The Republic of Benin is a West African country bordering Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. With nearly 11.5 million inhabitants, the former French colony has experienced a vast political change in its continuous effort to fortify its economy and provide for its people. However, despite its efforts, homelessness in Benin remains a problem. To understand this issue better, here are five facts about homelessness in Benin.
5 Facts About Homelessness in Benin
- An increasing rate of poverty means that more people may be faced with homelessness in Benin. While the specific number of homeless people is not determined, poverty rates clearly show a large portion of the population living in dire circumstances. Recently, the government has attempted economic reform, and there has been growth. However, more people are living in poverty than in previous years. In 2018, the poverty rate was 46.4% while it was 40.1% in 2015.
Rapid population growth may increase homelessness in Benin. There is also little economic stability to prepare for it. Although there has been economic growth, there are severe geographic inequities within the country. Fifty-one percent of employment depends on agricultural exports, which shows a lack of economic diversification. As a result, millions of people have no sustenance or financial means whenever trade opportunities or agricultural pursuits are unsuccessful. There is rapid population growth, averaging about 3.5% every year, and the economy is not strong enough to provide for the increasing number of births.
Existing housing is deteriorating. Also, a lack of financial resources makes it difficult for the majority to purchase or build new homes. Many of the existing houses need to be renovated since they were built over 30 years ago. Furthermore, low-lying houses can become flooded during the rainy season, causing more damage to already declining houses. With a fast-growing population and an extremely low minimum wage at $67, an average person cannot afford a high cost of building materials. Even if someone can afford to purchase land, the cost of building a tiny house may be insurmountable. Extended family members often live together because of a lack of capital. Consequently, living conditions are grossly inadequate, and overcrowding is common as many relatives live together. Issues with housing affordability may be an attribute of homelessness in Benin.
Urban development has caused homelessness in Benin. The government has attempted to focus on urban development, hoping to stir economic activity and investment. However, this has come at an expense to Beninese citizens. In the past year, over 120 homes were bulldozed in the district of Xwlacodji. Many of the residents had lived there for generations, yet had never received an official deed granting them property ownership. They were never notified of the plans to bulldoze their homes and belongings. Now, most are homeless and sleep outside or in public buildings. Despite the government’s motivations, many were left homeless.
The government is trying to reconcile its urban development with aid to its poorest citizens. The government has renewed efforts to stimulate growth and reduce inequality in the country. Although this mission has harmed the Beninese with its demolition of local homes, there are upsides to its developmental and aid plans. These benefits include providing universal healthcare, offering cash grants to those working in the national interest, aiding those with disabilities and refinancing grants to areas of geographic disadvantage. Furthermore, Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, has committed to building 20,000 housing units that the government will provide to its citizens at a subsidized cost. With the poorest 20% of the population living in severe poverty, these reforms will enable the homeless to find economic opportunities and necessary social services.
The Republic of Benin has struggled with its rate of poverty in recent years. Its economy depends mostly on its agricultural exports, which is problematic for growth and development. President Talon has proven to be aggressive in his attempts to bring financial opportunities to the Beninese. These factors, among others, have perpetuated homelessness in Benin. However, there are reasons to be hopeful for the future. Talon seeks to bring new government aid and social services to the poorest 20% of the population. With new cash advances and subsidized housing, hopefully, homelessness in Benin will soon be a thing of the past.
– Eliza Cochran