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Littoral - Benin
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About Location

Cotonou is the economic capital of Benin, as well as its largest city.Its official population count was 761,137 inhabitants in 2006; however, some estimates indicate its population may be as high as 1.2 million.The population in 1960 was only 70,000.The urban area continues to expand, notably towards the west.The city lies in the southeast of the country, between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Nokoue.

In addition to being Benin's largest city, it houses many of its government and diplomatic services; thus, it is Benin's de facto capital, even though the official capital is Porto-Novo.The city is a major port, and is also home to an airport and a railway that links to Parakou. Other features of Cotonou include Cotonou Friendship Stadium, Cotonou Cathedral, Cotonou Central Mosque, the Ancien Pont Bridge and the 20-hectare Dantokpa Market, which has a commercial turnover of over a billion CFA Francs a day.The National University of Benin is located in Cotonou. Another familiar feature of the city is the motorcycle–taxis known as Zémidjans.

The name 'Cotonou' means 'the mouth of the river of death' in the Fon language.At the beginning of the 19th century, Cotonou (then spelled Kotonou) was merely a small fishing village.Originally dominated by the Kingdom of Dahomey, in 1851 the French made a treaty with the Dahomean King Ghezo that allowed them to establish a trading post at Cotonou.During the reign of Glele, his successor (1858–89), the territory was ceded to France by a treaty signed on May 19, 1868.In 1883, the French navy occupied the city to prevent British conquest of the area.After Glele's death in 1889, his son Behanzin tried, unsuccessfully, to challenge the treaty.From then on, the town developed quickly to become the largest harbour in the region.

In June 2000, the Cotonou Agreement treaty was signed between the European Union and the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP countries) in Cotonou.The Cotonou Agreement replaced the Lome Convention which had been the basis for ACP-EU development cooperation since 1975.The Cotonou Agreement has a much broader scope, and is aimed at the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty while contributing to sustainable development and to the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy.The revised Cotonou Agreement is also concerned with the fight against impunity and promotion of criminal justice through the International Criminal Court.It was signed by 79 ACP countries and the then fifteen Member States of the European Union.It entered into force in 2003 and is the latest agreement in the history of ACP-EU Development Cooperation.

Cotonou is located on the coastal strip between Lake Nokoue and the Atlantic Ocean.The city is cut in two by a canal, the lagoon of Cotonou, dug by the French in 1855.Three bridges are located in this area.The Oueme River flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Cotonou.The city has established transportation infrastructure including air, sea, river (to Porto Novo) and land routes that facilitate trade with its neighbors Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Togo.The erosion of the coast has noted for several decades.It worsened in 1961 following the major work undertaken in Benin with the construction of the Nangbeto dam and deep-water port of Cotonou, in Ghana with the Akossombo dam and in Togo at the port of Lome.Houssou Paul, a pilot project funded by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) revealed that in 40 years, the coast to the east of Cotonou fell by 400 meters.This erosion has led many people to leave their homes built along the coast.The Beninese state has decided to prohibit the pumping of sea and sand for the construction of protective dikes.

How to Reach

By Air

Cotonou Cadjehoun Airport (IATA: COO, ICAO: DBBB) is an airport located in Cotonou, the biggest city in Benin in West Africa.In 2004, the airport served 301,493 passengers.provides service to the capitals of the region and to France, as well as the major cities of Benin: Parakou, Kandi, Natitingou, Djougou, and Save.There are also road connections to several neighboring countries: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo.A notable form of transport in the city is known as a Zemidjan.

By Train

The Autonomous Port of Cotonou is one of the largest ports in West Africa.The city is connected to Parakou in the north of the country by the Benin-Niger railway.

By Road

There are also road connections to several neighboring countries: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo. A notable form of transport in the city is known as a Zemidjan.Because of these connections, Cotonou has become a crossroads of West African commerce, with much trade moving here from Abidjan because of the Ivorian Civil War.The city is a so-called 'market town,' enabling trade with the countries of the African interior, such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. In addition to the port, there is a free trade zone in the interior of the city for use by the landlocked Saharan states.

Key places to visit
Cotonou Cathedral, Dantokpa Market, Oueme River, Office de Radiodiffusion


Places to Visit

Cotonou Cathedral

Is a Roman Catholic cathedral, located near the Ancien Pont Bridge in Cotonou, Benin.It is noted for its distinct burgundy and white striped tiled architecture.Its tower stands towards the rear end left side of the main building.The cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cotonou.The diocese was originally created on June 26 1883 as the Apostolic Prefecture of Dahomey from the Apostolic Vicariate of Benin Coast, Nigeria.After several names changes under Dahomey, on 14 September 1955 it was promoted as the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cotonou.

Dantokpa Market

The Dantokpa Market is a market in Cotonou, Benin.It is one of the most important retailing areas in Benin, covering over 20 hectares.It is also economically important for the country, with a reported commercial turnover of over a billion CFA Francs a day.

Oueme River

Is a river in the countries of Benin and Nigeria.It flows into the Atlantic Ocean near the large city of Cotonou, Benin.Also known as the Weme River, this river has its source in the Atakora mountains of Benin.This river is about 300 miles (480 km) long and it flows past the towns of Carnotville and Ouémé to a large delta on the Gulf of Guinea near the seaport city of Cotonou.This river forms a significant part of the boundary between the countries of Benin and Nigeria.

Office de Radiodiffusion

Is a the mainstream terrestrial television channel and radio operator in Benin.It has its headquarters in Cotonou.

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