An unconvincing Mali secured three points with a win against Benin to go joint top of Group B with Ivory Coast.
Kanoute scored the winning penalty after 49 minutes
Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute scored a penalty on 49 minutes after Dramane Traore had been fouled by Alain Gaspoz.
Benin's best chances came from Seidath Tchomogo who headed over after 15 minutes from a right-wing cross.
Mamady Sidibe fluffed his chance of doubling Mali's lead on 75 minutes while Mahamadou Diarra forced a save from Rachad Chitou with a long shot.
The second match of the day to be played at the Sekondi stadium started fifteen minutes late after a power failure turned off the floodlights and plunged the arena into darkness.
Despite the delay, the spirits of the fans remained undimmed and it was Mali who started the brighter, testing Benin's goalkeeper Chitou with a number of shots from outside the area.
Seydou Keita had the first real chance of the game for Mali after twelve minutes when the Sevilla midfielder flashed a shot wide from 20 yards.
Benin responded quickly when Tchomogo headed narrowly over at the other end.
But the 2002 and 2004 semi-finalists troubled the Squirrels' defence once again when a lofted free-kick forced a scrambled clearance on 22 minutes.
Benin showed glimpses of their potential aerial threat when a headed corner from Anichet Adjamossi forced a save from Mali's Mahamadou Sidibe, and Tchomogo found space but headed wide three minutes later.
With half an hour played the match was still waiting for a moment of inspiration to light up the game, but with both defences playing well, the likes of Sevilla-star Kanoute were being kept quiet.
Indeed the crowd were happy to be entertained by Oumar Tchomogo who nutmegged Mali's Souleymane Diamoutene and it was Benin who went into the break the happier of the two teams.
The game demanded a swift response from Mali and within two minutes of the restart they were in front. Traore earned his side a penalty after he was fouled in the area by Gaspoz following-up on a spilled shot from Diarra.
Kanoute stepped up and nonchalantly chipped the ball into the middle of the goal, having sent Chitou diving in the wrong direction.
The Squirrels tried to respond with Razak Omotoyossi and Tchomogo remaining energetic threats.
But Mali too made changes in a bid to maintain their slender lead, replacing Traore with Stoke City's sizeable physical presence, Mamady Sidibe.
With 25 minutes left to play the tactics of the two sides had reversed; with Benin looking to commit men forward while Mali were sitting back, soaking up pressure and looking to hit on the break.
Despite Benin's attacking orders, chances were few and far between, so Squirrels' coach Reinhard Fabisch took the controversial decision of replacing captain Tchomogo with Creteil's Abou Meiga to add zest to his attack.
However, it was Mali's Sidibe who had the next chance on goal, rounding two defenders in the area before fluffing his shot and it looked like a second goal might come as Real Madrid's Diarra and Spain-based Keita had two good chances from distance in as many minutes.
Benin's final attacking flurry had Sidibe making a good save from a long-range strike, but after Mali had taken the lead the result never looked in doubt.
Mali: Mahamadou Sidibe, Kante, Dembele, Adama Coulibaly, Diamoutene, Amadou Sidibe, Kanoute, Diarra, Keita, Dramane Traore (Mamady Sidibe 55), Toure (Drissa Diakite 72), Mamady Sidibe (Sammy Traore 89).
Subs Not Used: Soumalia Diakite, Oumar Sissoko, Kone, Tamboura, Djibril Sidibe, Diallo, Mohamed Sissoko, Dissa, Moussa Coulibaly.
Booked: Diarra, Toure, Adama Coulibaly.
Goals: Kanoute 49 pen.
Benin: Chitou, Gaspoz, Adenon, Chrysostome, Oketola (Sessegnon 53), Boco, Adjamossi, Seidath Tchomogo, Ahoueya (Oladipikpo 82), Omotoyossi, Oumar Tchomogo (Maiga 70).
Subs Not Used: Amoussou, Djidonou, Koukou, Traore, Ogunbiyi, Rouga, Seka, Soglo, Ouzerou.
Booked: Adenon, Gaspoz.
Ref: Damon Jerome (South Africa).