Côte d’Ivoire - language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate

Read about Cote Divoire: language, government, economy, cities, history, tourism, people, education, religion, agriculture, climate ...


Cote d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire (French for “Ivory Coast”), republic in western Africa, bounded on the north by Mali and Burkina Faso (Upper Volta), on the east by Ghana, on the south by the Gulf of Guinea, and on the west by Liberia and Guinea. The country has an area of 322,462 sq km (124,503 sq mi). Yamoussoukro is the official capital, and Abidjan is the de facto capital and largest city. A former French colony, Côte d’Ivoire achieved independence in 1960.


The coast of Côte d’Ivoire is fringed by a number of large and deep lagoons, most of which are inaccessible to shipping because of offshore shoals. Bordering the coast, a zone of dense tropical forests extends about 265 km (about 165 mi) inland in the east and west and about 100 km (about 60 mi) in the center. Beyond this, in the north and center, lies an extensive savanna (grassland with a few trees). The western part of the country is undulating, with mountain chains in the Odienné and Man regions. Several summits rise to more than 1,500 m (5,000 ft). The principal rivers are the Sassandra, Bandama, and Komoé, none of which is navigable for more than about 65 km (about 40 mi) because of rapids and low water during the dry season.

Climate in Côte d’Ivoire

The southern portion of Côte d’Ivoire has a tropical climate, with hot and humid weather and heavy rains. Temperatures vary from 22°C (72°F) to 32°C (90°F), and the heaviest rains fall from April to July and in October and November. Away from the coast, in the savanna, temperature differences become more extreme, with night lows dropping in January to 12°C (54°F) and day highs in the summer rising above 40°C (104°F). Annual rainfall is 2,100 mm (83 in) in coastal Abidjan and 1,200 mm (48 in) in Bouaké, located on the nation’s central plain.

Plants and Animals in Côte d’Ivoire

The central band of Côte d’Ivoire is covered by forest with more than 225 species of trees, among which are such valuable hardwood trees as obeche, mahogany, iroko, makore, and sipo. Animals of the country include the jackal, hyena, panther, elephant, chimpanzee, crocodile, and various lizards and venomous snakes.

Natural Resources of Côte d’Ivoire

The principal resources of Côte d’Ivoire are its relatively rich soil, which favors agriculture, and the forests, which contain dense stands of commercially valuable hardwoods. Mineral deposits include gold, iron ore, manganese ore, diamonds, and petroleum (in offshore fields). Hydroelectric plants are located on the Bia and Bandama rivers; production of electricity in 2006 totaled 5.3 billion kilowatt-hours, about 28 percent (2006) of which came from hydroelectric installations.

Environmental Issues in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire once had the largest rain forests in West Africa, but decades of timber harvesting and slash-and-burn farming practices decimated the forests. Farmers cleared vast sections of forest to plant coffee and cacao, which thrive in the rich soil of the rain forests. After Côte d’Ivoire was granted independence from France in 1960, an ambiguous land-ownership policy encouraged many farmers in the country to abandon unproductive land and clear additional forest. Tens of thousands of seedlings have been planted since the 1960s, and deforestation rates dropped by the end of the 20th century. In 2005 about 32 percent of the country’s land area was forested.

Côte d’Ivoire’s economic dependence on agriculture has led to the exploitation of the country’s natural resources in times of economic hardship. During the 1980s, when commodity prices for cacao and coffee collapsed worldwide, Côte d’Ivoire increased exports of wood products to make up for decreased agricultural revenue.

About 16 percent (2007) of the country’s area is officially protected in national parks and reserves. However, migrant farmers continue to clear forest and plant crops in protected areas.


The population of Côte d’Ivoire is diverse, comprising more than 60 ethnic groups. The main groups include the Akan-speaking peoples of the southeast (principally the Baule), the Kru of the southwest, the Voltaic groups of the northeast, and the Mandinka (also known as Mandingo or Malinke) and southern Mande peoples found in the northwest. A significant Lebanese community also exists.

Population Characteristics of Côte d’Ivoire

The population of Côte d’Ivoire (2009 estimate) is 20,617,068. The overall population density is 65 persons per sq km (168 per sq mi).

An estimated 37 percent of Côte d’Ivoire’s people follow traditional religions; 30 percent are Muslim, and 24 percent are Christian, mainly Roman Catholic. French is the official national language; numerous African languages are also spoken.

Principal Cities of Côte d’Ivoire

The main cities of Côte d’Ivoire are Abidjan, the country’s traditional capital, with a population (2003 estimate, greater city) of 3.3 million, and Bouaké (1998, 461,618), an important administrative and commercial center. Other urban centers include Daloa (173,107) and Yamoussoukro (2003 estimate, 416,000). Yamoussoukro was designated the new national capital in 1983, but many government offices have remained in Abidjan.

Education in Côte d’Ivoire

Education in Côte d’Ivoire is free, and is compulsory for 10 years. In 2002–2003 only 78 percent of primary school-aged children and 23 percent of secondary school-aged children were enrolled in school. Institutes of higher education include the University of Cocody (founded in 1958) and the University of Abobo-Adjamé (1957), both in Abidjan; and the University of Bouaké (1960). A substantial number of advanced Côte d’Ivoire students study abroad. An estimated 54 percent (2005) of the adult population is literate.

Culture of Côte d’Ivoire

Traditional artistic expressions in Côte d’Ivoire include woodcarvings (particularly masks), decorative fabrics, and acrobatic dancing. Urban populations have been greatly influenced by French culture. The French language is almost universally used in the written literature of Côte d’Ivoire, to the exclusion of the African languages.


About 60 percent of Côte d’Ivoire’s total labor force is employed in farming and forestry. Government efforts to avoid dependence on a small number of export crops have led to economic diversification in Côte d’Ivoire, but the economy is still primarily agricultural. Annual budget figures show approximately $3.8 billion in revenues and $4.1 billion in expenditures.

Agriculture of Côte d’Ivoire

The principal cash crops of Côte d’Ivoire are cacao, cotton, and coffee. The country is among the world’s leading producers of cacao, which accounts for more than 40 percent of export earnings, and is one of Africa’s top coffee producers as well. The government encouraged production of cotton and pineapples to diversify the economy, which had suffered in the 1980s when commodity prices for cacao and coffee dropped sharply. Other crops being developed for export are palm kernels and rubber. Crops grown for local use include yams, cassava, plantains, rice, and corn. The government has initiated programs to achieve food self-sufficiency, but Côte d’Ivoire must import some staples, such as rice.

Forestry and Fishing in Côte d’Ivoire

The production of timber and sawn lumber is of major economic importance to the Côte d’Ivoire economy. The most important export timbers are mahogany, iroko, sipo, obeche, and makore. Some 10.3 million cubic meters (362 million cubic feet) of timber were produced in 2007. Fishing is conducted along the coast; the catch was 33,461 metric tons in 2007.

Mining and Manufacturing in Côte d’Ivoire

Offshore oil was discovered in commercial quantities in 1977, and production began in 1980. Petroleum provides a significant share of export earnings; output in 2004 was 12 million barrels a year. Côte d’Ivoire also mines significant quantities of diamonds and gold. Major industries include food-processing plants, lumber and textile mills, oil refineries, and cement, plywood, and palm oil production.

Currency, Banking, and Trade in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the West African Monetary Union. The currency is the CFA franc, issued by the Central Bank for the States of West Africa (479.3 CFA francs equal U.S.$1; 2007 average).

In 2007 exports totaled $8.6 billion and imports were $6.3 billion. Principal trading partners for exports are Netherlands, France, the United States, Mali, and Ghana; chief partners for imports are France, Nigeria, the United States, Italy, and Netherlands.

Transportation and Communications in Côte d’Ivoire

The port of Abidjan is one of the busiest in West Africa. A new port exists at San-Pédro, which is linked to Mali by rail. A railroad links Abidjan to Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The total length of operated railroad track in the country is 639 km (397 mi). Only about 8 percent (2004) of the estimated 80,000 km (49,710 mi) of roads are paved. The government operates several radio and television stations, and several commercial radio stations also broadcast. More Ivoirians have mobile telephones than telephone mainlines, and in 2006 about 300,000 people had access to the Internet.


Côte d’Ivoire is governed under a constitution that was adopted by public referendum in July 2000. The head of state is an elected president and the head of government is a prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The president and prime minister are advised by a council of ministers that is selected by the prime minister. The president and the 225 members of the unicameral National Assembly are all elected for five-year terms by universal adult suffrage.

Major political parties in Côte d’Ivoire include the Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI; Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire), the social-democratic Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI; Ivorian Popular Front), and the centrist Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR; Rally of Republicans). The PDCI was the nation’s only legal political party from 1960 to 1990, when a multiparty system was adopted. It retained control over the country until its leader was ousted in a military coup in December 1999.

The judicial system includes a supreme court that comprises constitutional, judicial, administrative, and auditing chambers. A high court of justice is empowered to try government officials, including the president, for high crimes. Other courts include appellate, state security, and courts of first instance.


Ancestors of most of the present population of Côte d’Ivoire seem to have moved into the area relatively late (18th to 19th century), mostly from the northeast and east. The Kru, however, came from the west across the Cavally River. Portuguese explorers reached the coast in the 15th century and began trading in slaves and ivory. Strong tribal kingdoms flourished in the northeastern and eastern parts of the country. Europeans did not penetrate inland until the 1830s, when the French signed treaties with coastal rulers. As part of the French expansion in West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire was made a colony in 1893. The French were bitterly resisted, however, and frequent revolts occurred. In 1904 Côte d’Ivoire became a constituent territory of the Federation of French West Africa. Faced with dissidence, the French resorted increasingly to direct rule, undermining traditional rulers.

Houphouët-Boigny’s Leadership

In 1919 the northern part of the colony was detached to form part of the new colony of Upper Volta, which was dissolved in 1932, only to be reconstituted in 1948. In 1944 Félix Houphouët-Boigny, a Baule chief, farmer, and doctor, founded a union of African farmers. From this organization emerged the first major African political party, the interterritorial African Democratic Rally, and its constituent section, the PDCI, both led by Houphouët-Boigny. The party was opposed by the French administration, and the tension flared into violence in 1949. In 1950 Houphouët-Boigny reversed his policy and began to cooperate with the French. On December 4, 1958, Côte d’Ivoire was proclaimed a republic within the French Community. After national elections in 1959, Houphouët-Boigny became premier and was elected president in November 1960, following the achievement of full independence on August 7 of that year.

Côte d’Ivoire enjoyed political stability and great economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s, despite occasional challenges to the generally conservative, business-oriented outlook of Houphouët-Boigny by students and members of the armed forces. An alleged conspiracy by army officers to stage a coup was thwarted in 1973; an attempt on the president’s life was made in 1980; and student unrest in early 1982 caused a temporary closing of the University of Abidjan. During the late 1980s the aging president sponsored grandiose building projects, especially in Yamoussoukro, while the national economy slumped. In October 1990 Houphouët-Boigny won his seventh five-year term as president, in Côte d’Ivoire’s first multiparty election, defeating Laurent Gbagbo of the FPI.

Houphouët-Boigny died in office in 1993 and was replaced as president by the head of the National Assembly, Henri Konan Bédié. In 1994 Bédié oversaw the adoption of new electoral laws requiring candidates for public office to be of direct Ivorian descent, meaning that the candidate and both of his or her parents had to have been born in Côte d’Ivoire. This law was widely seen as a maneuver to prevent Bédié’s principal rival, Muslim northerner Alassane Ouattara of the newly formed RDR, from running against him in the 1995 presidential elections. The maneuver underscored a growing national schism between the mostly Christian south and the largely Muslim north. Bédié, a Christian, increasingly exploited anti-Muslim sentiment in the south for political advantage, often referring to northerners as “foreigners.” Objecting to the new electoral restrictions, opposition parties boycotted the October 1995 elections, and Bédié was reelected. In the December 1995 legislative elections Bédié’s PDCI won more than 80 percent of the seats in the National Assembly despite the end of the opposition’s boycott.

Recent Developments

Bédié’s suppression of political opposition, as well as charges of corruption in his government, led to growing unrest. In December 1999 his government was overthrown in a bloodless military coup, the first coup in the nation’s history. General Robert Gueï, a former military chief, assumed the presidency following the coup. A new constitution, adopted by public referendum in July 2000, retained the electoral restrictions regarding Ivorian descent. Ouattara and all other Islamic candidates were found not to have been of direct Ivorian descent and were barred from running in the October 2000 presidential elections against Gueï, a Christian from the south. The PDCI and the RDR boycotted the election, and Islamic leaders urged the nation’s Muslims not to vote. International electoral monitoring groups questioned the vote’s legitimacy and refused to send observers. However, the election proceeded in October. After early voting results showed Gueï trailing FPI candidate Gbagbo, Gueï dissolved the official election commission and declared himself the winner. A popular uprising swept Gueï from power, and Gbagbo declared himself the rightful winner.

In the days after the election, at least 200 people died in clashes between security forces loyal to Gueï, Christian supporters of Gbagbo, and Muslim supporters of Ouattara who demanded new elections. The RDR said more than 150 of its supporters were killed, and the party called for an international inquiry. Following the violence, Gbagbo and Ouattara pledged to work toward national unity. Gbagbo assembled a new cabinet made up of FPI and PDCI members.

Unrest flared again in late 2002, when a failed military coup attempt in September led to months of violence. By 2003 three ethnic-based rebel groups controlled territories in the north and west of the country. In a French-brokered peace accord in early 2003 Gbagbo agreed to include rebel representatives in a new coalition government in return for the rebels’ disarmament. The rebel groups resisted disarmament, however, and sporadic violence continued. In April 2004 the United Nations (UN) established a peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire to maintain security and enforce the 2003 peace accord.

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