Since July 1995
Committee Chair: Dr. Charleise Young
In the Fon language, the word 'cotonou' means "the mouth of the river of death". The area was settled as a fishing village during the time of the Dahomey Kingdom. The French were given permission to build a trading post, until they were given the region altogether in 1868.
Cotonou grew to become the largest city in the country and is the nation's economic and population center. It also attracts many government institutions and embassies, regardless of Porto-Novo's status, leading to the city being referred as Benin's de-facto capital.
Because of its status as a transport hub, Cotonou has become a crossroads of West African commerce. The city is a so-called "market town," enabling trade with the countries of the African interior, such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. In addition to the port, there is a free trade zone in the interior of the city for use by the landlocked Saharan states. It can be considered the economic capital as it houses two-thirds of Benin's industries and is the headquarters of the nation's major enterprises and banks.
About the Partnership
The Atlanta-Cotonou linkage began in July 1995 when the first democratically elected president of Benin, Nicephore Soglo, was the guest of President Bill Clinton at a White House in Washington, D.C.
Following his visit to Washington, D.C., President Soglo led a 23-member delegation to Atlanta focused on trade and investment opportunities. While in Atlanta then-Mayor Bill Campbell signed a sister cities agreement with Cotonou. It was the first city in West Africa to form this alliance with Atlanta according to the proclamation signed by Mayor Campbell.
Over the years, the Atlanta Committee members have sent books, bicycles, and other needed items within the community. In 2004, Atlanta Committee members, Dr. Earle Clowney and Dr. Charleise Young visited Cotonou and presented a plaque from then-Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to Mayor Nicephore Soglo to commemorate his role in developing the sister city relationship during his tenure as President. During their visit, the delegation learned about alternative medicine (voodoo), since the origin of the practice is in that area.