As countries gained their independence in the wave of decolonisation in Africa post World War II, they were faced with the question of what independence means? A flag, an anthem, closed borders, a national airline? Since countries are made up, and histories overlap with neighbours, some thumb-sucking is required.
Benin, had been known as Dahomey in colonial times. Benin was a neutral name, after the body of water, 'The Bight of Benin'. This in turn was named after the Benin Empire (1180 - 1897) - a pre-colonial Empire, located not in Benin, but in modern Nigeria. Benin, the city, is in Nigeria. Benin, the modern country, combined three areas which had separate political and ethnic systems prior to French control. It is easy to forget that Africa was far more resistant to Colonialism than the new world. The Scramble for Africa only started in haste in the period of 'New Imperialism' from 1881 - 1914, and fell apart after a couple of World Wars.