EMC Network support Helpline is available to all Transferees for 90 days from date of property contract signing. Extensions to this Helpline can be added in periods of three months.
Car Importation Importation of car to your new destination, including full document assistance and re-registration with Vehicle registry.
Full Assignment Tracking Full tracking of all deadlines throughout duration of the Transferees international assignment, notification given of all scheduled renewal dates, such as housing contracts, Permit of Stay and Work Permits. Ad Hoc Services Service rendered both from back and front office is available on an hourly and daily basis.
Immigration procedures and requirements vary greatly from country to country. Documents requested from applicants depend on the citizenship of the individual applying and the status he wishes to obtain in the destination country, be it authorisation to work, authorisation for accompanying family members, tourist or study visas, temporary or permanent residency status.
• HTLC Network has been selected by many International Law and Immigration Firms as well as Global Relocation Companies to represent them exclusively for immigration
• We work closely with the relevant governmental and police authorities in each country
• Our Immigration Team are experts in immigration laws and keep abreast of changing requirements and procedures
• We prepare all documentation for HR, all you have to do is print out and sign
• We inform the Transferee which specific documents are required , which translations must be obtained and if these must be legalised
• We provide HR and Transferees with information on the process flow, timing and specific legal requirements of each destination
• We update all parties involved regularly as to the status of the application
• Whenever possible, we act with a Power of Attorney on behalf of the company and the Transferee; when the Transferee’s presence is required, he will be accompanied to the relevant office in the destination city
• Our Local Counsellors, residents and locals of the destination city, are able to present the all prepared documentation to the relevant offices in person; thus speeding up the process and ensuring an efficient service
For more info about our immigration services in Benin please contact our marketing department at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Area: 112,622 sq km
Time Zone: UTC/GMT +1 hour
Capital city: Porto Novo
Bordering countries: Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Togo.
Climate: tropical, hot, humid in south; semiarid in north
Legislative Branch: Unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale
National Holiday: 1 August
Currency: CFA Franc
Religion: Catholic,Muslim, Vodoun, Protestant Methodist, other Protestant, other Christian.
Languages: French (official), Fon and Yoruba (most common in south), tribal languages (at least six major ones in north).