The economy is based primarily on agriculture; however, Benin is an important West African trading center as well. Except in Cotonou and Porto-Novo, retailers deal in a wide variety of goods rather than specializing in a few products. In the two larger towns, some shops specialize in such lines as dry goods, foodstuffs, and hardware. In the smaller towns, bazaars and individual merchants and peddlers deal in locally grown products and a few imported items. Domestic trade is generally on a cash basis, but in the countryside barter is common. Advertising is not widely used.
Many small business are privately owned by Beninese residents, but a number of enterprises are held by foreigners, particularly French nationals. Since 2001, there has been a somewhat reluctant effort on behalf of the government for greater privatization of industries such as telecommunications, utilities, and agriculture.
Business hours are from 9:30 AM to 1 PM and from 4 to 7 PM
Monday through Friday, from 3 to 7 PM on Saturday, and from 9 to 11 AM on Sunday. Banks are open on weekdays from 8 to 11 AM and 3 to 5 PM Monday through Friday.