Flag of the Republic of Benin
Benin Celebrates Independence August 1, 2023
By Joy Osiagwu
The Republic of Benin is a French-speaking country in West Africa along Africa’s Coast with the Gulf of Guinea and situated between Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Southern coastline of the Bight of Benin. It was formerly known as Dahomey. The nation’s shore includes the ancient Slave Coast, a departure point for those captured to be shipped out of Africa.
The country has 42 ethnic groups, including Yorubas, who migrated to the area in the 12th century; the Dendi from Mali also migrated to the country in the 16th century. Dahomey got its freedom from France in 1958, gained independence on August 1, 1960, and changed its name to the Republic of Benin in 1975, with its capital at Porto -Novo. The first president of Benin was Hubert Maga. The nation is known as one of Africa’s most stable democracies, with a population of 13.7 million. The common languages spoken are French, Fon, Yom, Yoruba, Gun, Baatonum, Biali, Dendi, and Fulfulde.
Benin’s economy relies on agriculture and has experienced tremendous growth in the last few years as Africa’s largest cotton producer. However, it is still described as one of the world’s poorest nations.
The country has one of the world’s largest populations of Voodoo worshippers; they have a day set aside to celebrate “National Voodoo Day”, where worshippers converge on Ouidah for a festival.
Benin is also known as one of the West African nations with a diverse media environment. According to Reporters without borders, Benin has over sixty newspapers and many State-owned radio and Television stations.
Current Governance Structure
The Republic of Benin operates a presidential system of governance. Porto-Novo is the constitutional capital, while Cotonou is the seat of government. The President is the head of state and head of government. The Legislative arm is unicameral, with 109 seats, of which 24 are reserved for female legislators. The current President of Benin is Patrice Talon, a business executive known as the “King of Cotton”. He became President after defeating Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou of the ruling party at the 2016 presidential election in a run-off vote in March.
The people of Benin are still basking in the euphoria of Angélique Kidjo, a five-time Grammy Award-winning artist and songwriter’s current win. She became a laureate of the 2023 Polar Music Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious music awards. With over 16 million albums sold, the Beninese diva is one of Africa’s most celebrated inspirational women worldwide.
The relationship between Benin and Canada dates back to 1962, two years after the nation gained independence. Both countries have worked together in Multilateral fora at the United Nations, La Francophonie, and through development cooperation and trade. Benin is represented in Canada by the Embassy of Benin to the United States in Washington, D.C.
The Béninois.es à Ottawa-Gatineau community is on Facebook with over 600 followers. Visit the page to learn more about the Association. Please send an email to [email protected] to learn more about the group.