Cotonou 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 .The name “Cotonou” means “by the river of death” in the Fon language. At the beginning of the 19th century, Cotonou was a small fishing village, and is thought to have been formally founded by King Ghezo of Dahomey in 1830. It grew as a centre for the slave trade , and later palm oil and cotton. In 1851 the French Second Republic made a treaty with King Ghezo that allowed them to establish a trading post at Cotonou. During the reign of King Glele (1858–89), the territory was ceded to the Second French Empire by a treaty signed in 1878. In 1883, the French Navy occupied the city to prevent British conquest of the area. After Glele’s death in 1889, King Béhanzin unsuccessfully tried to challenge the treaty. The town grew rapidly following the building of the harbour in 1908.
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. The city has established transportation infrastructure including air, sea, river (to Porto Novo), and land routes that facilitate trade with its neighbors Nigeria , Niger , Burkina Faso and Togo .
Coastal erosion has been noted for several decades. It worsened in 1961 following 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.
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. Simply the best from Cometowestafrica.