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Dahomey was a prominent kingdom in west of Africa during the pre-colonial

period. In the height of the Atlantic slave trade in the 18 th and 19th century,
Dahomey reached the height of its power and prestige as Abomey, its capital,
ventured into military expansion and consolidation. They became heavenly involved
with the European slave trade which aided its prosperity. But when the slave trade
ended, it had grave implications on Dahomeys economy. The state was both
unwilling and incapable to provide primary produce to their colonial market while
palm oil, their primary export product could not produce as much income as they
were earning during the slave trade. When they could not any more rise from this
situation, the French took over their Port, Port Novo, (which is not natural but man-
made) and caused a decline in their commerce. The French waged a full-scale
offensive against the leaders of Dahomey and soon thereafter, in 1872, Dahomey
became an official colony of the French. They gained their independence fairly
recently on August 1, 1960.

Dohomey today is known as the Republic of Benin. Its current government set
up is a Republic under a multi party democratic rule which has legal origins from the
Frenchs institutions and civil law with the incorporation of several customary laws.
Up to this day, the Beninese boasts of their strong civil society. Benin is one of the
most stable Democracies in Africa and the number of political parties continues to
proliferate. Though their development in the aspect of politics has been stable and
progressive, their economic development has not been as prosperous or successful.
Today, Benin is ranking as one of the poorest countries not only in Africa but more
importantly, in the world, as its current economic situation is severely
underdeveloped.

African countries are generalized to be poor as they were the major victims of
the slave trade. They were expropriated and they were severely abused for their
labor. Most African countries were enslaved by their colonizers and most of their
resources were used up that there was not much left for them to use to supposedly
better their economy. Today, Benin is also heavenly indebted and this impedes them
from recovering in terms of fiscal and economic difficulties. Aside from colonization,
Africa is continent located bellow the equatorial line. Their location has had extreme
implications on their societies. Their weather, especially the heat, has caused the
easier spread of diseases that has caused death to so many Africans. Common
diseases in Africa is HIV and AIDS that raised its toll as deaths caused by these
viruses have increased each year.

The volatility and instability of their economy began slightly after they gained
their independence from their colonizers in 1960. Besides the fact that they were
trying to maneuver their way with their newly gained independence, Oil, which was
one of their biggest sources of income ran out leaving them with no other choice
than to heavily rely on their subsistence agriculture and regional trading for
income. The regional trade they are involved with happened mostly with its
neighbouring country, Nigeria. Though there has been [slow] economic
development in Benin, as they are the largest producers of Cotton in Africa, this
industry still cannot sustain the fiscal and economical needs of the country.
Moreover, there was a succession of military-type governments which functioned as
a dictatorial government. This succession only concluded on 1972 when Mathieu
Kerekou held position in government and led Benins government utilizing strategies
that were greatly influenced by Marxists and Leninists principles. Benin was one of
the first few countries in Africa that successfully transitioned from a dictatorial kind
of government to a pluralistic political system or a democratic government.
During Kerekous reign, he established socialist collectivization on the countrys
agricultural sector. This and the escalating bureaucracy or the worsening of the
quality of bureaucracy of the countrys government also contributed to the
regression of their economic growth. In 1988, when international fiscal institutions
feared that Benin may not be able to pay off all the debts/loans that it has made,
these institutions demanded that Karekou made reforms on its fiscal policies.
Kerekou also went into a major privatization movement, privatizing more
properties, cutting government budget, and lessening the provision of and for social
services which sent students and labor unions in turmoil. Aware of the possible
consequences of his actions; knowing that the dissatisfaction of his people may
ignite them to stage a revolution against him and his administration, he held open
elections in 1991 and agreed to the creation of a new constitution. Rather than
investing on violence, which may cost Kerekou more than what he can handle, he
chose to consolidate democracy and invest on individual capacity instead.
Unfortunately, he did not win that elections. An economist and former director of
the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Soglo, was the newly
appointed president who at first gained support from his constitutions but failed to
sustain this support when he enforced austerity measures. These austerity
measures were costly as it reduced the standards of living of the Beninese people
by [almost] 50%. This again contributed to the already severely underdeveloped
state of Benin. In 1986, Kerekou again achieved victory during the elections. Though
he would have loved to have stayed in position some time longer, there were laws
that prevented him to do so, in protection from the expropriations of political
leaders during their incumbency, which was why in 2006, another new official was
elected into presidency. When improvement was seen within the operations of the
new administration, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund through
the G8 commitment would soon grant the cancelation and writing off a [great] part
of Benins foreign debts. The political turmoil faced by the early Benin government
has also hindered the country from developing, though it has not faced problems
with regards to political violence: civil war, the use of threat and violence by the
incumbent political powers to retain their positions and incumbency has also posed
to be an impediment for economic growth in the country because the interests of
the elite or the ruling class are put first before the interests of the commoners. It is
safe to assume that the government made investments on violence though the
people did not invest back, this may be considered to be a form repression as it is
only a one-sided violence.
Aid has helped Benin in great ways. Aid, in the form of foreign investments of
both public and private sectors have assisted the mitigation of economic difficulties
of Benin in the early 1990s as great amounts of investments have been injected
into the countrys economy. This can also be considered as a type of technical
assistance that would increase the capacity of the state. Aside from foreign
investments, military assistance, another form of aid which is considered as non-
cash development assistance, has been given to the county by the US government
although recently, the US government lifted their military assistance in Benin as a
consequence for its unwillingness to signing an impunity contract laid out by the
US government. The aid given by the US government was used by the state of
Benin for maintenance and equipping of their local military force. Proposition 13
from Besleys Fragile States and Development Policy states that, Military assistance
increases marginal gain and increases the parameter range in which there is
repression. This increases political stability and investment in fiscal and legal
capacity. Like what has been stated earlier, Benin is experiencing political stability,
as democracy has been working well for them and has brought them numerous
benefits since the 1990s.

The possible factors as to why Benin can be considered as a fragile state is


because first and foremost, it was once and most probably up until today,
Vulnerable. There was a period in time during the pre-colonial phase of Benin and
the post-colonial phase during reign in power of Kerekou where they were unwilling
and/or incapable to provide the basic goods and services to a significant portion of
their population. It is also vulnerable as it has been very difficult for them to recover
from the political and economical turmoil the country faced and experienced that
came one after the other. The state was also rather infective when it came to
enforcing contracts, protecting property rights and the redistribution of properties.
Benin may have invested less on fiscal and legal capacity. The strength in common
interest between the incumbent and the people may have varied which has caused
conflict between the two parties. While Kerekou opted for collectivicism, the people
wanted their part of the land, also known to be redistribution of land or property. But
since it would have more opportunity costs for Kereou as he invests on political
violence, he opted the choice to democratize and to redistribute lands which was
why they opted not to start a war. Another fundamental determinant of fragile
states is the amount of resource rents are aid that they receive. As it was stated
earlier, Benin relies on foreign aid to support their economy, but it was also stated
earlier that they are heavily indebted. These characteristics qualify a state to be
fragile.
Sources: All data and information were retrieved between August 4 August 8,
2011 from the following sites:

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107337.html?pageno=2

http://www.infoplease.com/country/profiles/benin.html

http://www.pbs.org/wonders/Episodes/Epi3/3_wondr2.htm

http://www.afrol.com/articles/10423

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13037572

http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/print/country-profiles/sub-saharan-
africa/benin/general-information/?no_cache=1&print=1

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bn.html

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