Benin hit by Nigeria’s car import ban


Surveying his sprawling car dealership on the fringes of Benin’s commercial hub Cotonou, Kassem Hijazi alternates between chainsmoking Marlboro cigarettes and puffing on a hookah. He and his colleagues don’t have much else to do. There hasn’t been a single customer since December, when neighbouring Nigeria banned car imports by land as part of a wave of protectionist policies that are strangling Benin’s economy. “We spend our days smoking, it’s our life now,” Hijazi sighs, sitting in a gazebo beside his stock of thousands of cars steadily accumulating the dry winter dust. This afternoon, Hijazi — who, like the vast majority of car dealers in Benin, is Lebanese — called in his Beninese accountant to help close up shop.
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