Economic and Political Overview

flag Benin Benin: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response


Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Benin’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals helped the country achieve one of the strongest growth rates among developing countries in 2020 (3.8%), despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic growth recovered in 2021, reaching an estimated 5.5%, boosted by public investment and the normalization of merchandise traffic at the Port of Cotonou (IMF). According to the IMF estimates, GDP growth should further accelerate to 6.5% in 2022 and 2023. Official Beninese forecasts set economic growth to 7% in 2022 and 7.8% in 2023. Growing coffee and cashew nut output as well as renewed dynamism of Benin's major overseas trading partners will also boost economic growth (The Economist Intelligence Unit).

In 2021, Benin’s economy recovered from the slowdown induced by the coronavirus crisis, thanks to the government’s swift response, a strong public investment push and the establishment of a sanitary belt around the cities most exposed to the pandemic (IMF). To fight the coronavirus crisis, Benin’s government set a recovery plan estimated at FCFA 74 billion (1% of the country’s GDP), aimed toward the most vulnerable households, and the companies operating in the most affected sectors (tourism, transportation, etc.). The country also benefited from emergency financing (USD 178 million), and general SDR allocation (USD 168 million) from the IMF. Falling revenues and increased expenditures caused the public deficit to widen to 6.5% GDP in 2021 (Benin Ministry of Economy and Finance). Fiscal consolidation efforts are expected to reduce the deficit (grants included) to 4.5% GDP in 2022 and 3.5% GDP in 2023 (Benin Ministry of Economy and Finance). Public debt reached an estimated 52.3% GDP in 2021, and is projected to decrease to 48.9% GDP in 2022 and 46.3% GDP in 2023 (IMF). Aggregate inflation remained subdued (3% in 2020 and 2021) but food prices increased sharply, reflecting both global factors and domestic weather events (IMF). Inflation rate is expected to decrease to 2% in 2022 and 2023 (IMF). Beninese authorities have requested a new IMF-supported program to facilitate the implementation of the national development plan. Among the priorities of the 2022 budget are the promotion of high-potential sectors such as agriculture, tourism and digital economy; the development of key transport, energy and sanitation infrastructure; the reduction of poverty and social vulnerability; and fiscal consolidation. The authorities have also revamped their vaccination strategy, as less than 4% of the population was fully vaccinated at the end of 2021.

Despite many efforts to reduce it, the poverty rate remains as high as 45.9% according to World Bank data. In 2020, the unemployment rate in the country was estimated at 2.5% (ILO estimate). However, underemployment rate stood at more than 70%, and informal employment rate at more than 90% (World Bank). 

Main Indicators 202020212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 15.6717.70e17.5518.2519.64
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 3.87.2e5.76.26.0
GDP per Capita (USD) 1e1e111
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 46.149.954.855.654.3
Inflation Rate (%)
Current Account (billions USD) -0.27-0.78-1.05-1.02-0.91
Current Account (in % of GDP) -1.7-4.4-6.0-5.6-4.6

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Benin’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture. This sector accounts for 27.1% of Benin’s GDP and employs an estimated 38% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). The country has a fertile land, and a third of Benin’s territory is suitable for agriculture (World Bank). Around half of the population rely on subsistence farming for their livelihood, whereas cotton is the main crop and the key export commodity. The cotton sector contributes to 40% of the GDP. Other cultivations include cashew nuts, corn, cassava, yams, beans, palm oil, and peanuts.

The industrial sector contributes 16.3% of GDP and gives employment to roughly 18% of the active population. Textiles, food processing, construction materials, and cement are the main sub-sectors.

Services (dominated by trade and transport) account for nearly 48% of Benin’s GDP and almost 43% of total employment.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 38.3 18.3 43.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 29.4 17.0 47.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) 5.2 9.1 6.6

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 16.6816.8816.3716.5114.63

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.


Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency Converter.

Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.


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Foreign Trade in Figures

Benin is open to foreign trade which represents 45% of its GDP (World Bank). The country is a member of various trade organizations including the World Trade Organisation and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). The vast majority of its trade passes through the port of Cotonou, the capacity of which the government wants to develop.

Benin mainly exports cotton (53.4% of total exports), cashew nut, coconut, Brazilian nuts, shea nuts, petroleum products, cement, gold, textile products, and seafood to Bangladesh, India, China, Malaysia, Ukraine, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Its main imports are food products (rice, meat, frozen fish), oil products, energy, drugs, vehicles and capital goods from India, China, France, Togo, Belgium, Russia and Turkey. It is also quite active in re-exportation, from Nigeria mainly.

For years now, Benin has had a structural trade deficit. In 2020, the trade deficit in goods amounted to USD 947 million (WTO). This is mainly due to low exports which are largely made up of low-cost agricultural products, and the country’s heavy reliance on foreign countries for its oil and energy supply. According to WTO data, in 2020, Benin exported goods with a total value of USD 2.3 billion while it imported goods worth USD 3.3 billion. Concerning services, Benin exported USD 410 million worth of services in 2020 and imported USD 578 million worth of services.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 3,4944,3753,9323,2634,333
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,2163,3443,0522,3163,445
Imports of Services (million USD) 577762803578984
Exports of Services (million USD) 323485510410555
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change)
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 34.334.534.125.034.3
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 27.227.329.619.928.5
Trade Balance (million USD) -344-556-444-156n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -704-821-722-436n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 61.561.863.744.862.7

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data


Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
Bangladesh 41.7%
India 10.0%
China 9.8%
Vietnam 5.0%
Chad 3.6%
See More Countries 29.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
India 17.2%
China 11.7%
France 11.0%
Belgium 5.6%
Togo 4.2%
See More Countries 50.4%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

1.0 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Cotton, neither carded nor combedCotton, neither carded nor combed 61.0%
Coconuts, brazil nuts and cashew nuts, fresh or...Coconuts, brazil nuts and cashew nuts, fresh or dried, whether or not shelled or peeled 4.8%
Other oil seeds and oleaginous fruits, whether or...Other oil seeds and oleaginous fruits, whether or not broken (excl. edible nuts, olives, soya beans, groundnuts, copra, linseed, rape or colza seeds and sunflower seeds) 4.0%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 3.6%
Oilcake and other solid residues, whether or not...Oilcake and other solid residues, whether or not ground or in the form of pellets, resulting from the extraction of vegetable fats or oils (excl. from soya-bean oil and groundnut oil) 3.1%
See More Products 23.5%
3.2 bn USD of products imported in 2021
RiceRice 20.1%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 10.5%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 3.9%
Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish...Frozen fish (excl. fish fillets and other fish meat of heading 0304) 3.6%
Meat and edible offal of fowls of the species...Meat and edible offal of fowls of the species gallus domesticus, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowls, fresh, chilled or frozen 3.4%
See More Products 58.5%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.


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Sources of General Economic Information

List of Benin's Ministries
Statistical Office
National Institute of Statistics and Economic Analysis (INSAE)
Central Bank
West Africa Central Bank
Stock Exchange
Regional Securities Exchange
Search Engines
Google Benin
Economic Portals
Actu Benin
BBC - Benin profile

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Patrice TALON (since 6 April 2016) - the president is both chief of state and head of government 
Next Election Dates
Presidential: April 2026
National Assembly: April 2023
Main Political Parties
Benin is formally a multy-party country, however opposition parties have no real chance of gaining power. The main parties are:

Alliance for a Triumphant Benin or ABT : leader Abdoulaye BIO TCHANE
African Movement for Development and Progress or MADEP : leader Sefou FAGBOHOUN
Benin Renaissance or RB : leader Lehady SOGLO
Cowrie Force for an Emerging Benin or FCBE : leader Yayi BONI
Democratic Renewal Party or PRD : leader Adrien HOUNGBEDJI
National Alliance for Development and Democracy or AND : leader Valentin Aditi HOUDE
New Consciousness Rally or NC : leader Pascal KOUPAKI
Patriotic Awakening or RP : leader Janvier YAHOUEDEOU
Social Democrat Party or PSD : leader Emmanuel GOLOU
Sun Alliance or AS : leader Sacca LAFIA
Union Makes the Nation or UN : leader Adrien HOUNGBEDJI (includes PRD, MADEP)
United Democratic Forces or FDU : leader Mathurin NAGO
Type of State
Democratic Republic.
Executive Power
The President of the Republic is elected for a five-year term by universal suffrage with uninominal majority ballot in two rounds, for maximum two terms (whether consecutive or not). He is the head of state, the holder of the executive power, the head of the Government, and with this title he shall determine and conduct the politics of the nation (art. 54). After an advisory opinion of the National Assembly, the President appoints the members of the Government.
Legislative Power
The legislative power in Benin is vested in the parliament, which is composed of a single chamber called the National Assembly. It is composed of 83 deputies elected every four years by proportional representation in 24 multi-member constituencies.

Indicator of Freedom of the Press


The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:

Indicator of Political Freedom


The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Political Freedom:

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House


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COVID-19 Country Response

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the COVID19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID19 disease in Benin, please visit the Beninese government platform with the official data. The platform provides a daily epidemiological update, which includes key national figures.
For the international outlook you can consult the latest
situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To find out about the latest public health situation in Benin and the current sanitary measures in vigour, please consult the Beninese government platform including the up-to-date information on the containment measures put in place and public health recommendations.
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
So far, no restrictions have been imposed on imports or exports in the Republic of Benin. For information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual import and export restrictions, if applicable), please consult the Beninese government platform.
For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Benin on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.c
Economic recovery plan
So far, no information on the economic recovery plan to deal with the consequences of the COVID19 pandemic on the Beninese economy has been published on the official websites of the Beninese government.
For a general overview of the main economic policy measures (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Beninese government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Benin in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
The country's official sources do not provide information on specific business support programmes following the coronavirus epidemic outbreak.
For a general overview of international SME support policies in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, please refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters
The country's government official sources do not provide information with regards to specific schemes for exporting companies following the coronavirus epidemic outbreak.

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Latest Update: January 2023