Return to: Index of "1996 Country Commercial Guides" || Index of "Economic and Business Issues" || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Department of State 
Benin Country Commercial Guide 
Office of the Coordinator for Business Affairs 
 
 
 
         Country Commercial Guide for the Republic of Benin 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS 
----------------- 
 
I.     Executive Summary 
II.    Economic Trends and Outlook 
III.   Political Environment 
IV.    Marketing U.S. Products and Services 
V.     Leading Sectors for U.S. Exports and Investment 
VI.    Trade Regulations and Standards 
VII.   Investment Climate 
VIII.  Trade and Project Financing 
IX.    Business Travel 
X.     Appendices 
     A.     Country Data 
     B.     Domestic Economy 
     C.     Trade 
     D.     Investment Statistics 
     E.     U.S. and Country Contacts 
     G.     Trade Event Schedule 
 
I. Executive Summary. 
 
The Republic of Benin, previously known as the People's Republic of 
Benin (1975-1989) and the Republic of Dahomey (1960-1975), is a small 
West African country of 112,622 square kilometers.  Benin  shares 
borders with Nigeria to the east, Togo to the west and Burkina Faso and 
Niger to the north.   
Its population is estimated at five million, with a per annum growth 
rate of 3 percent.  The age group diagram shows that 48 percent of the 
population is less than fifteen years of age.  The country is classified 
by the United Nations as one of the least developed.  The GDP per capita 
was approximately US$418 for 1993. 
 
From 1975 to 1990, the country was governed by a Marxist-Leninist 
military regime headed by Mathieu Kerekou and organized around a 
centrally planned economy.   
 
The Conference of the Active Forces of the Nation, or National 
Conference, held in February 1990, rejected Marxist leadership and 
called  for a democratic government. 
 
The 1989-1994 period was marked by important reforms and by the adoption 
of World Bank and IMF structural adjustment measures aimed at 
establishing a free market economy.  The new development strategy 
focuses on improving external competitiveness.  Benin is about to begin 
its third Structural Adjustment Program which it recently signed with 
the World Bank and the IMF. 
 
The economic reform program adheres to the following broad directives: 
- Stabilize public finances 
- Fight inflation 
- Increase the volume of savings (which was 4.7 percent in 1992 and has 
been reported at 9.5 for 1994) 
- Increase the volume of investments 
- Privatize 
 
Political and commercial links between the United States and Benin were 
established in the 1960s and remained cordial until the 1980s.  In the 
mid 1980s, under the former revolutionary regime, relations became tense 
as Benin forged closer ties with socialist countries and officially 
criticized U.S. policies.  Since the democratic and econonmic reforms 
begun in 1989, however, the situation has improved considerably.  
Cooperation between the governments of Benin and the United States are 
excellent as exemplified by President Nicephore Soglo's official visit 
to Washington in July, 1995. 
 
The best prospects for trade and investment lie in agriculture and agro-
industry (more particularly in food processing).  
There are also opportunities for U.S. firms more specifically in 
offshore oil exploration and possibilities in natural gas powered 
turbines to produce electricity.  Benin is heavily reliant on imports of 
electricity.  U.S. firms involved in the energy field could find a 
market in Benin.
 
U.S. firms could also take advantage of the privatization efforts and 
invest in one of the many state-owned companies that are scheduled to be 
privatized by end-1996.  Even though the infrastructure renovation 
efforts are well underway there will be a continuing demand for 
investment in the transportation sector (roads, bridges, etc.) in the 
coming years. 
 
Major roadblocks to doing business in Benin include: heavy and lengthy 
administration procedures; expectations by some civil servants to 
receive remuneration before processing papers (petty corruption); 
burdensome firing procedures; competitive informal sector; poor business 
infrastructure (e.g., telecommunications, roads). 
 
Nature of local and third country competition: 
Several factors should be considered when analyzing competition in 
Benin.  The informal sector must be taken into account when determining 
competition within particular markets.  Informal traders do not adhere 
to foreign investor guidelines, thereby avoiding both the time loss and 
expenses faced by formal sector traders.  While no statistics accurately 
measure the full range and scale of informal activities, the informal 
sector clearly accounts for a large portion of household incomes.  
French, Nigerian, Lebanese, British and other European nationals compete 
in the Beninese market.  Transport costs through the Port of Cotonou are 
higher than those through the port of Abidjan and lower than those 
through Lagos.  Air freight is both expensive and capacity remains 
limited.  The creation of charter-cargoes could help exporters.  
Externally, firms need to be aware of the large volumes of cross-border 
trafficking with Nigeria. 
 
The commercial climate in Benin has become more favorable for U.S. firms 
in the past five years.  Political leaders in place have established a 
functioning democratic structure.  Furthermore, the leaders and 
decision-makers are very much aware of the country's problems and 
reiterate on every occasion their commitment to privatization and free-
market principles.  Learning from the failures of the Marxist-Leninist 
regime that ruled and ruined the country in the seventies and eighties, 
the Beninese people are more open to democratic and economic 
liberalization.  The government is publicly committed to these 
principles and is determined to repair the economy.  Foreign investment 
is welcome.  
 
Note:  Reliable current economic statistics are not generally available 
on a timely basis in Benin.  Also, the official statistics available do 
not take into account the large measure played by the informal sector.  
This report cites the most recently available statistics for various 
sectors. 
 
Country commercial guides are available on the national trade data bank 
on CD-ROM or through the internet.  Please contact STAT-USA at 1-800-
STAT-USA for more information.  To locate country commercial guides via 
the internet, please use the following world wide web address: www.stat-
usa.gov.  CCGs can also be ordered in hard copy or on diskette from the 
national technical information service (NTIS) at 1-800-553-NTIS. 
 
II. Economic trends and outlook. 
 
  Major trends and outlook. 
In implementing the structural adjustment program agreed to with the IMF 
and World Bank, the Beninese government has renewed its commitment to 
the privatization of state-owned industries.  The GOB is generally 
moving forward with introducing reforms.  Political actors agree that 
the private sector plays a crucial role in the development process and 
that the economy can only gain from increased foreign direct investment 
in the private sector.  Recent policy has geared many efforts towards 
that goal.  Non-governmental organizations have sponsored seminars and 
workshops to help the Beninese develop basic business skills.  An 
ongoing challenge for the government is to consolidate the country's 
economic gains so that there is no backtracking in its policy of market 
liberalization.  Following the 1994 CFA devaluation, macroeconomic 
indicators have shown that the economy is improving. 
   
     Principal growth sectors 
 
AGRICULTURE 
The agriculture sector is perceived as the backbone of the Beninese 
economy.  The sector represents 40 percent of GDP and has an average 
growth rate of 4.3 percent per year.  It generates approximately 60 
percent of export receipts and employs about 70 percent of the working 
population.  Subsistence food crops dominate the sector: maize, cassava, 
beans, yams, sorghum.  Output is limited due to the lack of modern 
technology and to the small size of the average property.  The country 
is presently self-sufficient in food production.  Recent harvests 
recorded high yields.  The economy largely depends on cash crop sales 
like cotton.  Such sales have increased rapidly in recent years.  The 
cotton industry still offers the best opportunities for trade provided 
international market prices remain level. 
 
The agriculture sector is presently being restructured in order  to 
promote diversification.  Surveys show prospects exist for cassava 
flour, grain, fruit and vegetable production.  The agricultural reform 
program makes provisions for widespread privatization, for increases in 
credits to farmers, and for improvement in rural living conditions.  The 
CFA devaluation has strongly encouraged the consumption of local 
products and should help stimulate the agricultural sector.  
Deforestation remains an alarming problem.  The government is concerned 
with ecological problems and has taken certain measures to protect the 
ecosystem (reforestation).  
 
Fishing activities are conducted on a small scale, and the sector is 
dominated by individual fishermen who practice traditional fishing 
techniques.  Fish represents a large portion of the Beninese diet.  
Commercial saltwater fishing generates substantial earnings (mainly 
shrimp, prawn).   
 
INDUSTRY 
For the past thirty years, industrial development has been limited and 
principally geared toward light industry, although important investment 
has recently been made in heavy industrial units.  The industrial sector 
represents only 13.6% (estimate for 1994) of the overall GDP but has 
shown slight growth recently.  Major manufactured products include 
textiles, cement, soap, beverages and food products.  Competition from 
neighboring Nigeria is strong.  The government's industrial strategy 
includes: further development of existing industrial capacities; 
promotion of handicrafts, small and medium-size enterprises and 
industries; the creation of an economic environment favorable to both 
private and cooperative initiatives.  The government aims to reinforce 
the private sector and to withdraw the state's participation in the 
industrial sector progressively.  A large number of state-enterprises 
generating low profit or functioning below their capacity have been 
privatized or liquidated.  There are several more that are to be 
examined by end-1996.  Newly adopted measures are expected to stimulate 
private investment. 
 
ENERGY, MINING and HYDRAULICS 
Strong market potential and investment opportunities exist in these 
sectors, which in the past have not been fully exploited or properly 
managed.  Crude oil is produced in small quantities for export from 
offshore and inland sites.  Annual production reaches approximately 1 
million barrels.  The domestic market for petroleum products is supplied 
solely by imports and state-owned SONACOP has a complete monopoly from 
importation to distribution.  SONACOP is to be partially privatized by 
end-1995, however, and distribution will be opened to competition.  The 
country largely depends on energy imported from Ghana and Togo.  The 
cost of electricity is high.  The domestic electrical network is to be 
expanded, with an emphasis on rural electrification programs.  Water 
supply facilities are still poor in most towns and villages. 
 
TRADE AND SERVICES 
Trade and services continue to play a key role in Benin's economy, 
employing 21 percent of the population.  The service sector represented 
12.9 percent of GDP in 1993.  Much of the trade conducted, however, is 
informal (i.e. outside official channels) and remains difficult to 
quantify.  The geographical position of the country is a competitive 
advantage for Benin's flourishing trade activities.  The vicinity of 
Nigeria, trade with Togo and with land-locked neighbors (Burkina Faso, 
Niger) account for increasing port activity (about 4% in volume increase 
from 1989-1993).  The volume of informal trade at the Nigerian border is 
considerable.  Beninese border traders engage mainly in re-exportation.  
A substantial portion of that activity has to do with prohibited 
importation into Nigeria of rice, sugar, wheat flour, tomatoes, milk, 
vegetable oil, cotton fabrics, second hand clothing, electrical 
batteries, used cars and various consumer goods.  Products imported from 
Nigeria to Benin include gasoline and a wide range of manufactured 
goods. 
 
The informal sector is linked as well to services, such as tailoring, 
catering, auto repair, hairdressing, and transportation.  The informal 
sector, operating outside of official regulation, offers numerous 
business opportunities to local entrepreneurs.  In recent years, due to 
unemployment, liquidations and the civil service departure program the 
sector has expanded rapidly.  The significant size of the informal 
sector represents an untapped source of potential tax revenues for the 
government.  The government derives approximately 50 percent of its 
revenues from taxes.  By engaging in informal sector activities 
entrepreneurs avoid taxation.  A major task for the government is 
eventually to tax these informal traders by bringing them into the 
formal economy.  In order to do so it will need to present them with a 
set of incentives to register.  Official imports include petroleum 
products, construction materials, machine spare parts and consumer 
goods.  Exports include crude oil, seed cotton and ginned cotton, palm 
oil, palm kernel cake and palm kernel oil. 
 
TOURISM 
8,000 hotel guests were registered in 1991.  Considering the natural 
sites and cultural heritage of the country, tourism is yet another 
resource with room to grow.  The sector generates approximately FCFA 700 
million and employs close to 6,000 people.  Beninese tourism went 
through an unstable period between 1972 and 1989, due to the dictatorial 
image of the country and to the lack of investment in that sector.  New 
contracts, however, have been signed with large hotel chains and action 
has been taken to promote Beninese tourism in foreign markets (e.g., the 
opening of Beninese tourism office in Berlin).  A World Bank project is 
also studying possibilities to improve Benin's infrastructure for 
tourism.  Future prospects appear good, provided transportation 
infrastructure is improved.  With the summit of French-speaking 
countries to be held in Benin in December 1995, the country expects a 
boost in the tourism sector. 
 
TRANSPORT 
Benin can be reached by air, land or water.  The transport sector 
contributed 7.61 percent of GDP in 1992.  It had a growth rate of 4 
percent during the period 1989-1993.  The International Airport of 
Cotonou-Cadjehoun receives carriers from Europe and Africa.  Connections 
with the United States are available in Dakar, as well as Paris and 
Brussels.  Domestically, most major cities can be reached by air as well 
(airports or landing strips in Parakou, Djougou, Natitingou, Banikoara), 
but service is infrequent. 
 
Roads: the network totals 8,600 km.  The road system has historically 
suffered from insufficient investment and poor maintenance.  Road 
rehabilitation has however received a high priority in the second 
structural adjustment program, including a self-financing tax on 
gasoline sales.  Asphalt roads include the Beninese section of the 
Lagos-Lome coastal highway and a north-south artery extending from 
Cotonou, through Parakou, to the Niger border at Malanville.  The link 
to Djougou is about halfway done, and the Djougou-Natitingou highway 
project is in progress.    
 
Railways: the network is 438km long and is run by O.C.B.N. (Organization 
Benin-Niger).  The network cargo capacity is 600,000 tons. 
 
Sea: The Port Autonome de Cotonou (PAC) is a deep water harbor with a 
2,000,000 metric ton capacity and adequate equipment.  Its facilities 
include one 1,320-meter wharf which can handle six ships measuring up to 
180 meters each, and a 500-meter wharf built to accommodate oil tankers.  
A 300,000 square meter container storage area represents the extent of 
the storage facilities.  Maritime activities are managed by major public 
companies such as PAC, SOBEMAP (Societe Beninoise de Manutention 
Portuaire, COBENAM (Compagnie Beninoise de Navigation Maritime), CNB 
(Compagnie Nationale des Chargeurs de Benin) as well as private 
operators (agents). 

Port Autonome de Cotonou (PAC): B.P. 927 Cotonou 
Tel: 31 52 80/31 28 90/31 43 87/31 37 64/31 28 92 
Fax: 31 28 91 
Telex: 5004 DIRPORT CTNOU 

The PAC manages the port facilities and infrastructure and is 
responsible for police and security.  The volume of port traffic largely 
affected by the political and economic situations in neighboring Togo 
and Nigeria.  Since 1992 the port's activities have significantly 
increased.  A private computerization project called "Escale" was 
recently initiated to improve port management. 
 
  Government role in the economy 
With a payroll of approximately 35,000 civil servants, the state still 
plays a major role in the economy.  Nevertheless, the government has 
slashed thousands of jobs from the civil service rolls in the last 
several years and has succeeded in increasing government revenues to 
cover current expenditures.  As practiced, the aim of the government is 
to complete the privatization policy it started at the beginning of the 
decade.  Remaining candidates for privatization include the Societe 
Sucriere de Save (sugar refinery), Societe des Ciments d'Onigbolo 
(cement company), the vegetable oil refineries of SONICOG, and SONAR 
(national insurance company).  The country has been politically stable 
since 1990.  The legislative elections in 1995 were held in an 
atmosphere of calm, presidential elections are scheduled in 1996.  
Although some price controls were introduced in the wake of the 1994 
devaluation, in mid-1995 the government lifted all price controls except 
for a handful of products.  The continued trend is to reduce the role of 
the government in the economy.   
 
  Balance of payments situation 
The balance of payments for Benin remains in deficit and is largely 
financed by grants, loans and credits from multilateral and bilateral 
donors.  Benin's great dependence on imports accounts for a chronic 
deficit in its trade balance.  The recent devaluation, however, has 
encouraged consumers to turn to domestic products, helping to reduce the 
volume of imports.   
  
 
Balance of trade          1991          1992        1993 
(millions of $) 
 
Exports, f.o.b.          328          362          334 
Imports, f.o.b.         -482         -560         -574 
Trade balance           -154         -198         -240 
 
 
(Source: Beninese government and IMF) 
 
 
  Infrastructure situation 
Benin is involved in a major effort to improve the infrastructure for 
telecommunications, electricity and roads.  In the pipeline is a project 
to introduce cellular telephony accessible on major east-west and north-
south road links, with a preliminary limited start-up in the coastal 
section of the country.  Cotonou, nicknamed "Cototrou" for its pot-holed 
streets, is undergoing a major overhaul of its major avenues and 
boulevards in 1995.  There are also substantial road construction 
projects and renovations in links throughout the country including: 
Cotonou-Hillacondji, Cotonou-Porto Novo highway, Parakou-Djougou-
Natitingou, Parakou-Malanville, Bohicon-Cove-Ketou-    Illara, Save-
Okeowo, and Cotonou-Bohicon, which are expected to be completed by end-
1996.  In addition, there is ongoing work in rehabilitation of rural 
roads, sanitation projects in large cities, water supply projects, and 
electrification projects in rural areas. 
 
The AGETUR (Agence d'Execution des Travaux Urbains) is involved in some 
of these projects as an agency implementing infrastructure construction 
on behalf of the state.  These works contribute to the reduction of 
urban unemployment and help develop small and medium-sized construction 
enterprises. 
 
 
III. Political Environment 
 
  Nature of political relationship with the United States 
The United States and Benin enjoy excellent bilateral relations.  Vice 
President Al Gore and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake visited 
Benin in 1994, and President Clinton invited President Soglo to an 
official visit in Washington in July 1995.  Benin was the first African 
country to join in the U.S.-led efforts to restore democracy in Haiti in 
October 1994 and contributed 35 gendarmes to serve as international 
policy monitors.  The United States has supported Benin's efforts in 
democratization with several human rights fund grants.   At present, the 
U.S. official presence in Benin includes the U.S. Embassy, the American 
Cultural Center, the USAID mission (which was reopened in 1991, with an 
emphasis on primary education),  and the Peace Corps (with over 70 
volunteers country-wide). 
 
  Major political issues affecting the business climate 
- Internal issues: 
The Beninese government is committed to privatization and open trade.  
Although unions and some opposition leaders have argued for maintaining 
government control over certain "strategic" industries, President Soglo 
has continued to move forward with selling state-owned companies to the 
private sector.  With the devaluation of the CFA franc of January 1994, 
the government did introduce certain temporary measures in an attempt to 
curb inflation.  Although the inflation rate measured 54% in 1994, 
prices started to stabilize in 1995.  Economic grievances over inflation 
and unemployment, as well as the structural adjustment program in 
general, could become significant issues in the 1996 presidential 
elections. 
 
- External issues: 
Political events in neighboring Nigeria have repercussions in Benin.  
Civil unrest in Nigeria and Togo always has the potential of spilling 
over into Benin in the form of refugees.  Also, the illegal traffic of 
gasoline from Nigeria, where it is cheap, to Benin, where it is 
generally more expensive, fluctuates with economic disturbances and 
strikes in Lagos.  Political turmoil in Togo in 1993 led to an influx of 
150,000 Togolese refugees in Benin.  Their arrival had an impact on 
consumer prices and real estate rates.  Trade in general is also 
affected to a large extent by events in Togo and Nigeria.  Shipments to 
Lome (Togo's capital and main port) or Lagos are often diverted to Benin 
because of the reliability of the port of Cotonou, as happened in 1993-
94. 
 
  Brief synopsis of political system 
The National Conference held in February 1990 launched a new democracy 
in Benin.  The Constitution of December 1990 established a democratic 
system of government characterized by a separation of powers, including 
an independent judiciary.  Nicephore Soglo was elected President of the 
Republic in 1991 for a five-year term.  The Soglo government has had a 
good human rights record.  The next presidential election is scheduled 
for 1996.   
 
The Constitution establishes other bodies to serve as checks and 
balances on executive power, nobably the Constitutional Court, the 
National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the High Authority for Audiovisual 
and Communications (HAAC), and the Economic and Social Council.  Since 
its installation in 1993, the Constitutional Court has become a 
significant player in interpreting Beninese law, arbitrating disputes 
between the President and the National Assembly, and declaring the final 
results of elections.   In 1995, it also upheld the creation of a 
National Independent Electoral Commission (CENA) to supervise all 
national elections. 
 
Candidates from 31 political parties ran for 83 National Assembly seats 
in the 1995 legislative elections which were held in a peaceful 
environment.  While more than seventy political parties are officially 
registered, only 18 parties won seats in the National Assembly in 1995.  
President Soglo is at the head of the political party "La Renaissance" 
which was created in 1992.  Besides the Renaissance, the major parties 
are the PRD (Parti du Renouveau Democratique) led by Adrien Houngbedji 
(ex-president of the National Assembly and a major rival of President 
Soglo), the PSD (Parti Social Democrate) led by Bruno Amoussou (new 
National Assembly president), and the FARD-Alafia which is particularly 
strong in the north and among former Kerekou followers.  With the 
installation of the new National Assembly, three new parliamentary 
groupings of parties formed in June 1995. 
 
IV. Marketing U.S. products and services 
 
  Distribution and sales channels 
Long established French commercial groups operate in Benin as 
distributors of consumer goods.  The leading companies are CFAO and John 
Walkden who import directly and are wholesalers as well.  Other large 
distributors such as SOCAR and SONAEC who penetrated the market later 
appear to have the biggest share of the market for industrial equipment.  
SONAEC distributes consumer goods, as does the ODIFIC group.  Foreign 
traders of Lebanese and Indian origin are also very active in 
distribution activities.  In 1995, the government announced steps to 
eliminate monopolies on the import and distribution of goods.    
 
  Use of agents/distributors; finding a partner 
It is advisable to hire an agent to advise on general matters in 
conducting business in Benin.  Large foreign firms often enter into 
exclusive contracts with an agent/distributor for the product they sell 
in Benin.  Exclusive contracts, however, are often not respected by some 
large firms who try to increase their earnings by selling to several 
distributors.  American companies should beware of business scams which 
are on the increase.   At a minimum, legitimate Beninese companies 
should be able to provide their registration number received from the 
government. 
 
  Franchising 
Franchising is practiced on a limited basis in Benin although the 
government has encouraged any type of partnership with foreign firms.   
 
  Direct marketing 
Dantokpa market is the largest market in Benin for wholesale and retail.  
It is also reputed to be the biggest in West Africa.  There are numerous 
established retailers as trade is a common activity in the country.  
More or less organized, they import directly or get their supplies 
through wholesalers and central buying groups.  Trade operations are 
made through traditional channels or through  more modern ones.  The 
main types of outlets are open-air markets, street displays and street 
vendors, and European-style supermarkets and convenience stores with a 
wide range of local and imported products.  Provisions on distribution 
are contained in Law No.90-005 of May 15, 1990 Title III. 
 
  Joint ventures/licensing 
Possibilities exist for joint ventures between Beninese and foreign 
companies. 
    
  Steps to establishing an office 
Foreign companies are free to establish offices in Benin.  The rules for 
establishing an office are generally the same as those applicable to 
Beninese companies (some differences exist regarding bids and tenders).  
According to order No.73-11, dated February 7, 1973, industrial and 
commercial firms in Benin are requested to establish a head office in 
the country and must conduct account operations in the country as 
prescribed by the national account plan (Plan Comptable National).  The 
company must be one of the types legally accepted in Benin.  The most 
common type encountered in the country is the limited company (Inc.) and 
is often selected for reasons of convenience (necessary steps take less 
time than other companies and organization is simplified).  The 
administrative process for establishing a company generally requires 
authorization by a ministry, the Ministry of Industry, for example, when 
operating an industrial plant.  It is recommended that the establishing 
company contact the appropriate ministry for more information on 
drafting documents.  Some industrial firms may benefit from preferential 
schemes detailed in the Investment Code, through the Technical 
Investment Commission of the Ministry of Planning.  In order to engage 
legally in commercial activities in Benin, the following requirements 
must be met:  enrollment in the Trade Register; possession of a 
businessman's professional card; registration with the Chamber of 
Commerce and Industry. 
 
  Selling factors/techniques 
Although many office equipment stores maintain small inventories, they 
will promptly make new orders to respond to customers.    Traders 
proceed with orders and replenishment of stocks according to their 
specific cases.  Cash transactions are predominant in the informal 
sector.  In official establishments, payments made between 30 and 90 
days after reception of invoice are possible.  Letters of credit are 
also used.  Credit cards are seldom accepted by retail establishments of 
any kind.  The use of personal checks, although growing, are not widely 
used.  
   
  Advertising and trade promotion 
Advertising can be done through the many newspapers, the radio stations,  
the national TV station and billboards.  Two other techniques are very 
common: 
     - In-store promotion of food products or consumer goods 
     - Sales promotion outside of stores during special events 
(cigarette distributors or beverage and spirits distributors often 
organize or sponsor parties in clubs, during sporting events and shows 
for the promotion of a brand name). 
 
Listing of major newspapers and business journals: 
- La Nation (daily) 
- Le Matin (daily) 
- La Gazette du Golfe (weekly) 
- Tam-Tam Express (weekly) 
- Le Forum de la Semaine (weekly) 
- La Croix (fortnightly) 
- Le Journal Officiel (fortnightly) 
Business journals: 
- CBCE Info (Bulletin d'Information Commerciale) 
 
About sixty newspapers and magazines from all over the world are 
available at kiosks and bookstores in Cotonou. 
 
Advertising agencies- marketing and communication: 
AFCOM 
B.P. 03-1624 
Tel: 31 48 65/31 55 58 
Fax: 30 01 99/31 35 58 
 
CBS Conseils 
B.P. 1653 
Tel: 33 13 21  
Fax: 33 18 07 
 
FIT Sarl 
B.P. 335 
Tel: 33 42 85/33 42 88 
Fax: 33 42 88 
  
MULTI-MEDIA  
B.P. 04-1356 Tel: 30 17 81 
Fax: 30 02 14 
 
SAGA'CITE 
B.P. 2205 
Tel: 30 30 87/30 30 86 
Fax: 30 30 87 
 
Service des Relations Publiques ORTB (Public relations of the national 
radio and television) 
B.P. 366 
Tel: 31 21 68 
Fax: 30 04 48 
 
  Pricing product  
Prices of imported goods as well as local products increased 
dramatically in the period immediately following devaluation.  Attempts 
were made by the government to keep prices stable and moderate (e.g. 
price monitoring committees, import subsidies) but were largely 
ineffective.  Although there are a few exceptions, in general government 
policy is committed to allowing market forces to determine prices.  
Inflationary effects were strong in the wake of the devaluation as most 
traders simply doubled the prices of their merchandise.  The government 
did adopt temporary measures to limit price increases in electricity, 
medicine, and school supplies.  The price of cement previously fixed at 
FCFA 31,425 per ton, was officially increased 51 percent to FCFA 47,500 
following the devaluation.  Inflationary pressures appeared to dampen in 
early 1995. 
 
  Sales services/customer support 
Services available vary according to traders.  The more the outlet is 
structured, the more its management works on customer support.  This is 
the case in most of the existing supermarkets and larger retail outlets.  
Methods aimed at keeping  regular customers satisfied are not developed 
much.  The most frequent ones are in-store assistance and after-sales 
service.  Personal relationships established with the manager of a trade 
business will help the customer.  
 
  Selling to the government 
The Beninese government proceeds through bids and tenders in most cases.  
Due to administrative irregularities there remains some uncertainty with 
respect to the equity of chances of parties tendering, and on the 
outcome.  
 
  Protecting your product from IPR infringement 
Industrial property is ruled by the Law of July 5, 1844 on patents, 
applicable in Benin by an order of October 1948.  Benin is a signatory 
member of the OAPI Convention of Yaounde (African Organization for 
Intellectual Property) and a member of WIPO (World Intellectual Property 
Organization). 
The "Code de Commerce" includes regulation of industrial property: 
regulation of patents, designs, labels, quality certificates, unfair 
competition and misleading representations. 
 
  Need for a local attorney 
The assistance of an attorney is usually necessary when establishing 
trade relations, preparing documents, for providing judicial counseling, 
and also in case of further dispute.  A fair number of law offices are 
established in Cotonou.   Benin's legal system is modeled after the 
French system. 
 
V. Leading sectors for U.S. exports and investment 
 
  Best prospects for non-agricultural goods and services 
Benin is a developing country and produces locally very little of what 
it needs.  The industrial sector being underdeveloped, Benin exports 
very little.  The sectors below were selected because they are the ones 
which present the best prospects for U.S. firms.  In general, however, 
the Beninese are open to American products in all sectors. 
 
1 - Oil --exploration, off-shore drilling, maintenance of  existing 
facilities-- (OGM/OGS) 
 
The Seme off-shore oil fields east of Cotonou, close to the Nigerian 
border, have been producing since the 1960s.  One American firm is among 
the main bidders to develop existing oil reserves.  Many off-shore zones 
have not been explored.  The oil sector is the one which currently 
offers the greatest potential for U.S. exports and investment.  
Prospects of new oil fields have encouraged new off-shore and on-shore 
exploration.  The government is slowly, but not entirely, disengaging 
itself from the petroleum sector.  It intends to privatize SONACOP, the 
state owned oil company which was founded in 1974 when the government 
nationalized many of the foreign-owned stations that were operating in 
Benin.  The state will give up its monopoly on the importation of 
hydrocarbons and allow others to import.  Concerning the storage of oil, 
the Ministry of Energy that now is in charge of these facilities will 
negotiate contracts with private companies for rental or co-ownership.  
Furthermore, all of the gas stations will be put on the market and 
offered to the highest bidder (25% staying in SONACOP's hands, 25% 
minimum to stay under Beninese ownership).  The GOB also plans to 
liberalize gasoline prices and allow them to fluctuate with the market.  
All the foregoing provisions are expected to be implemented by end-1995.  
According to the most recently published statistics, Benin produced 1.4 
million barrels of crude oil in 1991, 933,400 thousand barrels in 1992, 
and 1.1 million barrels in 1993.  All of the crude oil was exported. 
 
2 - Tourism industry --restaurants, hotels-- (TRA/HTL) 
 
Benin shares many of the same characteristics as other countries in the 
sub-region like Cote-d'Ivoire, Togo, and Ghana in terms of fauna, 
beaches, and vegetation.  The advantage it has over these other 
countries, however, lies in its historical and cultural heritage.  For 
example, Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo.  Benin is also site of the 
coastal city of Ouidah, a major port for the slave trade in the 17th and 
18th centuries and the departure point for thousands of slaves brought 
to Brazil, Haiti and the United States.  Benin sponsored a Ouidah '92 
festival and a slave route exhibition acknowledging its unique culture 
and history and has the opportunity to develop this unique market 
further for tourists.  In 1992, there were 135,400 tourists who visited 
Benin.  The sector employs about 6,000 people.  Revenues from the sector 
have steadily increased since the end of Kerekou's Marxist regime in 
1990.  Although there are a few hotels in Cotonou that are acceptable 
for American standards, there remains much work to be done to develop a 
more accommodating tourism infrastructure, particularly up country.  
Revenues from the hotel, bar, and restaurant sector reached 4.4 billion 
CFA in 1991 up from 3.5 billion in 1990.  More recent statistics are not 
available. 
 
3 - General Industrial Equipment/Supplies (GIE) 
 
Benin is attempting to broaden its industrial base by privatizing many 
of the state-owned industries. In this process, many factories may seek 
to modernize their equipment in an attempt to become more productive.  
This provides prospects for U.S. firms involved in the sale of general 
industrial equipment and supplies. 
 
 
  Best prospects for agricultural goods and services 
   
1 - Agro-industry --equipment, canning, storage-- (AGM) 
 
Agriculture remains the backbone of the economy.  The sector could gain 
much from modernization and diversification.  Oil-yielding crops is a 
key cash source for the Beninese but to take better advantage of this 
resource, the industry seeks to modernize and improve its productivity.  
Benin imports all of its agricultural equipment.  Most of the 
agricultural production is sold on open air markets and rarely go 
through any type of processing stage.  Given the abundant production of 
fruit, vegetbles, and cashew nuts, Benin offers potential rewards to 
those who could develop modern techniques for cold storage, canning, and 
packing. 
 
2 - Fisheries (MFI) 
 
The consumption of fish is a large part of the Beninese diet (30%-50% of 
animal protein intake on average) and many Beninese make their 
livelihood from fishing.  Saltwater fishing is not very developed 
however and is characterized by labor intensive and rather inefficient 
techniques.  Furthermore, Benin's territorial waters are not well 
protected and are vulnerable to plundering by unauthorized boats.  The 
industry could become more productive with a modernized fleet, larger 
boats, and better patroled waters.  Besides local consumers, fishing 
companies could sell their catch to Niger and Burkina Faso. 
 
3 - Machinery for textile industry, cotton (TXM) 
 
Benin produces about 2.5% of the world's cotton.  Its existing 
processing plants are being modernized.  There are also plans to 
privatize the state-owned SONAPRA plants and to increase ginning 
capacity.  American firms involved in the textile industry would find in 
Benin a market for their equipment.  
 
  Significant investment opportunities 
The volume of U.S. investment is limited, although some firms are 
presently exploring opportunities.  One of the major factors hindering 
investments is the high cost of energy.  The United States government 
recently financed a feasibility study for a power plant to produce 
electrical energy from natural gas from the Seme fields.  U.S. firms 
have also shown interest in oil extraction and a U.S. firm is a major 
bidder for production rights.  These efforts to increase Benin's crude 
oil production and electricity generation offer the most significant 
investment opportunities on the horizon. 
 
The Government of the United States acknowledges the contribution that 
outward foreign direct investment makes to the U.S. economy.  U.S. 
foreign direct investment is increasingly viewed as a complement or even 
a necessary component of trade.  For example, roughly 60 percent of U.S. 
exports are sold by American firms that have operations abroad.  
Recognizing the benefit that U.S. outward investment brings to the U.S. 
economy, the Government of the United States undertakes initiatives such 
as Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) programs, Investment 
Treaty negotiations and business facilitation programs, that support 
U.S. investors. 
 
 
VI.  Trade regulations and standards 
 
  Trade barriers, including tariffs, non-tariff barriers and import 
taxes 

With respect to import taxation, Parliament approved a new import tariff 
schedule in September 1994, which reduces the maximum rate from 63% to 
20%, and the number of rates from 16 to 5 (0-5-10-15-20%).  Benin has 
thus adopted one of the most open trade regimes in Africa.  While the 
overall reform is consistent with the general recommendations made in 
the context of the proposed West African Economic and Monetary Union 
(UMEOA) trade reform, Benin has gone further by adopting a lower maximum 
tariff than proposed  by UEMOA.  In addition, the government has 
eliminated the use of remaining reference values for customs valuation.  
Finally, it has also agreed to eliminate by January 1996 import tariff 
and VAT exemptions accorded under "special regimes" outside the 
investment code, and to increase to 5% the import tariff applied to all 
products now subject to a zero rate, with the exception of rice, cotton 
textiles, school books and medicine.  Coordination between the customs 
administration and the unit in charge of pre-shipment inspection of 
imports should improve as a result of tighter control on declared 
values, stricter rules on exemptions and better management of the common 
database linked to port management operations.  Import licenses for 
products originating in the European Community, ACP and the Franc Zone 
countries and every other country have been suppressed.  Export taxes 
were removed to a large extent. 
 
  Customs valuation 
See above 
  
  Import licenses 
  The importations of goods from whatever origin with or without foreign 
exchange transfer is free in the Republic of Benin.  Import licenses are 
obtained from the Ministry of Trade and are processed routinely. 
 
  Export controls 
Simple authorization by the Foreign Trade Office is required for the 
exportation of goods obtained in regions under customs jurisdiction.  
However, authorization for the export of gold, diamonds and any other 
precious metals must be granted by the Minister of Finance.   With these 
exceptions, it is noteworthy that in the framework of the first 
Structural Adjustment Program, all export prohibitions and quotas have 
been lifted.   
 
  Import/Export documentation 
Exports are free of tariff provided there is an authorization from the 
Direction of External Trade and a Certificate of Origin for products 
originating in Benin. 
 
     Labelling and marking requirements 
It is advised to contact the following office for obtaining 
specifications: 
Direction de la qualite et des instruments de mesure 
Ministeres du Commerce et du Tourisme 
B.P. 2037 
Cotonou, Bénin 
 
     Prohibited imports 
Bans or restrictions on imports exist when the following factors have to 
be considered: 
 - Public morality 
 - Safeguard of the National Economy 
 - The health and life of humans and animals, the preservation of plants 
 - Protection of items of the national heritage, endowed with or having 
artistic, historic or archaeologic value 
 - Protection of patent and business rights 
 
The import of cement is prohibited 
 
     Standards (e.g., ISO 9000 usage) 
Benin applies the standards of the International Organization for 
Standardization and AFNOR, the French standardization organization 
(Association Franchise de Normalisation).  It is a member country of the 
International Organization of Legal Metrology. 
 
     Free trade zone/warehouses 
A free trade zone exists in the Port Autonome de Cotonou (PAC) for the 
landlocked nations of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. 
 
     Special import provisions 
See above 
 
     Membership in free trade arrangements 
Benin is a Member State of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West 
African States, organization created in 1975 for cooperation and 
regional integration. 
 
VII.  Investment climate 
 
     A1.  Openness to foreign investment 
Many opportunities for foreign investment are linked to the 
privatization process that Benin is engaged in.  By 1996 the government 
plans to privatize 13 of the 32 enterprises it owned in 1994.  The 
state-owned companies to be sold to the private sector include insurance 
companies (SONAR and IARD), cement companies (SCO), sugar refineries 
(SSS) and hotels (La Plage, Croix du Sud).  The government generally 
requires that Beninese nationals partly own the privatized companies.  
Though the percentages are not usually substantial, they could somewhat 
deter foreign investors. 
 
Many of the infrastructure renovation contracts are funded by grants or 
loans from the World Bank or other International Development Banks.  
Some major contracts have been signed already while several projects are 
still on the horizon.  The current Investment code establishes the 
conditions required to obtain benefits under different investment 
regimes and grants the Investment Control Commission at the Ministry of 
Industry extensive discretionary power.   
 
The tax reforms introduced in recent years and those agreed upon under 
the proposed operation in large measure remove the need for special 
incentives to potential investors.  The Investment Code is being revised 
in order to establish a single incentive system assuring automatic 
access to such benefits by all investors.  The government has agreed to 
adopt a revised Investment Code by mid-1995.   
 
The labor movement has been opposed to the privatization programs 
because the process results in downsizing and cutbacks in employees.  
Proposed labor market reforms aim at increasing business flexibility by 
simplifying labor regulations and procedures.  The government intends to 
adopt a new Labor Code in mid-1995 which will increase flexibility 
regarding hiring decisions, eliminate the need for prior authorization 
from the Labor directorate for employee dismissal, and consolidate labor 
regulations currently dispersed in various texts.  The authorities are 
committed to simplifying the business law framework in order to help 
revise the provisions of the current commercial legal framework which 
create a number of disincentives to the establishment and operation of 
commercial firms.    In this regard, Benin's parliament ratified the 
treaty on the regional harmonization of business law in December 1994, a 
national commission is reviewing the draft general Commercial Law, and 
the authorities expect the first regional texts to be implemented in 
1995. 
 
     A2.  Conversion and transfer policies 
Benin is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union 
(UEMOA).  Its currency is the CFA franc which is issued by the Central 
Bank of West African States (BCEAO).  In order to stimulate economic 
recovery an adjustment of the exchange rate was implemented and the CFA 
franc was devalued by 50 percent on January 11, 1994.  As of that date, 
100 F CFA equals 1 French franc.  1 USD = FCFA 493 (current exchange 
rate, 1995)
 
The conversion system does not set restrictions on international 
transfers.  The existing commissions taken on transfers were eliminated 
in 1990.  As of August 2, 1993, it is forbidden to buy CFA bank notes 
outside of the Franc Zone.  This decision was taken by the Central Bank 
to stem capital outflows from the West African Monetary Union.  The 
circular No. 629/Mf/DC/DGTCP/DAMF is related to the delivery of 
currencies and customs control of travellers' money.  Since the CFA is 
pegged to the French Franc at 50 to 1 the CFA/dollar rate will fluctuate 
parallel to  the FF/dollar ratio.  One concern for investors is what 
will happen to the CFA franc should monetary union becomes a reality in 
the European Union. 
 
     A3.  Expropriation and compensation 
As stipulated by law, any enterprise operating in Benin is guaranteed 
that the state will make no attempt to nationalize it.  The government 
at this time is focused on continuing to privatize its state-owned 
industries and has shown no indication to return to the policy of 
expropriation carried out under the Kerekou regime.  Since the return of 
democracy in 1990 privatization has been one of the government's 
priorities.  Benin is trying hard to make its laws and practices 
welcoming to foreign investment and is not likely to revert to any type 
of expropriation in the foreseeable future. 
 
     A4.  Dispute settlement 
The settlement of disputes in respect of the validity, the reading or 
the enforcement of the acceptance decree and the contingent 
determination of fiscal penalties due to ignorance or to the breach of 
commitments may be arrived at through different arbitration methods.  
For disputes between the Beninese state and a foreign firm, the law 
recognizes the president of the Hague permanent arbitration court as an 
appropriate arbiter.  The law also recognizes the international center 
for settlement of investment disputes created by the convention of the 
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank).  
Amicable settlement is often recommended to avoid long and costly 
litigation.  See also A1 section on government's move to implement a 
working business law system. 
 
     A5.  Performance requirements/incentives 
Substantial investment 
Production and value-added nature 
Creation of jobs (employment generated) 
 
     A6.  Right to private ownership and establishment 
See A3. 
The same laws guarantee the freedom of trade (choice of customers, 
suppliers, provisions of services) as well as the freedom of entry, 
length of stay, residence, movement, departure of foreign employees and 
of their families, and the freedom of management. 
  
     A7.  Protection of property rights (see IPR infringement above) 
See Chapter IV. 
 
     A8.  Regulatory system:  laws and procedures 
Although the government has adopted a transparent policy to foster 
competition, bureaucratic red tape is a problem.  The complicated steps 
are not streamlined to the extent that they need to be and often 
constitute a serious obstacle.  Trade regulation is specified in the 
French "Code de Commerce."  There are some specific rules not included 
in the Code that are applicable in Benin.  It is important to note that 
most of the laws regulating trade are French laws adopted between 1807 
and independence.  As many of them are now obsolete there are efforts 
underway to update them.  The most recent texts adopted to regulate 
trade are the following:
 
  - Law No. 90-005 dated May 15, 1990, on conditions of trade activities 
in Benin 
  - Decree No. 90-141 dated June 29, 1990, giving the definition of a 
professional importer in Benin 
  - Decree No. 90-273 dated September 28, 1990, relative to the license 
of professional trader 
  - The Law No. 93-007 dated March 1993, for amendment of Law No. 90-005 
of May 15, 1990, on conditions of trade in Benin. 
 
According to the type of commercial activity involved, a prior 
authorization from the appropriate ministry is required. 
 
     A9.  Efficient capital markets and portfolio investment 
There are a total of five major commercial banks operating in Benin.  
The largest one is the Bank of Africa with assets amounting to 56.625 
billion CFA in 1994 and of which 57% of the stock is held by Beninese 
nationals.  The second largest bank is Ecobank-Benin with total assets 
of 29 billion CFA in 1992.  Next is the Banque Internationale du Benin 
(BIBe, Nigerian owned) with a total of 27 billion CFA in assets.  
Financial Bank also owned by Nigerians the Credit Lyonnais, affiliated 
with the French Bank of the same name, are the other two private banks.  
These banks started there activities in Benin after the bankruptcy of 
the old banking system in 1987-89.  The banking system is reliable.  The 
government is intent on attracting foreign investment and has no 
interest in introducing measures which would restrict capital inflows. 
  
     A10.  Political violence 
Although there were incidents of political violence in connection with 
the 1991 elections, the climate has improved with efforts to educate the 
Beninese on the meaning of democracy.  With two rounds of peaceful 
legislative elections in 1995 and five years of democratization, the 
risk of political violence has been reduced.  The stability that has 
prevailed for several years has been an incentive for more investment.  
Benin has a good human rights record. 
 
     B.  Bilateral investment agreements 
There is a bilateral investment agreement signed with France, but none 
has been signed with the United States.  With respect to investments 
protection, Benin has concluded agreements with several European 
countries including:
 
- Germany;  Agreement pertaining to the mutual encouragement and 
protection of investment capital on October 10, 1993.
 
- Great Britain;  Agreement for the protection of British investments in 
Benin, on November 27, 1987.
 
Further, Benin is a signatory of various multilateral agreements for 
investments protection such as that of the Multilateral Security Agency 
and that of the Convention of the International Center for the Settlment 
of Investment Disputes on October 14, 1966.  In addition, the 
repatriation of assets and profits are free in Benin. 
 
     C.  OPIC and other investment insurance programs 
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) offers finance 
programs to assist small companies wishing to invest in developing 
countries.  It operates programs that provide political risk insurance, 
loans, investment guarantees, and equity in support of US foreign direct 
investment in developing countries.  OPIC can loan or guarantee a loan 
of $250,000 to $6 million for an international investment provided that 
there is at least 25 percent US equity participation in the project.  
OPIC also operates programs for political risk insurance for financial 
institutions and coverage for specific financial transactions.  
Investment guarantees have been used to support the creation of regional 
and global investment funds.
 
     OPIC 
     1615 M Street NW 
     Washington, D.C. 20537 
 
Other investment insurance programs 
 - Africa Growth Fund 
The Africa Growth Fund is an investment fund that provides equity 
investment capital for start-up, expanding or rehabilitating private 
enterprises in any sub-Saharan African countries where OPIC is 
authorized to operate.  Investments generally range from $500,000 to $3 
million.  Total projects costs are between $5 million and $50 million.
 
     Africa Growth Fund, L.P. 
     1850 K Street, N.W. Suite 309 
     Washington, D.C. 20006 
 
 - Two institutions of the World Bank Group, FIAS (Foreign Investments 
Advisory Service) and MIGA (Multilateral Investment Guaranty Agency) 
stimulate investments in developing countries. Both are active in Benin.  
FIAS provides counseling and support to governments through the 
preparation of regulation instruments such as investment codes  and the 
creation of promotion agencies.  MIGA acts as an insurance company which 
guarantees direct investments in developing countries against such risks 
as transfers and expropriation.  The institution is also involved in the 
organization of workshops and investors meetings. 
 
     D.  Labor 
The Beninese enjoy the rights to collective bargaining and forming 
unions.  There are four major confederations of unions and unions are 
active.  Although there are exceptions, in general, the labor force is 
not very skilled.  Many companies, however, have been pleased with in-
house training efforts.  The government has also recently geared its 
efforts in the area of education to remedy that problem.  Several 
technical schools have been opened but it will take time to have a 
concrete effect on the labor force.  Because of the high rate of 
unemployment in the official economy, there is a surplus of workers 
available for new industry.  There are also skilled laborers who are 
unemployed because of the recent liquidation and cutbacks in state 
enterprises.  Salaries have generally not kept pace with the cost of 
living after devaluation.  The minimum legal wage,formerly FCFA 13,903 
per month, was increased by 46 percent on May 11, 1994, bringing it to 
FCFA 20,300 (about USD 40 per month).  Labor laws are being redrafted to 
simplify hiring and firing. (see A1) 
  
     E.  Foreign trade zones/free ports (lists) 
There is a free trade zone in the port of Cotonou for Benin's landlocked 
neighbors (Burkina Faso, Niger) 
 
     F.  Capital outflow policy 
Any enterprise that is engaged in a commercial, industrial, 
agricultural, artisan activity or provides services is assured, 
irrespective of the scheme under which it carries out its activity, the 
freedom to transfer capital and especially profits and dividends duly 
accounted for.  As noted above, since the liquidity crisis of the 1980s, 
Benin's banking system has turned around.  The problem now for banks is 
a surplus of deposits and the deficit of viable projects to finance. 
 
     G.  Foreign Direct Investment statistics 
-- See paragragh H. below for foreign investments into Benin's economy. 
-- Benin's investments abroad are insignificant. 
 
     H.  Major foreign investors:  France, Germany, Canada 
When the state decided to privatize its companies in 1990, it proceeded 
to sell to the highest bidders.  Most of the foreign investment that has 
recently entered into Benin's economy so far has been through 
acquisition of privatized companies.  Following are examples of 
companies were sold to foreign investor, listed by names, activity, 
price and the buyer:
 
-      SOBETEX (textile)- 282 million CFA - by Schaeffer (French group) 
-      Manucia (tobacco)- 1.3 billion CFA - by Rothmans International 
-      Sonaci (cement company)- 4.2 billion CFA - by Scancem 
(Scandinavian group) 
-      SCB (cement)- 1.1 billion CFA - by Amida (French group) 
-      La Beninoise (brewery)- 7.8 billion - by Castel-BGI (French 
group) 
-      Sotraz (public transportation)- 42 million CFA - by SEG (French 
group) 
 
Several more state enterprise remain to be privatized and will soon be 
made available to foreign investors (SONAR-insurance, SSS-sugar 
refinerie, SCO-cement company, PPS-Seme oil project).  A major state-
owned industry that remains to be privatized is SONACOP (the oil 
company).  The exact details of SONACOP's privatization process have not 
yet been developed but the state is already encountering complaints from 
the labor unions.  In general, once SONACOP is privatized, the state 
will no longer own the exclusive rights of extraction, stocking, 
distribution, and importation of oil.  This is supposed to be 
accomplished by the end of 1995.  It is expected that much of the 
foreign direct investment in the near future will target the hydrocarbon 
sector and the energy sector in general.  
 
VIII.  Trade and project financing 
 
     Brief description of banking system 
For many years, the economy was centrally controlled and there were few 
incentives for the private sector.  The banking system (Caisse Nationale 
de Credit Agricole, Banque Beninoise de Developpement, Banque 
Commerciale du Benin) was state-owned between 1974 and 1989 and finally 
failed at the end of that period because of mismanagement and a serious 
liquidity crisis.  Private deposits were frozen and assets of commercial 
banks blocked.  There was no commercial bank functioning in the country 
at the end of 1988.  With foreign assistance and guidance from the World 
Bank and IMF, the state undertook appropriate measures to attract 
foreign banks back to Benin beginning in 1989.  Several commercial banks 
are now operating in the country with total reserves of about FCFA 150 
billion.  While the local business community would like the existing 
banks to grant them more credit and financing for the creation of small 
and medium-size enterprises, the banks are reluctant to loan to firms 
without a proven record.  The present financial system also includes the 
Credit Promotion Benin (CCB), the postal checking accounts (CCP), the 
Savings Bank (CNE) and the Sonar, a state-owned insurance Company. 
 
     Foreign exchange controls affecting trade 
 There is no protection measures against currency fluctuations.  Prior 
to any payment made with foreign currencies, an authorization from the 
Ministry of Finance is required and businessmen must produce several 
documents.  Authorization is routinely forthcoming for properly 
documented transactions.  Transactions made in foreign currencies take 
more time as connections have to be made with foreign banks, generally 
through France, but some banks also have reliable and efficient 
connections with U.S. correspondent banks.   
 
     General financing availability 
The banks locally are able to provide general financing services.  Each 
offers specific terms.  Interest rates are considered high.  The 
addresses of the banks are available below. 
  
     How to finance exports/methods of payment 
Letters of credit can be obtained locally from any of the five 
commercial banks. 
  
     Types of available export financing and insurance (including 
bilateral - e.g. EXIMBANK availability and existing EXIMBANK bundling 
facilities from multilateral, and local sources) 
 
EXIMBANK.  The United States Export/Import Bank operates programs that 
support U.S. exports of capital goods and services.  The bank 
contributes indirect loans, loan guarantees, and exporter's insurance.  
Some exporter insurance programs are beneficial to foreign commercial 
banks.  Other "bundling" programs can be of interest to foreign 
commercial banks. 
 
     Export Import Bank 
     811 Vermont Avenue NW 
     Washington, D.C. 20571 
 
     Project financing available, including lending from multilateral 
institutions and types or projects supported 
Multilateral institutions: World Bank, Caisse Francaise de 
Developpement, international organizations, bilateral      donors 
        
Other partners of Benin for development financing include: AFRICAN 
DEVELOPMENT BANK (African Development Bank), BOAD (West African Bank for 
Development), FED ( European Development Fund), Caisse Centrale de 
Cooperation Economique and PROPARCO, FIDA (International Fund for 
Economic Development), BADEA (Islamic Bank for African Economic 
Development). 
  
Types of projects supported: 
The program of public investments amounted to FCFA 67.1 billion in 1993.  
Public savings contributed 8.7 percent and external resources 
contributed 91.3 percent to this program.  Investments in rural 
development, infrastructure, water and electricity, trade, services, 
tourism and handicrafts, amounted to FCFA 51.1 billion in 1993, which 
was an increase of 18.3 percent compared to 1992.    
The second structural adjustment program gives a large place to road 
rehabilitation. 
 
     List of banks with correspondent U.S. banking arrangements  
The Central Bank of the WAMU countries is the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des 
Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest) which issues the CFA franc. The 
headquarters are located in Dakar, Senegal. 
 
Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO) 
     B.P. 325 
     Cotonou 
     Tel: 31-37-82 
     Fax: 31-24-65 
 
Commercial Banks with correspondent U.S. banking arrangements  
 
BANK OF AFRICA (BOA) 
B.P. 08-0879 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-32-28 
Fax: 31-31-17 
This Bank was opened in January 1990 and is estimated to have 
approximately 40% of the market.  The majority of shareholders are 
Beninese.  The bank services are open to small bearers and several 
branches operate in the main cities. 
 
Corresponding banking relationship in the U.S. 
CITIBANK N. A. 
111 Wall Street 
16th Floor / Zone 4 
New York N Y 10043 
Tel: (212) 657 0169 
 
ECOBANK-Benin 
Rue du Gouverneur Bayol 
B.P. 1280 
Cotonou 
Tel: (229) 31-40-23/31-30-69 
Telex: 5394 ECOBNK CTNOU 
       5395 ECOBNK CTNOU 
Fax: (229) 31-33-85 
This bank was created in March 1990, on the initiative of businessmen 
from the sixteen ECOWAS countries and the Federation of West African 
Chambers of Commerce.  It is a limited liability company with a capital 
of one billion CFA francs. 
It offers the full range of traditional banking services and is 
committed to play an important part in improving and refining banking 
systems and procedures to meet with international standards.  Its 
activities are focused on the economic development of Benin in 
particular and on the promotion of investment opportunities in the sub-
region of West Africa. 
 
Corresponding banking relationship in the US: 
CITIBANK New York 
11 Wall Street 
19th Floor Zone 
New York NY 10043 
 
MIDLAND BANK PLC New York Midland Montager 
Tower 156 
West 56th Street 
New York 10019 
 
Financial Bank (Nov. 88) 
Avenue Clozel 
B.P. 2800 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-31-00 
Fax: 31-31-02 
 
Corresponding banking arrangements in the U.S. 
American Express Bank Limited 
New York Agency 
195 Broadway 
New York, N.Y. 10007 
USA 
Fax: (212) 727 1104 
 
BANQUE INTERNATIONALE DU BENIN (BIBe) 
B.P. 03-2098 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31 55 49/31 56 21 
Fax: 31 23 65 
Telex: 5074 BIBE CTNOU-5075 BIBE CTNOU
 
The BIBe is a private joint venture created in 1990 by four major 
Nigerian banks (Union Bank of Nigeria PLC, First Bank of Nigeria PLC, 
Continental Merchant Bank PLC and First Interstate Merchant Bank Ltd.) 
in collaboration with private investors of Benin and Nigeria.  The Bank 
has contributed to the improvement of the Beninese Banking system.  It 
promotes the financing of trade and investment between Benin and 
Nigeria, and between Benin and other countries. 
Corresponding banking arrangement in the US 
Bankers Trust New York 
P.O. Box 318 
Church Street Station, NY 10008 
Telex: 62922, 620339 
Tel: (212) 775-2500 
 
CREDIT LYONNAIS 
Carrefour des Trois Banques 
B.P. 2020 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-33-93 
Fax: 31-51-77
 
This international bank was operating in the seventies under the name of 
SDB (Societe Dahomeenne de Banque) which was nationalized.  The 
institution came back to Benin in January 1993. 
Correspondent banking relationship in the US 
Main office for the United States:
 
Credit Lyonnais Building 
1301 Avenue of the Americas 
New York NY 10019 
Tel: (212) 586 2440 
Fax: (212) 459 3170 
        or 
Tel: (212) 261 7000 
Fax: (212) 459 3170 
 
Other correspondent banks are based in Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Los 
Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas and  Houston.  
 
IX.  Business travel 
 
     Business customs 
The Beninese like to spend time getting to know their business partners.  
Often business matters will be discussed late in the conversation, once 
both parties feel that they have established enough trust.  It is 
important that introductions cover family, activities, travels, and 
interests and will be more pleasant if done over a meal.  This protocol 
serves to make the other more comfortable and more receptive to ideas. 
 
     Travel advisory and visas 
The bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State has 
published the foreign entry requirements for US citizens.  Passport and 
visa are required for business trips to Benin. 
Entry/transit visa for stays up to 90 days require the payment of a $20 
fee (personal checks are not accepted).  The following are necessary:
 
       - 2 application forms 
       - 3 passport-size photos 
       - vaccination certificates for yellow fever and cholera 
        - proof of return transportation (guarantee from travel agency 
or photocopy of round trip ticket) 
     - letter of guarantee from employer.
 
Send prepaid envelope for return of passport by certified or express 
mail. 

Send application to: Embassy of the Republic of Benin, 2737 Cathedral 
Ave., N. W. Washington, D.C. 20008 Tel: 202/232-6656 
 
     National holidays 
New Year's Day                  January 1 
Ramadan                         March * 
Easter Monday                   April 4 
Labor Day                       May 1 
Ascension Day                   May 12 
Whit Monday                     May 23 
Tabasky                         May * 
Benin Independence Day          August 1 
Assumption Day                  August 15 
Maouloud                        August * 
All Saints' Day                 November 1 
Christmas Day                   December 25 (observed on Dec. 26)  
 
* Muslim holidays depend on the appearance of the moon. 
 
    Business infrastructure (e.g. transportation, language, 
communications, housing, health, food)
 
Transportation 
Taxis are available but their numbers have declined due to the 
competition of motorcycle taxis.  Public transportation is not 
available. 
 
Communications 
Significant progress has been made in this field.  In July 1993 the old 
telephone fittings were replaced by French firms CIT-Alcatel and 
Alcatel-cables.  The more efficient new network was financed by the 
French Development Fund (CFD), the World Bank and the European Community 
Investment Bank (BEI).  Direct dialing to the U.S. is available, but 
international rates are extremely high.   
 
Hotels 
The country offers a wide array of hotels.  Only one top quality hotel 
is well established in Cotonou (Sheraton) but it is complemented by a 
variety of hotels of lesser standing that nevertheless offer good 
service.  A five star hotel is being built for the Francophone summit in 
December of 1995 in Cotonou.  The following list is comprised of the 
main hotels located in Cotonou.  Most of them offer conference rooms 
that are regularly rented out for receptions, talks, or seminars. 
 
Benin SHERATON (****) 
Boulevard de la Marina 
B.P. 1901 
Cotonou 
Tel: 30-01-00 
Fax: 30-11-55 
 
Hotel Croix du Sud 
Boulevard de la Marina 
B.P. 280 
Cotonou 
Tel: 30-09-54 
Fax: 30-02-18 
 
Hotel du Port 
B.P. 7076 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-44-43/31-44-44 
Fax: 30-01-95 
 
Hotel PLM Aledjo 
B.P. 2292 
Cotonou 
Tel: 33-05-61 
Fax: 33-15-74 
 
Hotel de la Plage 
B.P. 36 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-25-60 
 
Hotel GL 
B.P. 1226 
Cotonou 
Tel: 33-16-17 
Fax: 33-25-57 
 
Hotel accommodation is available in other major cities though not to the 
extent it is in Cotonou.  Game reserves have camping sites with cabins. 
 
Health 
Travellers who are more than one year old must be vaccinated against 
yellow fever at least ten days before arrival in Benin. 
The vaccine is valid for ten years.  A cholera shot is also required to 
enter Benin.  It is highly recommended to start an anti-malarial 
treatment by taking suppressants at least two weeks prior to travel.  
Treatment should continue for four weeks after leaving the country as 
well. 
 
Food 
Many restaurants have Beninese, French and international menus (Thai, 
Middle-Eastern, Vietnamese, Italian).  Prices are reasonable.  We 
recommend caution and common sense when selecting restaurants serving 
local cuisine. 
 
 
   Appendices 
 
A. Country data 
 
     Population in 1993 
Total: 4.915.555 (male: 2390336, female: 2525219) 
 
     Population growth rate: 3.1 percent 
Source: INSAE- Institut National de la Statistique et de l'Analyse 
Economique 
  
     Religions: Christian (Catholics and Protestants), Muslims, 
Animists.  A great number of sects have appeared in recent years. 
Jehovah's Witnesses, Celestial Christians)  
 
     Government system:  Presidential regime.  National Assembly.  
Democratic multiparty Constitution.  President is both head of state and 
head of the government (there is no vice-president or prime minister). 
 
     Languages 
French is the official language of the administration and is  used for 
all business transactions.  There are approximately fifteen national 
languages spoken throughout the country.  The main ones are Fon, Mina, 
Yoruba and Goun, which are spoken in the South and Dendi, Bariba, 
Batoonou, Haoussa which are spoken in the northern part of the country. 
 
     Work week 
Opening hours of public services 
From Monday to Friday Morning: 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 
Afternoon: 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. 
 
B.  Domestic economy 
     GDP: FCFA 620.9 billion 
 
     GDP growth rate 
Growth rate between 1976 and 1981 exceeded 5.5 percent. 
Growth rate in 1992: 4.1 percent 
Growth rate in 1993: 3.8 percent 
Growth rate in 1994: 4.2 percent (estimate) 
 
     GDP per capita: US$ 380 (1992 estimate) 
 
     Government spending as percent of GDP  
Between 1989 and 1992, total Government spending increased by 24 
percent, partly due to an increase of salaries and interest expenses.  
"Solde primaire":
 
1991: FCFA 2.7 billion, 0.5 percent of GDP 
1992: FCFA  7.2 billions, 1.2 percent of GDP 
Global deficit was 7.8 percent of GDP in 1992. Estimates were 6.9 
percent in 1993 and 5.0 percent in 1994. 
 
     Inflation 
Inflation in Benin is calculated with the GDP deflator. 
- inflation (average annual rate) 
     1980-1992: 11.5 percent 
     1990-1992:  3.1 percent 
     1994:        54 percent 
     (source: Ministry of Planning) 
      
     Unemployment (percent) 
As a result of the voluntary departure program that was put into place 
during the first structural adjustment program, thousands of civil 
service workers have found themselves out of a job.  Unemployment rates 
are very difficult to gauge in Benin primarily because of the size of 
the informal sector.  People that are not officially registered as job 
seekers could be working in the informal sector.  Reliable statistics 
are hard to find.  
 
 
     Foreign exchange reserves: 432.3 million dollars (1993 estimate) 
 
     Average exchange rate for US$ 1: FCFA 493 (current, 1995) 
 
     Foreign debt 
Benin's external debt was equivalent to USD 1.4 billion in 1993 and is 
projected to reach USD 1.55 billion in 1994 and 1.6 by 1995. 
 
     Debt service 
Debt service ratio 
1991                    1992                    1993 
14.3                    35.4                    19.5(est.) 
 (Source: IMF) 
 
     U.S. economic / military assistance (if any) 
The United States has a USAID mission in Cotonou with a focus on 
education.  The Peace Corps is also present in Benin with over 70 
volunteers, and includes teachers and foresters.  The United States 
offers military training to the Beninese armed forces through an IMET 
program valued at $100,000 in FY1995. 
 
C. TRADE  
 
                                             1993          1994* 
 
TOTAL COUNTRY EXPORTS                        164.0        124.11   
TOTAL COUNTRY IMPORTS                          390          296 
EXPORTS to US                                 15.7           10 
IMPORTS from US                               21.7         25.9 
 
----------------------------------------------------------------- 
TOTAL IMPORTS of manufactured                  237          187 
goods 
TOTAL IMPORTS of manufactured                   13          6.6   
goods from US 
 
U.S. SHARE                                   5.48%         3.51% 
----------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
TOTAL IMPORTS of agricultural                   73           64 
products 
TOTAL IMPORTS of agricultural                  3.0         0.87 
goods from US                                             
 
U.S. SHARE                                     4.1%         1.4% 
----------------------------------------------------------------- 
 
Values in millions of dollars.  Exchange rate 1993: 281.5 and 1994: 
524.2. 
 
* 1994: yearly estimate based on first three months.  In 1993, Benin 
exported crude petrol valued at USD 15,830,000. 
(Source: INSAE, National Institute of Economic Statistics) 
 
Best prospects for agriculture and industry sector 
     - fisheries 
     - cotton processing equipment or fertilizer 
     - Oil maintenance and equipment services 
     - tourism 
     - fruit juice 
     - vegetable and cashew nut processing 
     - cassava production 
     - mineral water production 
     - manufacture of glass bottles 
     - extraction of sea salt 
     - health care services 
     - electrical equipment 
     - transportation of goods between Benin and 
       neighboring countries 
     - services 
 
Business possibilities in the future include equity positions in the 
state-owned cotton ginning-marketing company, SONAPRA, and SONACOP, the 
state oil company. 
 
D.  Investment statistics. 
(See VII. G and H) 
 
E.  US and country contacts. 
Government agencies 
Trade organizations - Trade associations 
Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie du Benin 
This public institution, reorganized in 1993, is in charge of 
representing, protecting and promoting the common interests of the 
business community in the fields of trade, industry and services.
 
Contact: Mr. Mouftaou Wassi 
Title: President 
Address:  Avenue du General de Gaulle 
          B.P. 31 
          Cotonou 
Tel: 31-20-81 
Telex: 5364 CCIBEN 
 
Centre Beninois du Commerce Exterieur ( Center for External Trade) 
This public establishment office was created in 1988 for the promotion 
of foreign trade.  The Center acts as an intermediary between Beninese 
traders and their foreign partners.  It provides commercial information 
on exports along with training and is involved in the organization of 
trade exhibitions.
 
Contact: Mr. Chakirou Tidjani 
Title: Director 
Address: P.O. Box 1254 
         Cotonou  
Tel: 30 13 20 
Fax: 30 04 36 
  
Caisse Autonome d'Amortissement 
Address: Carrefour des trois Banques 
         B.P. 59 
         Cotonou 
Tel: 31 42 61/31 47 81 
 
FAGACE (Fonds Africain de Garantie et de Cooperation Economique) 
SONAR (Societe Nationale d'Assurances et de Reassurances)
 
Address: B.P. 2030 
         Cotonou 
Tel: 30 00 40/30 16 49 
 
SONAPRA (Societe Nationale pour la Promotion Agricole) 
Tel: 33 08 20/33 08 22 
 
ONAB (Office National du Bois) 
Tel: 33 16 32 
 
ONASA (Office National d' Appui a la Securite Alimentaire) 
Tel: 32 15 02 
 
F.  Market research  
Afrique Etudes 
B.P. 2578 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-24-14 
 
Other useful addresses 
- Shipping companies 
SBEM 
B.P. 1733 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-21-19/31-22-41 
Fax: 31-59-26 
 
Lemoine et Compagnie 
B.P. 2526 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-52-26 
Fax: 
 
Maersk Line Benin 
B.P. 2826 
Cotonou 
Tel: 31-43-30/31-43-47 
Fax: 
 
    Commercial Banks (see paragraph VIII) 
 
A complete list of market research is available on the National Trade 
Data Bank (NTDB) 
 
G. Trade event schedule.  
Trade events and significant events in which Benin's participation is 
scheduled to participate. 
 
- International Feminine Pret-a-Porter Exhibition - Paris, France 
September 1-4, 1995 
 
- 2nd Afro-Arab fair of Johannesburg, South Africa  
October 1995 
  
- Commercial Mission to Niamey, Niger 
Second half of September, 1995 
 
- Munich Handicrafts fair - Germany 
November 25-December 3, 1995 (pending funds) 
 
Sources:                
- "Rapport sur l'etat de l' economie nationale. Developpements recents 
et perspectives a moyen terme". Realise par la Cellule macroeconomique 
de la Presidence de la Republique en collaboration avec les ministeres 
Septembre 1993. 
- Benin Economic Realities. Centre Beninois du Commerce Exterieur. 
To the top of this page