Angola And Benin

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Angola, officially the Republic of Angola (Portuguese: República de Angola, pronounced:;[5] Kikongo, Kimbundu, Umbundu: Repubilika ya Ngola), is a country in Southern Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital citySony PCG-71313M battery. The exclave province of Cabinda has borders with the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Portuguese were present in some—mostly coastal—points of the territory of what is now Angola, from the 16th to the 19th century, interacting in diverse ways with the peoples that lived there. In the 19th century they slowly and hesitantly began to establish themselves in the interiorSony PCG-71212M battery. Angola as a Portuguese colony encompassing the present territory was not established before the end of the 19th century, and "effective occupation", as required by the Berlin Conference (1884) was achieved only by the 1920s. Independence was achieved in 1975, after a protracted liberation war. After independence, Angola was the scene of an intense civil war from 1975 to 2002Sony PCG-71311M battery. The country has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and its economy has on average grown at a two-digit pace since the 1990s, especially since the end of the civil war. In spite of this, standards of living remain low for the majority of the population, and life expectancy and infant mortality rates in Angola are among the worst-ranked in the world.[6] Angola is considered to be economically disparate, with the majority of the nation's wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the populationSony PCG-71213M battery.

Angola is a member state of the African Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Latin Union and the Southern African Development Community.

The name "Angola" comes from the Portuguese colonial name Reino de Angola, appearing as early as Dias de Novais's 1571 charter.[7] The toponym was derived by the Portuguese from the title ngola held by the kings of NdongoSony PCG-61211M battery. Ndongo was a kingdom in the highlands between the Kwanza and Lukala Rivers nominally tributary to the king of Kongo but which was seeking greater independence during the 16th century.

Main article: History of Angola

[edit]Early migrations and political units

Khoisan hunter-gatherers are the earliest known modern human inhabitants of the area. They were largely absorbed and/or replaced by Bantu peoples during the Bantu migrations, though small numbers remain in parts of southern Angola to the present daySony VAIO VPCF24Q1E battery. The Bantu came from the north, probably from somewhere near the present-day Republic of Cameroon. When they reached what is now Angola, they encountered the Khoisan, Bushmen and other groups considerably less technologically advanced than themselves, whom they easily dominated with their superior knowledge of metal-working, ceramics and agricultureSony VAIO VPCF13M1E/H battery. The establishment of the Bantu took many centuries and gave rise to various groups who took on different ethnic characteristics.

During this period of time, the Bantu established a number of political units ("kingdoms", "empires") in most parts of what today is Angola. The best known of these is the Kingdom of the Kongo that had its centre in the northwest of contemporary AngolaSony VAIO VPCF12Z1E/BI battery, but included important regions in the west of present day Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo as well as in southern Gabon. It established trade routes with other trading cities and civilizations up and down the coast of southwestern and West Africa and even with the Great Zimbabwe Mutapa Empire, but engaged in little or no transoceanic trade.[8]

Portuguese presence on the coastSony VAIO VPCF12S1E/B battery

View from Ilha de Luanda to the bay of Luanda, Angola's capital city and economic and commercial hub, 2008.

Main articles: Colonial history of Angola and Angola (Portugal)

The geographical areas now designated as Angola entered into contact with the Portuguese in the late 15th century, concretely in 1483, when Portugal established relations with the Kongo State, which stretched from modern Gabon in the north to the Kwanza River in the southSony VAIO VPCF13Z8E/BI battery. In this context, they established a small trade post at the port of Mpinda, in Soyo. The Portuguese explorer Paulo Dias de Novais founded Luanda in 1575 as "São Paulo de Loanda", with a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Benguela, a Portuguese fort from 1587 which became a town in 1617, was another important early settlement they founded and ruledSony VAIO VPCF13Z8E battery. The Portuguese would establish several settlements, forts and trading posts along the coastal strip of current-day Angola, which relied on slave trade, commerce in raw materials, and exchange of goods for survival. The African slave trade provided a large number of black slaves to Europeans and their African agents. For example, in what is now Angola, the Imbangala economy was heavily focused on the slave tradeSony VAIO VPCF13M1E/B battery.

Queen Nzinga in peace negotiations with the Portuguese governor in Luanda, 1657.

European traders would export manufactured goods to the coast of Africa where they would be exchanged for slaves. Within the Portuguese Empire, most black African slaves were traded to Portuguese merchants who bought them to sell as cheap labour for use on Brazilian agricultural plantations. This trade would last until the first half of the 19th centurySony VAIO VPCF1318E/H battery. According to John Iliffe, "Portuguese records of Angola from the 16th century show that a great famine occurred on average every seventy years; accompanied by epidemic disease, it might kill one-third or one-half of the population, destroying the demographic growth of a generation and forcing colonists back into the river valleys".[11]

The Portuguese gradually took control of the coastal strip during the 16th century by a series of treaties and warsSony VAIO VPCF13J0E/H battery, forming the Portuguese colony of Angola. Taking advantage of the Portuguese Restoration War, the Dutch occupied Luanda from 1641 to 1648, where they allied with local peoples, consolidating their colonial rule against the remaining Portuguese resistance. In 1648, a fleet under the command of Salvador de Sá retook Luanda for Portugal and initiated a conquest of the lost territoriesSony VAIO VPCF13E8E battery, which restored Portugal to its former possessions by 1650. Treaties regulated relations with Kongo in 1649 and Njinga's Kingdom of Matamba and Ndongo in 1656. The conquest of Pungo Andongo in 1671 was the last major Portuguese expansion from Luanda outwards, as attempts to invade Kongo in 1670 and Matamba in 1681 failed. Portugal also expanded its territory behind Sony VAIO VPCF13E4E batterythe colony of Benguela to some extent, but until the 19th century the inroads from Luanda and Benguela were very limited, and Portugal had neither the intention nor the means to carry out a large scale territorial occupation and colonization.

Delimitation and occupation of Angola

Portuguese troops heading for Angola, during World War I.

The process resulted in few gains until the 1880s. Development of the hinterland began after the Berlin Conference in 1885 fixed the colony's borders, and British and Portuguese investment fostered mining, railways, and agriculture based on various forced labour systemsSony VAIO VPCF12M1E/H battery. Full Portuguese administrative control of the hinterland did not occur until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1951, the colony was designated as an overseas province, called Overseas Province of Angola. Portugal had a presence in Angola for nearly five hundred years, and the population's initial reaction to calls for independence was scarce. More overtly political organisations first appeared in the 1950s and began to make organised demands for self-determination, Sony VAIO VPCF12F4E/H battery especially in international forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Portuguese regime, meanwhile, refused to accede to the demands for independence, provoking an armed conflict that started in 1961 when black guerrillas attacked both white and black civilians in cross-border operations in northeastern Angola. The war came to be known as the Colonial War. In this struggle, the principal protagonists were the MPLA Sony VAIO VPCF12E1E/H battery (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), founded in 1956, the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola), which appeared in 1961, and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), founded in 1966. After many years of conflict that lead to the weakening of all the insurgent parties, Angola gained its independence on 11 November 1975, after the 1974 coup d'état in Lisbon, Portugal, which overthrew the Portuguese regime headed by Marcelo CaetanoSony VAIO VPCF11Z1E/BI battery.

Portugal's new revolutionary leaders began in 1974 a process of political change at home and accepted its former colonies' independence abroad. In Angola, a fight for the conquest of power broke out immediately between the three nationalist movements. The events prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens, creating up to 300 000 destitute Portuguese refugeesSony VAIO VPCF24M1E battery—the retornados.[12] The new Portuguese government tried to mediate an understanding between the three competing movements, and succeeded in agreeing, on paper, to form a common government, but in the end none of them respected the commitments made, and the issue was resolved by military force.

Independence and civil war

Main articles: Angolan War of Independence and Angolan Civil War

Further information: 1980s in Angola and 1990s in AngolaSony VAIO VPCF23S1E battery

After independence in November 1975, Angola faced a devastating civil war which lasted several decades and claimed millions of lives and produced many refugees.[13] Following negotiations held in Portugal, itself under severe social and political turmoil and uncertainty due to the April 1974 revolution, Angola's three main guerrilla groups agreed to establish a transitional government in January 1975Sony VAIO VPCF231S1E battery.

Within two months, however, the FNLA, MPLA and UNITA were fighting each other and the country was well on its way to being divided into zones controlled by rival armed political groups. The superpowers were quickly drawn into the conflict, which became a flash point for the Cold War. The United States, Zaire (today's DRC) and South Africa supported the FNLA and UNITA.[14][15] The Soviet Union and Cuba supported the MPLASony VAIO VPCF23Q1E battery.

In the beginning of the Civil War, most of the half million Portuguese that lived in Angola and accounted for the majority of the skilled work in the public administration, agriculture, industries and trade fled the country leaving its once prosperous and growing economy to a state of bankruptcy. Sony VAIO VPCF23M1E battery

During most of this period, 1975–1990, the MPLA organised and maintained a socialist regime. Despite the ongoing civil war, the model functioned to a certain degree, although it was foreseeable that it would eventually fail in face of UNITA opposition.[17]

Ceasefire with UNITA

Main article: 2000s in Angola

On 22 March 2002, after the MPLA regime came to terms with the USA, Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, was killed in combat with government troopsSony VAIO VPCF22S8E battery. A cease-fire was reached by the two factions shortly afterwards.[18] UNITA gave up its armed wing and assumed the role of major opposition party, although in the knowledge that in the present regime a legitimate democratic election is impossible. Although the political situation of the country began to stabilize, President Dos Santos has so far refused to institute regular democratic processesSony VAIO VPCF22S1E battery, UNITA head officials being given senior positions in top level companies. Among Angola's major problems are a serious humanitarian crisis (a result of the prolonged war), the abundance of minefields, the continuation of the political, and to a much lesser degree, military activities in favour of the independence of the northern exclave of CabindaSony VAIO VPCF22M1E battery, carried out in the context of the protracted Cabinda Conflict by the Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, but most of all, the dilapidation of the country's rich mineral resources by the regime. While most of the internally displaced have now settled around the capital, in the so-called "Musseques", the general situation for Angolans remains desperate. Sony VAIO VPCF22L1E battery

Embassy of Angola in Washington, D.C.

Main article: Politics of Angola

See also: List of political parties in Angola, Foreign relations of Angola, and List of diplomatic missions of Angola

Angola's motto is Virtus Unita Fortior, a Latin phrase meaning "Virtue is stronger when united". The executive branch of the government is composed of the President, the Vice-Presidents and the Council of Ministers. For decades, political power has been concentrated in the PresidencySony VAIO VPCF22J1E battery.

Governors of the 18 provinces are appointed by the president. The Constitutional Law of 1992 establishes the broad outlines of government structure and delineates the rights and duties of citizens. The legal system is based on Portuguese and customary law but is weak and fragmented, and courts operate in only 12 of more than 140 municipalities. A Supreme Court serves as the appellate tribunalSony VAIO VPCF11S1E/B battery; a Constitutional Court with powers of judicial review has not been constituted until 2010, despite statutory authorization.

After the end of the Civil War the regime came under pressure from within as well as from the international environment, to become more democratic and less authoritarian. Its reaction was to operate a number of changes without substantially changing its character. Sony VAIO VPCF11M1E/H battery

Parliamentary elections held on 5 September 2008, announced MPLA as the winning party with 81% of votes. The closest opposition party was UNITA with 10%. These elections were the first since 1992 and were described as only partly free but certainly not as fair.[21] A White Book on the elections in 2008 lists all irregularities surrounding the Parliamentary elections of 2008. Sony VAIO VPCF11D4E battery

Angola scored poorly on the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance. It was ranked 44 from 48 sub-Saharan African countries, scoring particularly badly in the areas of Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development. The Ibrahim Index uses a number of different variables to compile its list which reflects the state of governance in Africa. Sony VAIO VPCF11C5E battery

The new constitution, adopted in 2010, further sharpened the authoritarian character of the regime. In the future, there will be no presidential elections: the president and the vice-president of the political party which comes out strongest in the parliamentary elections become automatically president and vice-president of Angola. Sony VAIO VPCF11C4E/B battery Through a variety of mechanisms, the state president controls all the other organs of the state, so that the principle of the division of power is not maintained. As a consequence, Angola has no longer a presidential system, in the sense of the systems existing e.g. in the USA or in France. In terms of the classifications used in constitutional lawSony VAIO PCG-31114V battery, its regime falls now in the same category as the "caesarist" monarchy of Napoléon Bonaparte in France, António de Oliveira Salazar's "corporatist" system established by the Portuguese constitution of 1933, the Brazilian military dictatorship based on the constitution of 1967/69, or several authoritarian regimes in contemporary Africa.[25]

Tazua Falls, Rio Cuango. One of Angola's richest sources of gem diamondsSony VAIO PCG-31113V battery.

Main article: Angolan Armed Forces

The Angolan Armed Forces (AAF) is headed by a Chief of Staff who reports to the Minister of Defense. There are three divisions—the Army (Exército), Navy (Marinha de Guerra, MGA), and National Air Force (Força Aérea Nacional, FAN). Total manpower is about 110,000.[citation needed] Its equipment includes Russian-manufactured fighters, bombersSony VAIO PCG-31112V battery, and transport planes. There are also Brazilian-made EMB-312 Tucano for training role, Czech-made L-39 for training and bombing role, Czech Zlin for training role and a variety of western made aircraft such as C-212\Aviocar, Sud Aviation Alouette III, etc. A small number of AAF personnel are stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa) and the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) Sony VAIO PCG-31111V battery.

The National Police departments are: Public Order, Criminal Investigation, Traffic and Transport, Investigation and Inspection of Economic Activities, Taxation and Frontier Supervision, Riot Police and the Rapid Intervention Police. The National Police are in the process of standing up an air wing, which will provide helicopter support for police operationsSony VAIO PCG-31114M battery. The National Police are also developing their criminal investigation and forensic capabilities. The National Police has an estimated 6,000 patrol officers, 2,500 Taxation and Frontier Supervision officers, 182 criminal investigators and 100 financial crimes detectives and around 90 Economic Activity Inspectors.

The National Police have implemented a modernization and development plan to increase the capabilities and efficiency of the total forceSony VAIO PCG-31113M battery. In addition to administrative reorganization; modernization projects include procurement of new vehicles, aircraft and equipment, construction of new police stations and forensic laboratories, restructured training programs and the replacement of AKM rifles with 9 mm UZIs for police officers in urban areasSony VAIO PCG-31112M battery.

Exclave of Cabinda

Main articles: Cabinda and Republic of Cabinda

With an area of approximately 7,283 square kilometres (2,812 sq mi), the Northern Angolan province of Cabinda is unique in being separated from the rest of the country by a strip, some 60 kilometres (37 mi) wide, of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) along the lower Congo river. Cabinda borders the Congo Republic to the north and north-northeast and the DRC to the east and south. The town of Cabinda is the chief population centerSony VAIO PCG-31111M battery.

According to a 1995 census, Cabinda had an estimated population of 600,000, approximately 400,000 of whom live in neighboring countries. Population estimates are, however, highly unreliable. Consisting largely of tropical forest, Cabinda produces hardwoods, coffee, cocoa, crude rubber and palm oil. The product for which it is best knownSony VAIO PCG-41111V battery, however, is its oil, which has given it the nickname, "the Kuwait of Africa". Cabinda's petroleum production from its considerable offshore reserves now accounts for more than half of Angola's output.[27] Most of the oil along its coast was discovered under Portuguese rule by the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company (CABGOC) from 1968 onwardsSony VAIO PCG-41112M battery.

Ever since Portugal handed over sovereignty of its former overseas province of Angola to the local independence groups (MPLA, UNITA, and FNLA), the territory of Cabinda has been a focus of separatist guerrilla actions opposing the Government of Angola (which has employed its military forces, the FAA—Forças Armadas Angolanas) and Cabindan separatistsSony VAIO PCG-41111M battery. The Cabindan separatists, FLEC-FAC, announced a virtual Federal Republic of Cabinda under the Presidency of N'Zita Henriques Tiago. One of the characteristics of the Cabindan independence movement is its constant fragmentation, into smaller and smaller factions.

Avenida 4 de Fevereiro with the bay of Luanda.

Main article: Transport in AngolaSONY VAIO PCG-21214V battery

Transport in Angola consists of:

Three separate railway systems totalling 2,761 km (1,715 mi)

76,626 km (47,613 mi) of highway of which 19,156 km (11,903 mi) is paved

1,295 navigable inland waterways

Eight major sea ports

243 airports, of which 32 are paved.

Travel on highways outside of towns and cities in Angola (and in some cases within) is often not best advised for those without four-by-four vehicles. While a reasonable road infrastructure has existed within Angola, time and the war have taken their toll on the road surfaces, leaving many severely potholedSONY VAIO PCG-21213V battery, littered with broken asphalt. In many areas drivers have established alternate tracks to avoid the worst parts of the surface, although careful attention must be paid to the presence or absence of landmine warning markers by the side of the road. The Angolan government has contracted the restoration of many of the country's roads. The road between Lubango and NamibeSONY VAIO PCG-21212V battery, for example, was completed recently with funding from the European Union, and is comparable to many European main routes. Progress to complete the road infrastructure is likely to take some decades, but substantial efforts are already being made in the right directions.

Coatinha beach in Benguela, Angola

Miradouro da Lua (watchpoint of the moon), situated at the coast 40 kilometers south of Luanda, AngolaSONY VAIO PCG-21212M battery

Main article: Geography of Angola

At 481,321 square miles (1,246,620 km2),[28] Angola is the world's twenty-third largest country (after Niger). It is comparable in size to Mali and is nearly twice the size of the US state of Texas, or five times the area of the United Kingdom. It lies mostly between latitudes 4° and 18°S, and longitudes 12° and 24°ESONY VAIO PCG-21211M battery.

Angola is bordered by Namibia to the south, Zambia to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north-east, and the South Atlantic Ocean to the west. The exclave of Cabinda also borders the Republic of the Congo to the north. Angola's capital, Luanda, lies on the Atlantic coast in the northwest of the countrySONY VAIO PCG-51212M battery.

Main article: Climate of Angola

Angola's average temperature on the coast is 60 °F (16 °C) in the winter and 70 °F (21 °C) in the summer. It has two seasons; dry season (May to October) and hot rainy season (November to April).

Recently finished new development area in Luanda Sul, 2009

Main article: Economy of Angola

Angola has a rich subsoil heritage, from diamonds, oil, gold, copper, as well as a rich wildlife (dramatically impoverished during the civil war), forest, and fossilsSONY VAIO PCG-51211M battery. Since independence, oil and diamonds have been the most important economic resource. Smallholder and plantation agriculture have dramatically dropped because of the Angolan Civil War, but have begun to recover after 2002. The transformation industry that had come into existence in the late colonial period collapsed at independenceSONY VAIO PCG-51112M battery, because of the exodus of most of the ethnic Portuguese population, but has begun to reemerge (with updated technologies), partly because of the influx of new Portuguese entrepreneurs. Similar developments can be verified in the service sector.

Overall, Angola's economy has undergone a period of transformation in recent years, moving from the disarray caused by a quarter century of civil war to being the fastest growing SONY VAIO PCG-51111M batteryeconomy in Africa and one of the fastest in the world, with an average GDP growth of 20 percent between 2005 and 2007.[29] In the period 2001–2010, Angola had the world's highest annual average GDP growth, at 11.1 percent. In 2004, China's Eximbank approved a $2 billion line of credit to Angola. The loan is being used to rebuild Angola's infrastructure, and has also limited the influence of the International Monetary Fund in the country. SONY VAIO PCG-51111V battery

The Economist reported in 2008 that diamonds and oil make up 60 percent of Angola's economy, almost all of the country's revenue and are its dominant exports.[31] Growth is almost entirely driven by rising oil production which surpassed 1.4 million barrels per day (220,000 m3/d) in late 2005 and was expected to grow to 2 million barrels per day (320,000 m3/d) by 2007SONY VAIO PCG-81211V battery. Control of the oil industry is consolidated in Sonangol Group, a conglomerate which is owned by the Angolan government. In December 2006, Angola was admitted as a member of OPEC.[32] The economy grew 18% in 2005, 26% in 2006 and 17.6% in 2007. However, due to the global recession the economy contracted an estimated −0.3% in 2009. SONY VAIO PCG-81111V battery The security brought about by the 2002 peace settlement has led to the resettlement of 4 million displaced persons, thus resulting in large-scale increases in agriculture production.

Ovens to produce clay block bricks in Angola

Although the country's economy has developed very significantly since achieving political stability in 2002, mainly thanks to the fast-rising earnings of the oil sector, Angola faces huge social and economic problemsSONY VAIO PCG-81212M battery. These are in part a result of the almost continual state of conflict from 1961 onwards, although the highest level of destruction and socio-economic damage took place after the 1975 independence, during the long years of civil war. However, high poverty rates and blatant social inequality are chiefly the outcome of a combination of a persistent political authoritarianismSony VAIO PCG-81112M battery, of "neo-patrimonial" practices at all levels of the political, administrative, military, and economic apparatuses, and of a pervasive corruption.[34] The main beneficiary of this situation is a social segment constituted since 1975, but mainly during the last decades, around the political, administrative, economic, and military power holders, which has accumulated SONY VAIO PCG-71111M battery (and continues accumulating) enormous wealth.[35] "Secondary beneficiaries" are the middle strata which are about to become social classes. However, overall almost half the population has to be considered as poor, but in this respect there are dramatic differences between the countryside and the cities (where by now slightly more than 50% of the people live) SONY VAIO PCG-7192V battery.

Offshore platform on move to final destination to the oilfields off the Angola coast, June 2010

An inquiry carried out in 2008 by the Angolan Instituto Nacional de Estatística has it that in the rural areas roughly 58% must be classified as "poor", according to UN norms, but in the urban areas only 19%, while the overall rate is 37%.[36] In the cities, a majority of familiesSONY VAIO PCG-7191V battery, well beyond those officially classified as poor, have to adopt a variety of survival strategies.[37] At the same time, in urban areas social inequality is most evident, and assumes extreme forms in the capital, Luanda.[38] In the Human Development Index Angola constantly ranks in the bottom group.[39]

According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative American think tank, oil production from Angola has increased so significantly that Angola now is China's biggest supplier of oil. SONY VAIO PCG-7196M battery Growing oil revenues have also created opportunities for corruption: according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, 32 billion US dollars disappeared from government accounts from 2007 to 2010.[41]

Before independence in 1975, Angola was a breadbasket of southern Africa and a major exporter of bananas, coffee and sisal, but three decades of civil war (1975–2002) destroyed the fertile countrysideSONY VAIO PCG-7195M battery, leaving it littered with landmines and driving millions into the cities. The country now depends on expensive food imports, mainly from South Africa and Portugal, while more than 90 percent of farming is done at family and subsistence level. Thousands of Angolan small-scale farmers are trapped in poverty.[42]

The enormous differences between the regions pose a serious structural problem in the Angolan economySONY VAIO PCG-7194M battery. This is best illustrated by the fact that about one third of the economic activities is concentrated in Luanda and the neighbouring Bengo province, while several areas of the interior are characterized by stagnation and even regression.[43]

One of the economic consequences of the social and regional disparities is a sharp increase in Angolan private investments abroadSONY VAIO PCG-7192M battery. The small fringe of Angolan society where most of the accumulation takes place seeks to spread its assets, for reasons of security and profit. For the time being, the biggest share of these investments is concentrated in Portugal where the Angolan presence (including that of the family of the state president) in banks as well as in the domais of energy, telecommunications, and mass media has become notable, as has the acquisition of vinyards and orchards as well as of touristic enterprises. SONY PCG-8113M battery

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Angola

Angola's population is estimated to be 18,498,000 (2009).[1] It is composed of Ovimbundu (language Umbundu) 37%, Ambundu (language Kimbundu) 25%, Bakongo 13%, and 32% other ethnic groups (including the Ovambo, the Ganguela and the Xindonga) as well as about 2% mestiços (mixed European and African) and 1% European[SONY PCG-8112M battery The Ambundu and Ovimbundu nations combined form a majority of the population, at 62%.[46] The population is forecast to grow to over 47 million people to 2060, nearly tripling the estimated 16 to 18 million in 2011.[47] The last official census was taken in 1970, and showed the total population as being 5.6 million.[48] The first post-independence census is to be held in 2013SONY PCG-7134M battery .

It is estimated that Angola was host to 12,100 refugees and 2,900 asylum seekers by the end of 2007. 11,400 of those refugees were originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) who arrived in the 1970s.[49] As of 2008 there were an estimated 400,000 DRC migrant workers,[50] at least 30,000 Portuguese, SONY PCG-7131M battery  and more than 20,000 Chinese living in Angola.[52] Since 2003, more than 400,000 Congolese migrants have been expelled from Angola.[53] Prior to independence in 1975, Angola had a community of approximately 350,000 Portuguese;[54] currently, there are just under 100,000 who are registered with the consulates, and increasing due to the debt crisis in Portugal. SONY PCG-7122M battery

[edit]Languages

Main article: Languages of Angola

The languages in Angola are those originally spoken by the different ethnic groups plus Portuguese due to the country being a former Portuguese colony. The indigenous languages with the largest usage are Umbundu, Kimbundu, and Kikongo, in that order. Portuguese is the official language of the countrySONY PCG-7121M battery.

Mastery of the official language in Angola is probably more extended than elsewhere in Africa, and this certainly applies to its use in everyday life. Moreover, and above all, the proportion of native (or near native) speakers of the language of the former colonizer, turned official after independence, is no doubt considerably higher than in any other African country. Population pyramid of Angola in 2012 from International FuturesSONY PCG-7113M battery

Street scene with children, April 2009

There are three intertwined historical reasons for this situation.

In the Portuguese “bridgeheads” Luanda and Benguela, which existed on the coast of what today is Angola since the 15th and 16th century, respectively, Portuguese was spoken not only by the Portuguese and their mestiço descendents, but—especially in and around Luanda—by a significant number of Africans, although these always remained native speakers of their local African languageSONY PCG-7112M battery.

Since the Portuguese conquest of the present territory of Angola, and especially since its “effective occupation” in the mid-1920s, schooling in Portuguese was slowly developed by the colonial state as well as by Catholic and Protestant missions. The rhythm of this expansion was considerably accelerated during the late colonial period, 1961–1974, so that by the end of the colonial period children all over the territory (with relatively few exceptions) had at least some access to the Portuguese language. SONY PCG-8Z3M battery

In the same late colonial period, the legal discrimination of the black population was abolished, and the state apparatus in fields like health, education, social work, and rural development was enlarged. This entailed a significant increase in jobs for Africans, under the condition that they spoke PortugueseSONY PCG-8Z2M battery.

As a consequence of all this, the African “lower middle class” which at that stage formed in Luanda and other cities began to often prevent their children from learning the local African language, in order to guarantee that they learned Portuguese as their native language. At the same time, the white and “mestiço” population, where some knowledge of African languages could previously often been foundSONY PCG-8Z1M battery , neglected this aspect more and more, to the point of frequently ignoring it totally. After independence, these tendencies continued, and were even strengthened, under the rule of the MPLA which has its main social roots exactly in those social segments where the mastery of Portuguese as well as the proportion of native Portuguese speakers was highest. This became a political side issueSONY PCG-8Y3M battery, as FNLA as well as UNITA, given their regional constituencies, came out in favour of a greater attention to the African languages, and as the FNLA favoured French over Portuguese.

The dynamics of the language situation, as described above, were additionally fostered by the massive migrations triggered by the Civil War. Ovimbundu, the most populous ethnic group and the most affected by the warSONY PCG-8Y2M battery, appeared in great numbers in urban areas outside their areas, especially in Luanda and surroundings. At the same time, a majority of the Bakongo who had fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 1960s, or of their children and grandchildren, returned to Angola, but mostly did not settle in their original "habitat", but in the cities—and again above all in LuandaSONY PCG-7Z1M battery. As a consequence, more than half the population is now living in the cities which, from the linguistic point of view, have become highly heterogeneous. This means, of course, that Portuguese as the overall language of communication is by now of paramount importance, and that the role of the African languages is steadily decreasing among the urban population—a trend which is beginning to spread into rural areas as wellSONY PCG-6W2M battery.

The exact numbers of those fluent in Portuguese or who speak Portuguese as a first language are unknown, although a census is expected to be carried out in 2013.[citation needed] Quite a number of voices demand the recognition of “Angolan Portuguese” as a specific variant, comparable to those spoken in Portugal or in Brazil. However, while there exists a certain number of idiomatic particularities in everyday PortugueseSONY PCG-5J5M battery , as spoken by Angolans, it remains to be seen whether or not the Angolan government comes to the conclusion that these particularities constitute a configuration that justifies the claim to be a new language variant.

Ethnic groups of Angola 1970

Main article: Religion in Angola

There are about 1000 mostly Christian religious communities in Angola.[57] While reliable statistics are nonexistent, estimates have it that more than half of the population are Roman CatholicsSONY PCG-5K2M battery, while about a quarter adhere to the Protestant churches introduced during the colonial period: the Congregationalists mainly among the Ovimbundu of the Central Highlands and the coastal region to its West, the Methodists concentrating on the Kimbundu speaking strip from Luanda to Malanje, the Baptists almost exclusively among the Bakongo of the Northwest (now massively present in Luanda as well) SONY PCG-5K1M batteryand dispersed Adventists, Reformed and Lutherans.[58] In Luanda and region there subsists a nucleus of the "syncretic" Tocoists and in the Northwest a sprinkling of Kimbanguism can be found, spreading from the Congo/Zaire. Since independence, hundreds of Pentecostal and similar communities have sprung up in the cities, where by now about 50% of the population is livingSONY PCG-5J4M battery; several of these communities/churches are of Brazilian origin. The Muslims, practically all of them immigrants from West African and other countries and belonging to the Sunnite branch, represent only about 1%; because of their diversity, they do not form a community. In 2011, according to the Islamic Community of Angola (Comunidade Islâmica de Angola, COIA) there were more than 80 mosques serving about 500,000 Muslims in Angola, and the number was growing. SONY PCG-5J1M battery

In a study assessing nations' levels of religious regulation and persecution with scores ranging from 0 to 10 where 0 represented low levels of regulation or persecution, Angola was scored 0.8 on Government Regulation of Religion, 4.0 on Social Regulation of Religion, 0 on Government Favoritism of Religion and 0 on Religious Persecution. SONY PCG-5G2M battery

Foreign missionaries were very active prior to independence in 1975, although since the beginning of the anti-colonial fight in 1961 the Portuguese colonial authorities expelled a series of Protestant missionaries and closed mission stations based on the belief that the missionaries were inciting pro-independence sentiments. Missionaries have been able to return to the country since the early 1990sSony VAIO PCG-8131M battery, although security conditions due to the civil war have prevented them until 2002 from restoring many of their former inland mission stations.[61]

The Roman Catholic and some major Protestant denominations mostly keep to themselves in contrast to the "New Churches" which actively proselytize. The Roman Catholic as well as some major Protestant denominations provide help for the poor in the form of crop seeds, farm animals, medical care and educationSony VAIO PCG-8152M battery.

Epidemics of cholera, malaria, rabies and African hemorrhagic fevers like Marburg hemorrhagic fever, are common diseases in several parts of the country. Many regions in this country have high incidence rates of tuberculosis and high HIV prevalence rates. Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis (river blindness) Sony VAIO PCG-31311M batteryare other diseases carried by insects that also occur in the region. Angola has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and one of the world's lowest life expectancies. A 2007 survey concluded that low and deficient niacin status was common in Angola.[65] Demographic and Health Surveys is currently conducting several surveys in Angola on malaria, domestic violence and more. Sony VAIO PCG-31111M battery

Children in an outdoor classroom in Bié, Angola

Training center in Luena, Moxico Province

Main article: Education in Angola

Although by law, education in Angola is compulsory and free for eight years, the government reports that a certain percentage of students are not attending school due to a lack of school buildings and teachers.[67] Students are often responsible for paying additional school-related expenses, including fees for books and supplies. Sony VAIO PCG-8112M battery

In 1999, the gross primary enrollment rate was 74 percent and in 1998, the most recent year for which data are available, the net primary enrollment rate was 61 percent.[67] Gross and net enrollment ratios are based on the number of students formally registered in primary school and therefore do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance. Sony VAIO PCG-7186M batteryThere continue to be significant disparities in enrollment between rural and urban areas. In 1995, 71.2 percent of children ages 7 to 14 years were attending school.[67] It is reported that higher percentages of boys attend school than girls.[67] During the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), nearly half of all schools were reportedly looted and destroyed, leading to current problems with overcrowding. Sony VAIO PCG-7171M battery

The Ministry of Education hired 20,000 new teachers in 2005, and continued to implement teacher trainings.[67] Teachers tend to be underpaid, inadequately trained, and overworked (sometimes teaching two or three shifts a day).[67] Some teachers may also reportedly demand payment or bribes directly from their students. Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1M battery Other factors, such as the presence of landmines, lack of resources and identity papers, and poor health also prevent children from regularly attending school.[67] Although budgetary allocations for education were increased in 2004, the education system in Angola continues to be extremely under-funded. Sony VAIO PCG-5S1M battery

Literacy is quite low, with 67.4% of the population over the age of 15 able to read and write in Portuguese.[68] 82.9% of males and 54.2% of women are literate as of 2001.[69] Since independence from Portugal in 1975, a number of Angolan students continued to be admitted every year at high schools, polytechnical institutes, and universities in Portugal, Brazil and Cuba through bilateral agreements; in general, these students belong to the Angolan elitesSony VAIO PCG-5P1M battery.

Yombe-sculpture, 19th century

Main article: Culture of Angola

See also: Music of Angola and Angolan cuisine

Portugal has been present in Angola for 400 years, occupied the territory in the 19th and early 20th century, and ruled over it for about 50 years. As a consequence, both countries share cultural aspects: language (Portuguese) and main religion (Roman Catholic Christianity). Of course, the "substrate" of Angolan culture is African, mostly Bantu, while Portuguese culture has been importedSony VAIO PCG-5N2M battery. The diverse ethnic communities – the Ovimbundu, Ambundu, Bakongo, Chokwe, and other peoples – maintain to varying degrees their own cultural traits, traditions and languages, but in the cities, where slightly more than half of the population now lives, a mixed culture has been emerging since colonial times – in Luanda since its foundation in the 16th century. In this urban cultureSony VAIO PCG-3C2M battery, the Portuguese heritage has become more and more dominant. An African influence is evident in music and dance, and is moulding the way in which Portuguese is spoken, but is almost disappearing from the vocabulary. This process is well reflected in contemporary Angolan literature, especially in the works of Pepetela and Ana Paula Ribeiro TavaresSony VAIO PCG-8161M battery.

Leila Lopes, Miss Angola 2011, was crowned Miss Universe 2011 in Brazil on 12 September 2011 making her the first Angolan to win the pageant.

Benin (French: Bénin, formerly Dahomey), officially the Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin), is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Togo to the west, by Nigeria to the east and by Burkina Faso and Niger to the northSony VAIO PCG-8141M battery. A majority of the population live on its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin.[4] The capital of Benin is Porto-Novo, but the seat of government is in Cotonou, the country's largest city. Benin covers an area of approximately 110,000 square kilometers (42,000 sq mi), with a population of approximately 9.05 million. Benin is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with substantial employment and income arising from subsistence farming. Sony VAIO PCG-3J1M battery

The official language of Benin is French. However, indigenous languages such as Fon and Yoruba are commonly spoken. The largest religious group in Benin is Roman Catholicism, followed closely by Islam, Vodun and Protestantism. Benin is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation ZoneSony VAIO PCG-3H1M battery, La Francophonie, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, the African Petroleum Producers Association and the Niger Basin Authority.[6]

From the 17th to the 19th century, modern day Benin was ruled by the Kingdom of Dahomey. This region was referred to as the Slave Coast from as early as the 17th century due to the large number of slaves shipped to the New World during the Trans-Atlantic slave tradeSony VAIO PCG-3F1M battery. After slavery was abolished, France took over the country and renamed it French Dahomey. In 1960, Dahomey gained full independence from France, bringing in a democratic government for the next 12 years.[7]

A Marxist-Leninist state called the People's Republic of Benin existed between 1972 and 1990. Many sources state this regime led to repression and the collapse of the economy. The Republic of Benin was formed in 1991 which brought in multiparty electionsSony VAIO PCG-3C1M battery.

The Kingdom of Dahomey formed from a mixture of ethnic groups on the Abomey plain. Historians theorize that the insecurity caused by slave trading may have contributed to mass migrations of groups to modern day Abomey, including some Aja, a Gbe people who are believed to have founded the city.[10] Those Aja living in Abomey mingled with the local Fon peopleSony VAIO PCG-9Z2L battery, also a Gbe people, creating a new ethnic group known as "Dahomey".[11]

The Gbe peoples are said to be descendents of a number of migrants from Wyo. Gangnihessou (a member of an Aja dynasty that in the 16th century along with the Aja populace had come from Tado before settling and ruling separately in what is now Abomey, Allada, and Porto Novo) became the first ruler of the Dahomey Kingdom. Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1L batteryDahomey had a military culture aimed at securing and eventually expanding the borders of the small kingdom with its capital at modern-day Abomey.

The Dahomey Kingdom was known for its culture and traditions. Young boys were often apprenticed to older soldiers, and taught the kingdom's military customs until they were old enough to join the army. Sony VAIO PCG-9131L batteryDahomey was also famous for instituting an elite female soldier corps, called Ahosi or "our mothers" in the Fongbe language, and known by many Europeans as the Dahomean Amazons. This emphasis on military preparation and achievement earned Dahomey the nickname of "black Sparta" from European observers and 19th century explorers like Sir Richard Burton. Sony VAIO PCG-8161L battery

The kings of Dahomey sold their war captives into transatlantic slavery;[16] otherwise the captives would have been killed in a ceremony known as the Annual Customs. By about 1750, the King of Dahomey was earning an estimated £250,000 per year by selling Africans to the European slave-traders.[17] Though the leaders of Dahomey appeared initially to resist the slave tradeSony VAIO PCG-8152L battery, it flourished in the region of Dahomey for almost three hundred years (beginning in 1472 with a trade agreement with Portuguese merchants), leading to the area being named "the Slave Coast". Court protocols, which demanded that a portion of war captives from the kingdom's many battles be decapitated, decreased the number of enslaved people exported from the areaSony VAIO PCG-8141L battery. The number went from 20,000 per year at the beginning of the seventeenth century to 12,000 at the beginning of the 19th century.[citation needed] The decline was partly due to the banning[citation needed] of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Britain and other countries. This decline continued until 1885, when the last Portuguese slave ship departed from the coast of the present-day Benin RepublicSony VAIO PCG-8131L battery.

In 1892, the French, led by Colonel Dodds, a Senegalese mulatto, invaded Dahomey.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, Dahomey started to lose its status as the regional power. This enabled the French to take over the area in 1892. In 1899, the French included the land called French Dahomey within the French West Africa colony. In 1958, France granted autonomy to the Republic of Dahomey, and full independence as of August 1, 1960Sony VAIO PCG-81312L battery. The president who led them to independence was Hubert Maga.

For the next twelve years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence. There were several coups and regime changes, with four figures dominating — Hubert Maga, Sourou Apithy, Justin Ahomadegbé and Emile Derlin Zinsou — the first three representing a different area and ethnicity of the countrySony VAIO PCG-81214L battery. These three agreed to form a presidential council after violence marred the 1970 elections.

On May 7, 1972, Maga turned over power to Ahomadegbe. On October 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Mathieu Ké

rékou overthrew the ruling triumvirate, becoming president and stating that the country will not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology, and wants neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism"Sony VAIO PCG-81115L battery. On November 30, however, he announced that the country was officially Marxist, under the control of the Military Council of the Revolution (CNR[citation needed]), which nationalized the petroleum industry and banks. On November 30, 1975, he renamed the country to People's Republic of Benin.

In 1979, the CNR was dissolved, and Kérékou arranged show elections where he was the only allowed candidate. Establishing relations with the People's Republic of ChinaSony VAIO PCG-81114L battery, North Korea, and Libya, he put nearly all businesses and economic activities under state control, causing foreign investment in Benin to dry up.[20] Kérékou attempted to reorganize education, pushing his own aphorisms such as "Poverty is not a fatality", resulting in a mass exodus of teachers, along with a large number of other professionals.[20] The regime financed itself by contracting to take nuclear waste first from the Soviet Union and later from France. Sony VAIO PCG-81113L battery

In 1980, Kérékou converted to Islam and changed his first name to Ahmed, then changed his name back after claiming to be a born-again Christian.

In 1989, riots broke out after the regime did not have money to pay its army. The banking system collapsed. Eventually Kérékou renounced Marxism and a convention forced Kérékou to release political prisoners and arrange elections.Sony VAIO PCG-7142L battery

The name of the country was changed to the Republic of Benin on March 1, 1990, once the newly formed country's constitution was complete, after the abolition of Marxism–Leninism in the nation in 1989.

In 1991, Kérékou was defeated by Nicéphore Soglo, and became the first black African president to step down after an election. Kérékou returned to power after winning the 1996 voteSony VAIO PCG-7141L battery. In 2001, a closely fought election resulted in Kérékou winning another term, after which his opponents claimed election irregularities.

Kérékou and former president Soglo did not run in the 2006 elections, as both were barred by the constitution's restrictions on age and total terms of candidates. Kérékou is widely praised[citation needed] for making no effort to change the constitution so that he could remain in office or run again, unlike many African leadersSony VAIO PCG-71111L battery.

On March 5, 2006, an election was held that was considered free and fair. It resulted in a runoff between Yayi Boni and Adrien Houngbédji. The runoff election was held on March 19, and was won by Boni, who assumed office on April 6. The success of the fair multi-party elections in Benin won praise internationally. Boni was reelected in 2011, taking 53.18% of the vote in the first round—enough to avoid a runoff electionSony VAIO PCG-61411L battery, becoming the first president to win an election without a runoff since the restoration of democracy in 1991.

Main article: Politics of Benin

Benin's politics take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, where the President of Benin is both head of state and head of government, within a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the governmentSony VAIO PCG-61112L battery. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the legislature. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The political system is derived from the 1990 Constitution of Benin and the subsequent transition to democracy in 1991.

Benin scored highly in the 2009 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which comprehensively measures the state of governance across the continentSony VAIO PCG-61111L battery. Benin was ranked 15th out of 53 African countries, and scored particularly well in the categories of Safety & Security and Participation & Human Rights.[23]

In its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Benin 53rd out of 169 countries.

Benin has been rated equal-88th out of 159 countries in a 2005 analysis of police, business and political corruption.Sony VAIO PCG-5T4L battery

Departments and communes

Departments of Benin

Main articles: Departments of Benin and Communes of Benin

Benin is divided into 12 departments (French: départements), and subdivided into 77 communes. In 1999, the previous six departments were each split into two halves, forming the current 12. The six new departments have not been assigned an official capital yet.

Benin, a narrow, north-south strip of land in west Africa, lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. Benin lies between latitudes 6° and 13°N, and longitudes 0° and 4°ESony VAIO PCG-5T3L battery. Benin is bounded by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east, and the Bight of Benin to the south.

With an area of 112,622 km2 (43,484 sq mi), Benin extends from the Niger River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south, a distance of 650 km (404 mi). Although the coastline measures 121 km (75 mi) the country measures about 325 km (202 mi) at its widest point.

It is one of the smaller countries in West Africa, one-eighth the size of Nigeria, its neighbor to the east. It is, however, twice as large as Togo, its neighbor to the westSony VAIO PCG-5T2L battery.

Benin shows little variation in elevation and can be divided into four areas from the south to the north, starting with the low-lying, sandy, coastal plain (highest elevation 10 m (32.8 ft)) which is, at most, 10 km (6.2 mi) wide. It is marshy and dotted with lakes and lagoons communicating with the ocean. Behind the coast lies the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic-covered plateaus of southern Benin Sony VAIO PCG-5S3L battery (altitude between 20 and 200 m (66 and 656 ft)), which are split by valleys running north to south along the Couffo, Zou, and Oueme Rivers.

Then an area of flat lands dotted with rocky hills whose altitude seldom reaches 400 m (1,312 ft) extends around Nikki and Save. Finally, a range of mountains extends along the northwest border and into Togo; this is the Atacora, with the highest point, Mont Sokbaro, at 658 m (2,159 ft) Sony VAIO PCG-5S2L battery.

Benin has fields of lying fallow, mangroves, and remnants of large sacred forests. In the rest of the country, the savanna is covered with thorny scrubs and dotted with huge baobab trees. Some forests line the banks of rivers. In the north and the northwest of Benin the Reserve du W du Niger and Pendjari National Park attract tourists eager to see elephants, lions, antelopes, hippos, and monkeys. Sony VAIO PCG-5S1L battery Historically Benin has served as habitat for the endangered Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus;[26] however, this canid is thought to have been locally extirpated.

Benin's climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall in the coastal area averages 1300 mm or about 51 inches. Benin has two rainy and two dry seasons per year. The principal rainy season is from April to late July, with a shorter less intense rainy period from late September to NovemberSony VAIO PCG-5R2L battery. The main dry season is from December to April, with a short cooler dry season from late July to early September. Temperatures and humidity are high along the tropical coast. In Cotonou, the average maximum temperature is 31 °C (87.8 °F); the minimum is 24 °C (75.2 °F).[25]

Variations in temperature increase when moving north through a savanna and plateau toward the Sahel. A dry wind from the Sahara called the Harmattan blows from December to MarchSony VAIO PCG-5R1L battery, during which grass dries up, the vegetation turns reddish brown, and a veil of fine dust hangs over the country, causing the skies to be overcast. It also is the season when farmers burn brush in the fields.[25]

Main article: Economy of Benin

Cotton field in northern Benin

The economy of Benin is dependent on subsistence agriculture, cotton production, and regional trade. Cotton accounts for 40 percent of GDP and roughly 80 percent of official export receipts. Sony VAIO PCG-5P4L battery Growth in real output has averaged around 5 percent in the past seven years, but rapid population growth has offset much of this increase. Inflation has subsided over the past several years. Benin uses the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro.

Benin’s economy has continued to strengthen over the past years, with real GDP growth estimated at 5.1 and 5.7 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively. The main driver of growth is the agricultural sectorSony VAIO PCG-5P2L battery, with cotton being the country’s main export, while services continue to contribute the largest part of GDP largely because of Benin’s geographical location, enabling trade, transportation, transit and tourism activities with its neighbouring states.[28]

In order to raise growth still further, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourismSony VAIO PCG-5N4L battery, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology. Projects to improve the business climate by reforms to the land tenure system, the commercial justice system, and the financial sector were included in Benin's US$307 million Millennium Challenge Account grant signed in February 2006. Sony VAIO PCG-5N2L battery

Benin Exports (2009) by Product Category

The Paris Club and bilateral creditors have eased the external debt situation, with Benin benefiting from a G8 debt reduction announced in July 2005, while pressing for more rapid structural reforms. An insufficient electrical supply continues to adversely affect Benin's economic growth though the government recently has taken steps to increase domestic power production. Sony VAIO PCG-51513L battery

Although trade unions in Benin represent up to 75% of the formal workforce, the large informal economy has been noted by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITCU) to contain ongoing problems, including a lack of women's wage equality, the use of child labour, and the continuing issue of forced labour. Sony VAIO PCG-51511L battery

Benin is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).

Cotonou harbors the country's only seaport and international airport. A new port is currently under construction between Cotonou and Porto Novo. Benin is connected by 2 lane asphalted roads to its neighboring countries (Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria) Sony VAIO PCG-51412L battery. Mobile telephone service is available across the country through various operators. ADSL connections are available in some areas. Benin is connected to the Internet by way of satellite connections (since 1998) and a single submarine cable SAT-3/WASC (since 2001), keeping the price of data extremely high. Relief is expected with initiation of the Africa Coast to Europe cable in 2011Sony VAIO PCG-51411L battery.

Currently, about a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.[32]

Woman from Kobli, Atakora, Benin.

Main article: Demography of Benin

The majority of Benin's population lives in the south. The population is young, with a life expectancy of 59 years. About 42 African ethnic groups live in this country; these various groups settled in Benin at different times and also migrated within the country. Ethnic groups include the Yoruba in the southeast (migrated from Nigeria in the 12th century) Sony VAIO PCG-51312L battery; the Dendi in the north-central area (they came from Mali in the 16th century); the Bariba and the Fula (French: Peul or Peulh; Fula: Fulɓe) in the northeast; the Betammaribe and the Somba in the Atacora Range; the Fon in the area around Abomey in the South Central and the Mina, Xueda, and Aja (who came from Togo) on the coast. Sony VAIO PCG-51311L battery

Recent migrations have brought other African nationals to Benin that include Nigerians, Togolese, and Malians. The foreign community also includes many Lebanese and Indians involved in trade and commerce. The personnel of the many European embassies and foreign aid missions and of nongovernmental organizations and various missionary groups account for a large part of the 5500 European population.[25] A small part of the European population consists of Beninese citizens of French ancestry, whose ancestors ruled Benin and left after independenceSony VAIO PCG-51211L battery.

Main article: Health in Benin

See also: HIV/AIDS in Benin

During the 1980s, less than 30% of the population had access to primary health care services. Benin had one of the highest death rates for children under the age of five in the world. Its infant mortality rate stood at 203 deaths for every 1000 live births. Only one in three mothers had access to child health care servicesSony VAIO PCG-41112L battery. The Bamako Initiative changed that dramatically by introducing community-based health care reform, resulting in more efficient and equitable provision of services.[33] A comprehensive approach strategy was extended to all areas of health care, with subsequent improvement in the health care indicators and improvement in health care efficiency and cost.[34] Demographic and Health Surveys has completed three surveys in Benin since 1996. Sony VAIO PCG-3A4L battery

See also: Literature of Benin and Music of Benin

Beninese literature had a strong oral tradition long before French became the dominant language.[36] Felix Couchoro wrote the first Beninese novel, L'Esclave in 1929.

Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumbaSony VAIO PCG-3A3L battery.

Singer Angélique Kidjo and actor Djimon Hounsou were both born in Cotonou, Benin. Composer Wally Badarou and singer Gnonnas Pedro are also of Beninese descent.

Biennale Benin, continuing the projects of several organizations and artists started in the country in 2010 as a collaborative event called "Regard Benin". In 2012, the project become a Biennial coordinated by the Consortium, a federation of local associationsSony VAIO PCG-3A2L battery. The international exhibition and artistic program of the 2012 Biennale Benin is curated by Abdellah Karroum and the Curatorial Delegation.

Customary names

Many Beninois in the south of the country have Akan-based names indicating the day of the week on which they were born. This is due to influence of the Akan people likely the Akwamu and othersSony VAIO PCG-3A1L battery.

Main article: Languages of Benin

Local languages are used as the languages of instruction in elementary schools, with French only introduced after several years. In wealthier cities, however, French is usually taught at an earlier age. Beninese languages are generally transcribed with a separate letter for each speech sound (phoneme), rather than using diacritics as in French or digraphs as in EnglishSony VAIO PCG-394L battery. This includes Beninese Yoruba, which in Nigeria is written with both diacritics and digraphs. For instance, the mid vowels written é è, ô, o in French are written e, ɛ, o, ɔ in Beninese languages, whereas the consonants written ng and sh or ch in English are written ŋ and c. However, digraphs are used for nasal vowels and the labial-velar consonants kp and gb, as in the name of the Fon language Fon gbe /fõ ɡ͡be/, and diacritics are used as tone marksSony VAIO PCG-393L battery. In French-language publications, a mixture of French and Beninese orthographies may be seen.

Main article: Religion in Benin

Celestial Church of Christ baptism in Cotonou. Five percent of Benin's population belongs to the Celestial Church of Christ, an African Initiated Church.

In the 2010 census, 27.2% of the population of Benin were Christian (7.1% Roman Catholic, 5% Celestial Church of Christ, 3.2% Methodist, 7.5% other Christian denominations), 24.4% were Muslim, 17.3% practiced Vodun, 6% other traditional local religious groups, 1.9% other religious groups, and 6.5% claim no religious affiliation. Sony VAIO PCG-391L battery

Indigenous religions include local animistic religions in the Atakora (Atakora and Donga provinces) and Vodun and Orisha or Orisa veneration among the Yoruba and Tado peoples in the center and south of the country. The town of Ouidah on the central coast is the spiritual center of Beninese VodunSony VAIO PCG-384L battery.

The major introduced religions are Christianity, followed throughout the south and center of Benin and in Otammari country in the Atakora, and Islam, introduced by the Songhai Empire and Hausa merchants, and now followed throughout Alibori, Borgou, and Donga provinces, as well as among the Yoruba (who also follow Christianity) Sony VAIO PCG-383L battery. Many, however, continue to hold Vodun and Orisha beliefs and have incorporated the pantheon of Vodun and Orisha into Christianity. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect originating in the 19th century is also present, in a significant minority.

Main article: Education in Benin

The literacy rate in Benin is among the lowest in the world: in 2002 it was estimated to be 34.7% (47.9% for males and 23.3% for females). Sony VAIO PCG-382L battery Although at one time the education system was not free,[40] Benin has abolished school fees and is carrying out the recommendations of its 2007 Educational Forum.[41]

Acarajé is peeled black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried

Main article: Benin cuisine

Beninese cuisine is known in Africa for its exotic ingredients and flavorful dishes. Beninese cuisine involves lots of fresh meals served with a variety of sauces. In southern Benin cuisine, the most common ingredient is cornSony VAIO PCG-381L battery, often used to prepare dough which is mainly served with peanut- or tomato-based sauces. Fish and chicken are the most common meats used in southern Beninese cuisine, but beef, goat, and bush rat are also consumed. The main staple in northern Benin is yams, often served with sauces mentioned above. The population in the northern provinces use beef and pork meat which is fried in palm or peanut oil or cooked in saucesSony VAIO PCG-7185L battery. Cheese is used in some dishes. Couscous, rice, and beans are commonly eaten, along with fruits such as mangoes, oranges, avocados, bananas, kiwi fruit, and pineapples.[42]

Meat is usually quite expensive, and meals are generally light on meat and generous on vegetable fat. Frying in palm or peanut oil is the most common meat preparation, and smoked fish is commonly prepared in Benin. Grinders are used to prepare corn flour, which is made into a dough and served with saucesSony VAIO PCG-7184L battery. "Chicken on the spit" is a traditional recipe in which chicken is roasted over fire on wooden sticks. Palm roots are sometimes soaked in a jar with saltwater and sliced garlic to tenderize them, then used in dishes. Many people have outdoor mud stoves for cooking.

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