Cotonou (French pronunciation: [kɔtɔnu]; Fon: Kútɔ̀nú) is the largest city and economic centre of Benin. Its official population count was 761,137 inhabitants in 2006; however, some estimates indicate its population to be as high as 2.4 million. The population in 1960 was only 70,000. The urban area continues to expand, notably toward the west. The city lies in the southeast of the country, between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Nokoué.
In addition to being Benin’s largest city, it is the seat of government, although Porto-Novo is the official capital. It is home to most of the country’s government buildings and diplomatic services.
Cotonou is on the coastal strip between Lake Nokoué 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 in this area. The Ouémé River flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Cotonou.
Coastal erosion has been noted for several decades. It worsened in 1961 following the construction of the Nangbeto Dam and deep-water port of Cotonou. A pilot project funded by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) revealed that in 40 years, the coast to the east of Cotonou had retreated by 400 meters. This erosion has led many people to leave their homes along the coast.
Under Köppen’s climate classification, Cotonou features a tropical wet and dry climate, alternating with two rainy seasons (April–July and September–October, 800 to 1,200 mm (47 in) of rain per year) and two dry seasons. In December and January, the city is affected by harmattan winds. Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the year, with the average high temperatures hovering around 30 °C (86 °F), and average low temperatures at around 25 °C (77 °F).
- 1979: 320,348 (census count)
- 1992: 536,827 (census count)
- 2002: 665,100 (census count)
- 2013: 679,012 (census count)
- 2017: 2,401,067 (census count)
The Autonomous Port of Cotonou is one of the largest in West Africa. The city is connected to Parakou in the north by the Benin-Niger railway. Cotonou International Airport provides service to the capitals of the region and to France, as well as the major cities of Benin: Parakou, Kandi, Natitingou, Djougou, and Savé. There are road connections to neighboring countries: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo. A prevalent mode of transport in the city is the motorcycle-taxi, known locally as zémidjan.
Important manufactured goods include palm oil, brewing, textiles, and cement. Motor vehicles and bicycles are assembled, and there are sawmills in the city. Petroleum products, bauxite, and iron are major exports. There are offshore platforms drilling for oil. The city is a centre for the automotive trade, with European brands being sold from vast open-air parking lots. In the past, Citroën assembled cars (for instance, the Citroën 2CV and Ami 8) locally.
In the Missebo area is a textile market of African prints mainly handled by Indian wholesalers and retailers.
Place of Worship
Among the places of worship, Christian churches are predominant: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cotonou (Catholic Church), Protestant Methodist Church in Benin (World Methodist Council), Baptist Church of Benin (Baptist World Alliance), Living Faith Church Worldwide, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Assemblies of God. There are also Muslim mosques.