The English language is a valuable resource in the business and education worlds of French-speaking Cotonou, and therefore English-speaking expatriates are of value within the job market. English is taught in secondary schools and most inhabitants speak at least two languages.
Cotonou’s status as a business center means that financial positions within the city are frequent and expatriates have the opportunity to grow within the country’s stable economic environment.
The main sources of industry within the city are in the production of palm oil, beer, textiles, cement and petroleum-based goods. The city is also home to a number of sawmills and has a large industry selling commercial motor vehicles as well as assembling motorcycles and bicycles.
Cotonou is also a major hub for West African commerce. There is a lot of trade between countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali in the city; this is largely due to the fact that the center of Cotonou is a free trade zone for landlocked Saharan states.
As Benin is a developing country facing a lot of third world issues, there is plenty of work for those with appropriate skills within development agencies such as USAID-Cotonou, who are often looking for English-speaking employees for healthcare, administrative and structural roles.
It is likely that most expatriates require a working visa to gain employment in West Africa, so it is advisable to apply for these well in advance of your relocation. All visa applications must be accompanied by proof of yellow fever vaccination and a letter of recommendation from your bank, so it is best to begin obtaining such necessities as far in advance as possible.
Job hunting in Cotonou can be a challenging task for those who do not speak the local languages; however, there are a number of great resources that provide support. It is definitely worth checking the websites of international embassies within Cotonou as they often post job vacancies online, and the fact that the city houses most of the country’s political buildings means that it has fantastic opportunities within the political sector.
If you're already in the country and speak French, the best way to find a job is to search the local (such as L'Autre Quotidien) and national (such as La Nation) newspapers, and to approach companies directly.
A valuable human resources job source can be found here. Hundreds of jobs are listed on this site, and candidates also have the opportunity to upload their CV and create an online profile for potential headhunters.
International job websites, such as Glassdoor, are also worth checking, as they often have information on a number of senior and junior positions throughout Cotonou.
It is necessary for every foreign person seeking work in Cotonou to have a valid work permit. This needs to be applied for before moving to Benin, through your local embassy or consulate. Employees associated with companies will be sponsored for their stay, which makes gaining a permit easier, but for other kinds of work it can be more difficult - an umbrella company may be the best solution in this case. The demands for each nationality are different, so it's recommended that you contact your local embassy or prospective employer for more detailed information.