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The Republic of Benin is a democratic West African nation with a tiny coastline along its southern border. Agriculture is the primary source of income for its nine million citizens, with cotton production being the leading single exported product. Roman Catholics make up the nation's largest religious group, followed by Muslims, Vodun and Protestants. French is the official language, with Fon and Yoruba also spoken. Benin was formerly a part of Dahomey before gaining its independence in 1960. The country features a strong music scene that includes native folk, French cabaret, American rock and R&B, and influences from Ghana and The Congo. Although education is free, the literacy rate is less than 40%. Health care has improved greatly since the 1980s, when it had one of the world's highest children's death rates.
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