- History of the U.S. and Benin
- Current Issues
The following information is courtesy of the State Department Country Fact Sheet on Benin, last updated December 12, 2015.
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, followed by one-party, Marxist-Leninist rule until the early 1990s, when the country transitioned to a democratic government. In the years since then, the history of bilateral relations has been excellent. The United States supports the consolidation of democracy and economic liberalization in Benin. Presidential and legislative elections in 2011 were peaceful and benefited from strong citizen participation and robust press freedom. However, poor health care, low quality of public education, and insufficiently transparent governance persist as obstacles to national development.
U.S. Assistance to Benin
The United States supports efforts to improve the health of Beninese families by reducing the malaria disease burden, improving the health of mothers and young children, and strengthening the health system. U.S. assistance also provides support to Benin’s defense and military capacity enhancement, enabling the country to maintain domestic peace and security while contributing to regional stability.
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 vehicles, oil, machinery, low-value shipments, 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 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. In September 2015, Benin and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a second compact for $375 million, plus a $28 million contribution from the Government of Benin. The MCC compact aims to strengthen Benin’s national utility, attract private sector investment, and fund infrastructure investments in electric generation and distribution as well as off-grid electrification for poor and unserved households.