More information about Benin is available on the Benin Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States’ partnership with Benin is based on the goals of strengthening democratic institutions and respecting human rights, improving regional security, and assisting Benin to improve the health and prosperity of its people. The United States established diplomatic relations with Benin (then called Dahomey) in 1960, following its independence from France. Between 1960 and 1972, a succession of military coups brought about many changes of government. The last coup brought to power Mathieu Kerekou, who instituted one-party, Marxist-Leninist rule until the early 1990s. In 1990, Kerekou convened a National Conference that transitioned the country to a democratic government. In the years since, U.S.-Benin bilateral relations have been generally excellent. The United States supports the strengthening of democracy and economic liberalization in Benin.
For thirty years, Benin enjoyed a reputation as a model of democratic stability in an otherwise troubled region. President Patrice Talon, re-elected in 2021, has prioritized economic development over strengthening democratic institutions, and the space for pluralism, dissent, and free expression narrowed under his first administration from 2016-2021. Revisions to the electoral code and the law governing political parties prior to the 2019 legislative elections resulted in the ineligibility of all opposition parties, thereby ensuring that all 83 members of the National Assembly came from two pro-Talon parties. Benin’s first amendments to the 1990 constitution followed in 2020 limiting presidential candidates to those who can secure sponsorship from National Assembly members and mayors, further restricting competitive democracy and pluralism. Beninese pride in their democratic history persists, and Beninese are overall united in their dedication to peaceful coexistence among all religious and ethnic groups. Poor health, low levels of literacy and education, and major infrastructure gaps, however, persist as obstacles to national development.
U.S. Assistance to Benin
U.S. development assistance to Benin is implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Peace Corps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USAID’s highest-level efforts focus on assisting Benin in becoming more capable of fostering a healthier and democratic society. This is accomplished by strengthening health systems in an integrated manner and improving democracy, rights and governance. In addition to focusing on malarial prevention and maternal and child health, programming also addresses growing and emerging crises such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic. As part of U.S. global leadership, the United States is supporting Benin’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic by training health workers, delivering life-saving health commodities and equipment, and providing vaccines.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s six-year, $391 million Compact focuses on electric power, a key constraint to economic growth in Benin. Since the Compact entered into force in June 2017, it has incentivized the Government of Benin to strengthen its national electricity utility through a management contract, adopt tariff reforms, support private investment in renewable power generation, and create an enabling environment for off-grid electrification. By the Compact’s completion in June 2023, Benin will benefit from a more reliable, modernized electricity distribution grid that can accommodate demand growth over the coming decades, as well as expanded access to power for unserved communities and households through public-private partnerships for off-grid electrification.
The U.S. provides professionalization and capacity building assistance to Benin’s military and security forces aimed at promoting domestic and regional security and stability.
The United States also conducts other programs to support the acquisition of English language and soft skills among Beninese women and youth, professionalize and reinforce the capacity of local journalists, and promote strong ties between the American and Beninese people based on shared democratic values.
The Peace Corps has operated in Benin since 1968 and focuses its efforts on agriculture, health, and English language acquisition Currently, Peace Corps staff are supporting Government of Benin efforts in preventing the spread of COVID-19, including promoting vaccinations.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Benin is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Trade between Benin and the United States is small, but interest in U.S. products is growing. U.S. exports to Benin include used vehicles, oil, machinery, and perfumery/cosmetics. U.S. imports from Benin include shea butter and cashews. The United States aims to promote increased trade with Benin and thereby with Benin’s neighbors, particularly Nigeria, Niger, and Burkina Faso, whose imports often pass-through Benin. The United States also works to stimulate U.S. investment in key sectors such as energy, telecommunications, and transportation. Benin and the United States have a bilateral investment agreement. The United States also has a trade and investment framework agreement with the West African Economic and Monetary Union, of which Benin is a member.
Benin’s Membership in International Organizations
Benin and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Benin also is a member of International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). Benin maintains a mission at the United Nations in New York.
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Benin maintains an embassy in the United States at 2124 Kalorama Road, Washington, DC 20008, tel. 202-232-6656.
More information about Benin is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: