Benin - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution and Sales Channels

Discusses distribution network from how products enter to final destination, including reliability of distribution systems, distribution centers, ports, etc.
 

Last published date: 2021-09-29

Benin’s population is concentrated in the southern part of the country, particularly in greater Cotonou and surrounding areas. Retailers and consumers typically cluster in established public markets. Beninese-owned business feature in the wholesale sector, however it largely dominated by third-country owned businesses from Lebanon, India, Pakistan, and China.   The Dantokpa market in Cotonou is one of the largest markets in West Africa and is a central location for wholesalers and retailers alike.   Eighty percent of imports to Benin are estimated to be re-exported to Nigeria through informal networks; this reality remains   a significant component of local commerce.

The Port of Cotonou is a major gateway to Nigeria, and to landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Chad.  Cargo arriving in the Port is transported by road on trucks to various local and neighboring destinations.  Benin’s road linking the Port of Cotonou to the Togolese border is in good condition.  The Government of Benin is in the process of renovating its roads linking the Port of Cotonou to Niger and Burkina Faso.

Using an Agent to Sell U.S. Products and Services

U.S. companies considering entering the Beninese market, particularly if they have not previously done business in the region, should consider working with a reputable agent or distributor who is fluent in both French and English and familiar with local business practices.  Having documentation and literature in French about the products or services is advisable.

The U.S. Embassy’s Economic and Commercial Section may help U.S. companies identify suitable partners by conducting due diligence research through fee-based services payable to U.S. Foreign Commercial Service in Lagos, Nigeria.

Establishing an Office

Documents for business startup submitted to Benin’s “one-stop window” for business creation include a certified copy of applicant’s identify card and a criminal record check. Additional information may be found at  https://monentreprise.bj/ .  Foreign investors opening a bank account in Benin must also obtain a resident permit from Benin’s Immigration Service.  If the company to be incorporated is a branch of a foreign company, the above-mentioned documents will need to include the names of the local board of directors.

Franchising

At present, franchising is limited in Benin, with current franchises existing in the car rental, hotel, and food industries.

Direct Marketing

Employing direct marketing techniques in Benin may not be viable due to limited fixed-line telecommunications and postal a infrastructure. However, advertising and communications companies, mobile phone providers and some TV programs may offer services for direct marketing.

Joint Ventures/Licensing

U.S. and Beninese companies may form joint ventures to participate in the privatization or divestiture of state-owned companies, or in public procurements.  With the assistance of a notary, a joint venture should be registered with the court registrar and published in the official gazette, the public daily newspaper “La Nation.” Due diligence on the potential partner is always advised.

Express Delivery

There are only two official express delivery firms in the country: Top Chrono and DHL. Their service covers the entire country. Commercial quantity imports are subject to customs clearance and payment of import duty.

Due Diligence

Benin’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIB) and the Ministry of Commerce may provide information on companies doing business in Benin to verify their bona fides.

Embassy Cotonou’s Economic and Commercial section frequently encounters U.S. businesses and individuals targeted by “419” cases, so-named after the section of Nigeria’s Criminal Code dealing with economic crimes.  Attempts are made to defraud victims using a variety of scams, which often request funds, or bank account information, to expedite a supposed commercial transaction.  Examples of these scams have included falsified goods, orders ostensibly from the Beninese government, non-governmental organizations, or charitable organizations, and bogus orders for quantities of computers, cellular phones, or frozen poultry.   Similarly, requests for a large, up-front “registration fee” ostensibly required by the Beninese government or courts have been used to swindle exporters.  To order an International Company Profile (ICP) service in Benin, U.S. exporters may contact their nearest Export Assistance Center in the United States.