The Republic of Benin (formerly, Dahomey) is a West African country bordering the 'bight of Benin' between the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the east and the Republic of Togo to the west. The Republic of Benin also shares borders with Republics of Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. The Republic of Benin has a total land area of about 113,622sq km (about 2,000sq km of which is covered by water) and a total coastline of about 121km. Just about 23.53% of the total land area of Benin is arable (agricultural land or land good for farming). The Republic of Benin has a total population of about 9.5 million people with the population growth rate around 2.9%. About half of the total population of Benin live in urban areas in major cities such as Cotonou the seat of government (Cotonou contains about 1 million people) and Porto-Novo the capital of Benin (Porto-Novo contains about 400,000 people).
Although a small country, the Republic of Benin is one of the most culturally rich countries in all of Africa with several ethnic and racial groups living together. The Fon and related ethnic groups make up about 39.2% of the total population. The Adja and related ethnic groups make up about 15.2%. Yoruba and related ethnic groups form about 12.3% of the total population. The Bariba and related make up about 9.2%, the Peuls about 7%, the Ottamari and related form about 6.1% of the total population while the Dendi, and other ethnic groups make up the remaining percentage of the total population. Although French remains the official language of Benin, Fon, Yoruba, and several other local languages are spoken in Benin today. Although Benin is the motherland of "voodoo", only about 17.3% of the total population claim voodoo or vodoun as their major religion. About 42.8% of the total population of Benin are Christians (including Catholics and protestants). Muslims form about 24.4% of the total population.
The Republic of Benin just like its neighboring countries is blessed with abundance of natural resources including marble, timber, limestone, and some offshore oil deposits.
Despite the abundance of natural resources however, the Republic of Benin remains one of the poorest countries in Africa today with one of the lowest literacy rates in all of Africa. Benin has a literacy rate of just 34.7% for the total population and 23.3% for the female Beninese population. In other words, just about 34.7% of the total population of Benin above age 15 can read and write. Also, just about 23.3% of the total population of females above the age 15 can read and write which falls far below average in Africa today.
Rampant deforestation, desertification, inadequate supplies of potable water in some areas and poaching remain some of the major environmental issues facing Benin today.
The Republic of Benin has an HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate or 1.2%. Although better than in countries such as Swaziland, more than 60,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2009 with about 3000 deaths recorded within the same year. Besides HIV/AIDS, the deadly malaria, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, yellow fever, meningococcal meningitis, and animal contact diseases such as rabies continue to threaten several lives in Benin today.
Just like in most other African countries today, corruption, poor governance, etc. remain major problems facing the Republic of Benin today.