Benin has an average population density of 102 residents per km2. However, the population is highly concentrated in the southern parts of the country, where the density amounts to more than 120 residents per km2 – locally to more than 500 residents per km2.
In 2019, the share of urban residents made up 45 percent of the population. The largest cities in 2014 were the port city of Cotonou (678,900 residents) and the capital Porto-Novo (263,600).
According to Countryaah, Benin’s largest population (1.7 million) is fon (dahomey), which inhabits the southern parts. They belong to the ewe people and feed on the cultivation of corn, cassava and yams; palm oil is produced for sale. The marriage is polygynous, i.e. one man has several wives, and each wife lives with her children in her own hut within the yard. The formerly important patrilineal clans have lost their importance even though ancestral cult is still an important element of religion. Each village was traditionally led by a chieftain, whose office was hereditary, and he was the local representative of the King of the Dahome Empire.
In southeastern and central Benin live Yoruba (1 million) and in the sparsely populated northern part of the country various voltaic-speaking groups, of which bargu (bariba) is the largest (652,000). In the north, there are also groups of nomadic, livestock- feeding fulani (410,000), who are Muslims. Kwa-speaking groups in the central and southern parts of the country are aja (780,000), mine (112,000) and xwla (140,000). Other groups are dendi (50,000) and arrow (40,000).
In Benin, some fifty native languages are spoken, mainly belonging to the Gur and Kwagren of the Niger-Congo languages. The largest is phon, a Kwa language spoken by nearly 25% of the population and also used as an interpersonal language. The official language is French. See further Population above.
Portuguese Catholics came to the area in the late 15th century and the then king of the country, which until 1975 was called Dahomey, was christened to Christianity in 1491. In 1680, the first Portuguese settled in the country. The country became a French colony in 1894, then named French Dahomey. These ties to Catholic countries in Europe may partly explain that 23% of the population today (2010) are Catholics, while Protestants are counted at about 4%. Islam, especially Sunni, is comprised of about 23% of the population. Benin is one of those countries in Africa where indigenous African beliefs and rites are still of great importance and about 50% of the population embraces this traditional form of religion. The voodoo cult in Haiti has its origins in the phonics, where the word vodun means ‘god’ or ‘spirit’.
- Follow abbreviationfinder to see what is the meaning of BN in geography. It can stand for Benin. Click this site to see other possible meanings of this acronym.
Dahomey became independent in 1960. In 1972, the country was declared by then President Mathieu Kérékou to be a Marxist-Leninist state and in 1975 the name was changed from Dahomey to the Benin Republic. Marxism-Leninism was abolished in 1990, democracy was introduced and the country’s name changed to the Republic of Benin.
The government is actively striving to guarantee religious freedom, and confrontations between religious groups are rare.