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Benin, republic in western Africa, on the Gulf of Guinea. Known in full as the Republic of Benin, it extends inland about 670 km (about 415 mi) from its 121-km (75-mi) long gulf coast. Benin is bordered on the north by Burkina Faso and Niger, on the east by Nigeria, and on the west by Togo. Formerly part of French West Africa, it gained independence in 1960 as Dahomey; it was named Benin in 1975. It has an area of 112,622 sq km (43,484 sq mi). Porto-Novo is the capital and Cotonou is the largest city. m3f13fd
LAND AND RESOURCES The coast of Benin is a sandy barrier beach with no natural harbors. Immediately north of the beach is a network of shallow lagoons, and farther north is a fertile lowland called the barre country, most of which is intensively cultivated. In northern Benin the land rises to include the edge of a nearly 500-m (1600-ft) high plateau of ancient rocks and mostly infertile soils and, in the northwest, the rugged Atakora Mountains.
Rivers and Lakes The Ouémé and Kouffo rivers drain most of southern Benin, and the Mono River, which forms part of the border with Togo, drains the southwest. The main rivers of northern Benin are the Niger, which forms part of the boundary with the republic of Niger, and its tributaries, the Sota, Mékrou, and Alibori rivers.
Plants and Animals A dense tropical rain forest once covered much of the land close behind Benin's coastal strip. The rain forest has largely been cleared, except near rivers, and palms now are the main trees of the region. Woodlands form a large part of central Benin, and grasslands predominate in the drier north. Among the various animals found in Benin are elephants, buffalo, antelope, panthers, monkeys, crocodiles, and wild ducks.

Natural Resources An offshore petroleum field is located near Cotonou. Other mineral resources of Benin include iron ore, phosphates, chromium, rutile, clay, marble, and limestone.
Forestry and Fishing Commercial forestry and fishing are largely undeveloped in Benin. Almost all of the estimated 5.9 million cu m (208 million cu ft) of wood cut in 1995 was used for fuel. Similarly, most of the 39,000 metric tons of fish produced annually are caught in inland rivers and in lagoons for subsistence use. Relatively small amounts of shrimp are landed on a commercial basis.
Mining and Manufacturing Benin's chief mineral product is petroleum, although reserves are believed to be nearing exhaustion. Some limestone is also produced for use in cement manufacturing, and gold is exploited and used by artisans. Most other mineral resources are undeveloped. The chief manufacturing activity is the processing of primary products. Industry includes palm oil processing operations, textile mills, a cement plant, and a sugar-refining complex. A wire and steel manufacturing plant recently opened.


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