The industrial sector is limited and processes Benin’s raw materials, mainly agricultural products. Simpler consumer goods are produced, as are textiles and foods and beverages.
Cotton processing dominates and with the support of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), during the 2000s, the government tried to reduce state ownership in the industry to achieve increased efficiency and competitiveness. This has only been partially successful: about half of the processing is done privately today. The overcapacity is also large, as cotton harvests have fallen sharply in recent years.
There are also factories that make palm oil or process corn, cashew nuts and vegetables.
The heavier industry is dominated by cement production. During the 2000s, this has increased as more and more construction projects have begun, including new roads and housing. However, tightening of the state budget, together with a new tax on cement, was expected in 2012 and onwards to have an inhibitory effect on this sector. In 2010, French and Nigerian private interests took over the operation of state-owned cement company Onigbolo.
CFA franc will be eco 2020
Eight West African countries using the regional CFA franc agree in Abidjan in Ivory Coast that the currency should be renamed eco. It will continue to be linked to the euro, but the eight countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) will no longer have to keep 50 percent of their foreign exchange reserves in France, and France should no longer have any representative on the board of the currency union. The change will take effect in 2020. Critics of the CFA fringe see it as a remnant from the colonial era, while its proponents see it as a guarantee of financial stability.
Boni Yayi makes a short visit to Benin
20th of November
Opposition leader Thomas Boni Yayi returns to Benin after five months in exile. However, he leaves the homeland already after a day since the meeting with President Talon, which he hoped not to be lost. Boni Yayi wants to discuss a solution to the political crisis and the possibility of re-election, but Talon rejects the initiative. Tensions between Boni Yayi and Talon have increased significantly since the parliamentary elections (see April 2019).
New electoral laws are adopted
Parliament adopts a number of new laws that increase the number of Members of Parliament from 83 to 109. Twenty-four of the new seats will be reserved for women. At the same time, a new post as vice president will be established, and the country’s electoral authority will be reformed. The amount that a candidate in a presidential election must deposit is lowered from $ 420,000 to $ 84,000, while the candidacy must now be supported by 10 percent of the country’s MPs and mayors. However, the electoral laws that have contributed to the protests and unrest recently have not changed: political parties must continue to be approved by the authorities and be able to prove that they have paid certain taxes.
Cooperation with neighboring countries against smuggling
Benin, Niger and Nigeria join forces in the fight against widespread smuggling across the borders of the countries. The problem caused Nigeria to close its border on trade with the two neighboring states earlier this year. The three countries will set up a special monitoring and patrol committee.
National dialogue without opponents
President Talon invites nine political parties to a political “dialogue” with the goal of reducing the tensions that characterized the country since the elections were held without the participation of the opposition (see April 2019). Talon’s main political opponents, however, are in exile and their parties are holding shadow dialogues at the same time as Talon’s dialogue. The talks last for three days (between October 10 and October 12). No statements are made after the end of the dialogue about any results that have been achieved.
Nigeria closes the border
Nigeria closes its border with Benon and Niger in an attempt to stop the extensive smuggling. For example, rice is smuggled into Nigeria, where the government has banned imports to support its own rice farmers. Smugglers also buy subsidized Nigerian oil and sell it in neighboring countries.
Opposition politicians are sentenced to prison
Lionel Zinsou, former prime minister and candidate in the 2016 presidential election, is sentenced to six months in prison for violating the rules for election campaign work. He must have used false documents and exceeded the limits on how much money one can use in the election campaign. Zinsou is now prohibited from running for election in the next five years. Zinsou, who lives in France, is one of the foremost opposition politicians in Benin. He came second in the 2016 presidential election.
Boni Yayi leaves Benin
Opposition leader and president Boni Yayi leaves Benin for health reasons, after having been in house arrest in the northern part of the country for several weeks. Tensions between Yayi and President Talon have increased significantly over the same period.
Peacefully back on the streets
The tranquility returns to the streets of Coutonou after two days of rioting in protest of the disputed parliamentary elections. At least four people are killed when soldiers shoot sharply as they disperse protesters. The opposition states for media that the death toll is seven.
Violent protests against the election
Claws erupt in Contonou in protest of the election and President Talon. The protesters set fire to shops and banks, and burn barricades they set up themselves. Armored cars move around President Boni Yayi’s residence. Boni Yayi was one of the opposition leaders who called for the boycott. The government rejects information that Boni Yayi should be arrested.
Parliamentary elections without opposition
For the first time since democracy was restored in 1991, Benin is holding a parliamentary election without the opposition taking part. Only two presidential parties, the Progressive Union and the Republican Bloc, meet the high administrative demands placed on the parties under the electoral laws passed in September 2018. The Progressive Union wins 56 percent of the vote and receives 47 of the 83 seats, while the Republican Bloc takes home 44 percent and 36 seats. Demonstrations against the election are being arranged but quickly dispelled by the police. Amnesty Internationalwarns that the wave of arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters and journalists, as well as the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, has reached an alarmingly high level. Media reports that the Internet and social media have been blocked during Election Day. Voter turnout is as low as 27 percent, as many Beninis boycott the election at the request of opposition parties.