Once again I am crossing the railroad bridge on the way to the fort that overlooks the Locust Point terminals and there is a sea of gently used cars that are lined up pointing toward the water, which is a clear indication they are outbound. Normally, here at the Port of Baltimore storage lots the cars are incoming and new. This particular lot at Locust Point has been utilized most recently for the import of Kia Minivans and compact cars and before that was the big windmill pieces. But now we have these used cars and bunches of them have the word "Cotonou" written on the back windshield. Being a curious person I did some research on what was going on.
Cotonou is the economic capitol of Benin. That is what Wikipedia told me, which was pretty much telling me nothing. I didn't know where Benin was, so I had to click on that too. It turns out Benin is in West Africa. Now, don't think I'm stupid, when I was in the 7th grade I had a social studies teacher that made me memorize all the countries in Africa. The problem was that was about 35 years ago and much has changed, changed in Africa not necessarily my brain content. Anyway, all I can gather was that there used to be these countries called Ivory Coast and Gold Coast and maybe Benin is one of them.
They speak French in Benin and they have about 7 million people. They also have one of the highest infant mortality rates in Benin and only 30% of the population gets adequate healthcare, according to sites on the Internet. The economic engine of Benin is subsistance agriculture. I can't imagine that these poor 7 million people are in desperate need of all our used Lexuses, Toyotas and Hondas. So I did more reading.
We learn there is a port there called the Autonomous Port of Cotonou. We learn this port is filled with corruption.
"The Autonomous Port of Cotonou –- a key gateway to the Benin market for any U.S. businessperson – is a good example of how corruption and static attitudes dampen Benin’s longer-term growth potential. The port serves as a gateway for the sub-region with many goods arriving in Cotonou destined for Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and other countries in West Africa. It is a transshipment point for about 350,000 used cars annually –- 90% of which are re-exported. "
Ah, the mere fact that Nigeria is a bosom buddy neighbor to Benin gave us a clue that things probably weren't so copacetic out there in Cotonou. A few paragraphs down from the same article we learn:
"Benin’s growth is heavily dependent on the "two pillars" of the country’s economy: trade with Nigeria, and cotton. Lagos’ population of 15 million –- more than double the total population of Benin –- is only 100 kilometers away from Cotonou. Beninese entrepreneurs profit from smuggling and re-exporting products on which Nigeria has imposed import duties or restrictions. The most profitable business in Nigeria for Beninese is in used cars."
I guess those cars are going to end up in Nigeria one way or another. Small wonder that the Beninis pick the fine port of Baltimore with which to do business. I wish those cars well in their trip to Africa.
Here is a google map of the port of Cotonou in case you are wondering what it looks like.
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Where is Benin?
View Port of Cotonou, Benin in a larger map