printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Cote d'Ivoire (07/98)


Share

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME:
Republic of Cote d'Ivoire

Geography
Area: 322,500 sq. km. (124,500 sq. mi.); slightly larger than New Mexico.
Cities: Principal city-Abidjan. Capital-Yamoussoukro (official). Other cities-Bouake, Daloa, Gagnoa, Korhogo, Man, San Pedro.
Terrain: Undulating; hilly in the west.
Climate: Tropical.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective-Ivorian(s).
Population (est): 15 million, including immigrants.
Annual growth rate: 3.8%, with immigration.
Ethnic groups: More than 60.
Religions: Indigenous 25%-40%, Muslim 25%-40%, Christian 25%-40%.
Language: French (official); five principal language groups.
Education: Years compulsory-to age 16. Attendance-76%. Literacy-43%.
Health: Infant mortality rate-88/1,000. Life expectancy-56 years.

Government
Type: Republic. Independence: December 7, 1960.
Branches: Executive-president (chief of state and head of government). Legislative-unicameral National Assembly. Judicial-Supreme Court (4 chambers: constitutional, judicial, administrative, auditing).
Administrative subdivisions: 16 regions; 56 departments; 196 communes.
Political parties: Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI) dominant party; Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI); Rallie des Republicaines (RDR); numerous other smaller political parties operate in Cote d'Ivoire.
Suffrage: Universal at 21.

Economy
GDP (1997): $10 billion.
Annual real growth rate (1997): 6%.
Per capita income (1996): $600.
Natural resources: Petroleum.
Agriculture (33% of GDP): Products--cocoa, coffee, timber, rubber, corn, rice, tropical foods.
Industry (20% of GDP): Types--food processing, textiles.
Trade (1996): Exports-$4.25 billion: cocoa, coffee, timber, rubber, cotton, palm oil, pineapples, bananas. Major markets--France, Germany, Netherlands. U.S. Imports--$2.5 billion: consumer goods, basic food stuffs (rice, wheat), capital goods. Major suppliers-France, Nigeria, U.S., EU, Japan.

PEOPLE
Cote d'Ivoire has more than 60 ethnic groups, usually classified into five principal divisions: Akan (east and center, including Lagoon peoples of the southeast), Krou (southwest), Southern Mande (west), Northern Mande (northwest), Senoufo/Lobi (north center and northeast). The Baoules, in the the Akan division, probably comprise the largest single subgroup with 15%-20% of the population. They are based in the central region around Bouake and Yamoussoukro. The Betes in the Krou division, the Senoufos in the north, and the Malinkes in the northwest and the cities are the next largest groups, with 10%-15% of the national population. Most of the principal divisions have a significant presence in neighboring countries.

Of the more than 5 million non-Ivorian Africans living in Cote d'Ivoire, one-third to one-half are from Burkina Faso; the rest are from Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, Liberia, and Mauritania. The non-African expatriate community includes roughly 20,000 French and possibly 100,000 Lebanese. The number of elementary school-aged children attending classes increased from 22% in 1960 to 67% in 1995.

HISTORY
The early history of Cote d'Ivoire is virtually unknown, although it is thought that a neolithic culture existed there. France made its initial contact with Cote d'Ivoire in 1637, when missionaries landed at Assinie near the Gold Coast (now Ghana) border. Early contacts were limited to a few missionaries because of the inhospitable coastline and settlers' fear of the inhabitants.

In the 18th century, the country was invaded by two related Akan groups-the Agnis, who occupied the southeast, and the Baoules, who settled in the central section. In 1843-44, Admiral Bouet-Williaumez signed treaties with the kings of the Grand Bassam and Assinie regions, placing their territories under a French protectorate. French explorers, missionaries, trading companies, and soldiers gradually extended the area under French control inland from the lagoon region. However, pacification was not accomplished until 1915.

French Period
Cote d'Ivoire officially became a French colony in 1893. Captain Binger, who had explored the Gold Coast frontier, was named the first governor. He negotiated boundary treaties with Liberia and the United Kingdom (for the Gold Coast) and later started the campaign against Almany Samory, a Malinke chief, who fought against the French until 1898.

From 1904 to 1958, Cote d'Ivoire was a constituent unit of the Federation of French West Africa. It was a colony and an overseas territory under the Third Republic. Until the period following World War II, governmental affairs in French West Africa were administered from Paris. France's policy in West Africa was reflected mainly in its philosophy of "association," meaning that all Africans in Cote d'Ivoire were officially French "subjects" without rights to representation in Africa or France.

During World War II, the Vichy regime remained in control until 1943, when members of Gen. Charles De Gaulle's provisional government assumed control of all French West Africa. The Brazzaville conference in 1944, the first Constituent Assembly of the Fourth Republic in 1946, and France's gratitude for African loyalty during World War II led to far-reaching governmental reforms in 1946. French citizenship was granted to all African "subjects," the right to organize politically was recognized, and various forms of forced labor were abolished.

A turning point in relations with France was reached with the 1956 Overseas Reform Act (Loi Cadre), which transferred a number of powers from Paris to elected territorial governments in French West Africa and also removed remaining voting inequalities.

Independence
In December 1958, Cote d'Ivoire became an autonomous republic within the French community as a result of a referendum that brought community status to all members of the old Federation of French West Africa except Guinea, which had voted against association. Cote d'Ivoire became independent on August 7, 1960, and permitted its community membership to lapse.

Cote d'Ivoire's contemporary political history is closely associated with the career of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, President of the republic and leader of the Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI) until his death on December 7, 1993. He was one of the founders of the Rassemblement Democratique Africain (RDA), the leading pre-independence inter-territorial political party in French West African territories (except Mauritania).

Houphouet-Boigny first came to political prominence in 1944 as founder of the Syndicat Agricole Africain, an organization that won improved conditions for African farmers and formed a nucleus for the PDCI. After World War II, he was elected by a narrow margin to the first Constituent Assembly. Representing Cote d'Ivoire in the French National Assembly from 1946 to 1959, he devoted much of his effort to inter-territorial political organization and further amelioration of labor conditions. After his 13-year service in the French National Assembly, including almost 3 years as a minister in the French Government, he became Cote d'Ivoire's first Prime Minister in April 1959, and the following year was elected its first President.

In May 1959, Houphouet-Boigny reinforced his position as a dominant figure in West Africa by leading Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina), and Dahomey (Benin) into the Council of the Entente, a regional organization promoting economic development. He maintained that the road to African solidarity was through step-by-step economic and political cooperation, recognizing the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other African states.

GOVERNMENT
Cote d'Ivoire's 1959 constitution provides for strong presidency within the framework of a separation of powers. The executive is personified in the president, elected for a five-year term. The president is commander in chief of the armed forces, may negotiate and ratify certain treaties, and may submit a bill to a national referendum or to the National Assembly. According to the constitution, the President of the National Assembly assumes the presidency in the event of a vacancy, and he completes the remainder of the deceased president's term. The cabinet is selected by and is responsible to the president. Changes are being proposed to some of these provisions, to extend term of office to 7 years, establish a senate, and make president of the senate interim successor to the president.

The unicameral National Assembly is composed of 175 members elected by direct universal suffrage for a 5-year term concurrently with the president. It passes on legislation typically introduced by the president although it also can introduce legislation.

The judicial system culminates in the Supreme Court. The High Court of Justice is competent to try government officials for major offenses.

For administrative purposes, Cote d'Ivoire is divided into 56 departments, each headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. There are 196 communes, each headed by an elected mayor, plus the city of Abidjan with 10 mayors.

The 17,000-man Ivorian Armed Forces (FANCI) include an army, navy, air force, and gendarmerie. The Joint Staff is assigned to the FANCI Headquarters in Abidjan. A two-star officer serves as the chief of staff and commander of the FANCI. Cote d'Ivoire is broken down into five military regions, each commanded by a colonel.

The army has the majority of its forces in the First Military Region concentrated in and around Abidjan, its principal units there being a rapid intervention battalion (airborne), an infantry battalion, an armored battalion, and an air defense artillery battalion. The Second Military Region is located in Daloa and is assigned one infantry battalion. The Third Military Region is headquartered in Bouake and is home to an artillery, an infantry, and an engineer battalion. The Fourth Military Region maintains only a Territorial Defense Company headquartered in Korhogo. The fifth region is the Western Operational Zone, a temporary command created to respond to the security threat caused by the civil war in neighboring Liberia.

The gendarmerie is roughly equivalent in size to the army. It is a national police force which is responsible for territorial security, especially in rural areas. In times of national crisis the gendarmerie could be used to reinforce the army. The gendarmerie is commanded by a colonel-major and is comprised of four Legions, each corresponding to one of the four numbered military regions, minus the temporary military operational zone on the western border.

Cote d'Ivoire has a brown-water navy whose mission is coastal surveillance and security for the nation's 340-mile coastline. It has two fast-attack craft, two patrol crafts, and one light transport ship. It also has numerous smaller vessels used primarily for traffic, immigration, and contraband control within the lagoon system.

The Ivorian Air Force's mission is to defend the nation's airspace and provide transportation support to the other services. Within its inventory are 5 Alpha jets, 12 transport/utility aircraft, and 2 helicopters.

A mutual defense accord signed with France in 1961 provides for the stationing of French forces in Cote d'Ivoire. The 43rd Marine Infantry Battalion is based in Port Bouet adjacent to the Abidjan Airport and has more than 500 troops assigned.

Principal Government Officials
President--Henry Konan Bedie
Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Finance and Plan--Daniel Kablan Duncan
Foreign Minister--Amara Essy
Ambassador to the United States--Moise Koumoue Koffi
Ambassador to the UN--Youssoufou Bamba

Cote d'Ivoire maintains an embassy at 2424 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (202-483-2400).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
In a region whose political systems have otherwise been noted for lack of stability, Cote d'Ivoire has shown remarkable political stability since its independence from France in 1960. Its relations with the United States are excellent. When many other countries in the region were undergoing repeated military coups, experimenting with Marxism, and developing ties with the Soviet Union and China, Cote d'Ivoire-under Felix Houphouet-Boigny, president from independence until his death in December 1993-maintained a close political allegiance to the West. President Bedie is very familiar with the United States, having served as Cote d'Ivoire's first ambassador to this country.

Looking toward the country's future, the fundamental issue is whether its political system will maintain the stability which is the sine qua non for investor confidence and further economic development. Cote d'Ivoire evolved, with relatively little violence or dislocation, from a single-party state, beginning in 1990. Opposition parties, independent newspapers, and independent trades unions were made legal at that time. Since those major changes occurred, the country's pace of political change has been slow. Whether further democratic reform will take place, adequate to meet future challenges, is unknown. As is generally true in the region, the business environment is one in which personal contact and connections remain important, where rule of law does not prevail with assurance, and where the legislative and judicial branches of the government remain weak. The political system remains highly centralized with the president dominating both the ruling party and the legislature and judiciary. Cote d'Ivoire's efforts to break down central state control of the economy are undermined by the state's continued central control of the political system.

Cote d'Ivoire has a high population growth rate, a high crime rate (particularly in Abidjan), a high incidence of AIDS, a multiplicity of tribes, sporadic student unrest, a differential rate of in-country development according to region, and a dichotomy of religion associated with region and tribe. These factors put stress on the political system and will become more of a problem if the economy-not quite as dependent today on cocoa and coffee as it was some years ago but still dependent-takes a plunge similar to that of the 1980s.

The political system in Cote d'Ivoire is president-dominated. The Prime Minister concentrates principally on coordinating and implementing economic policy. The key decisions-political, military, or economic-continue to be made by President Bedie, as they were made by President Houphouet-Boigny. However, political dialogue is much freer today than prior to 1990, especially due to the opposition press, which vocalizes its criticism of the regime. The Ivorian Constitution affords the legislature some independence, but it has not been widely exercised. Until 1990, all legislators were from the PDCI. After the most recent elections (1995-96), the PDCI continues to hold 149 out of 175 seats. The PDCI's "core" region may be described as the terrain of the Baoule tribe in the country's center, home of both Houphouet-Boigny and Bedie; however, the PDCI is well-entrenched in all parts of Cote d'Ivoire.

The remaining 26 seats in the National Assembly are divided equally by the only two other parties of national scope-the FPI (Ivorian Popular Front) and RDR (Rally of Republicans). The oldest opposition party is the FPI, a moderate party which has a socialist coloration but which is more concerned with democratic reform than radical economic change; it is strongest in the terrain of its Bete tribe leader, Laurent Gbagbo. The non-ideological RDR was formed in September 1994 by former members of the PDCI's reformist wing who hoped that former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara would run and prevail in the 1995 presidential election (but who was disqualified by subsequent legislation requiring 5-year residency); it is strongest in the Muslim north.

The presidential election of October 1995 was boycotted by the FPI and RDR because of Ouattara's disqualification and the absence of an independent electoral commission (among other grievances). Their "active boycott" produced a certain amount of violence and hundreds of arrests (with a number of the arrestees not tried for 2-1/2 years). These grievances remain unaddressed, with the next round of elections coming in the year 2000.

ECONOMY
The Ivorian economy is largely market based and depends heavily on the agricultural sector. Almost 70% of the Ivorian people are engaged in some form of agricultural activity. The economy performed poorly in the 1980s and early 1990s, and high population growth coupled with economic decline resulted in a steady fall in living standards. Gross national product per capita, now rising again, was about U.S. $727 in 1996. (It was substantially higher two decades ago.) A majority of the population remains dependent on smallholder cash crop production. Principal exports are cocoa, coffee, and tropical woods. Principal U.S. exports are rice and wheat, plastic materials and resins, Kraft paper, agricultural chemicals, telecommunications, and oil and gas equipment. Principal U.S. imports are cocoa and cocoa products, petroleum, rubber, and coffee.

Foreign Direct Investment Statistics
Direct foreign investment (DFI) plays a key role in the Ivorian economy, accounting for between 40% and 45% of total capital in Ivorian firms. France is overwhelmingly the most important foreign investor. In recent years, French investment has accounted for about one-quarter of the total capital in Ivorian enterprises, and between 55% and 60% of the total stock of foreign investment capital.

Infrastructure
By developing country standards, Cote d'Ivoire has an outstanding infrastructure. There is an excellent network of more than 8,000 miles of paved roads; good telecommunications services, including a public data communications network; cellular phones and Internet access; two active ports, one of which, Abidjan, is the most modern in West Africa; rail links-in the process of being upgraded-both within the country and to Burkina Faso; regular air service within the region and to and from Europe; and modern real estate developments for commercial, industrial, retail, and residential use. Cote d'Ivoire's location and easy, reliable connection to neighboring countries makes it a preferred platform from which to conduct West African operations. The city of Abidjan is one of the most modern and liveable cities in the region. Its school system is good by regional standards and includes an excellent international school based on a U.S. curriculum and several excellent French-based schools.

Cote d'Ivoire has stepped up public investment programs after the stagnation of the pre-devaluation era. The government's public investment plan accords priority to investment in human capital, but it also will provide for significant spending on economic infrastructure needed to sustain growth. Continued infrastructure development also is expected to occur because of private sector activity. In the new environment of government disengagement from productive activities and in the wake of recent privatizations, anticipated investments in the petroleum, electricity, water, and telecommunications sectors, and in part in the transportation sector, will be financed without any direct government intervention.

Major Trends and Outlooks
Since the colonial period, Cote d'Ivoire's economy has been based on the production and export of tropical products. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries account for more than one-third of GDP and two-thirds of exports. Cote d'Ivoire produces 40% of the world's cocoa crop and is a major exporter of bananas, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapples, rubber, tropical wood products, and tuna. The 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc and accompanying structural adjustment measures generally favored the agricultural sector by increasing competitiveness. However, reliance on raw cocoa and coffee exports, which account for 40% of total exports, exposes the economy to sharp price swings on world markets for these commodities. The government encourages export diversification and intermediate processing of cocoa beans to reduce this exposure. Cocoa beans exports to the U.S. increased sharply in 1996 due to lower freight rates.

The four years following the January 12, 1994, devaluation of the CFA franc have seen Cote d'Ivoire return to the rapid economic growth it knew in the 1960s and 1970s. The spur provided by the devaluation, by increased aid flows, rigorous macroeconomic policies, and fortuitous international commodity prices yielded strong GDP growth in both 1996 and 1997. In addition to these factors, the long period of pre-devaluation stagnation, in which local businesses and potential outside investors put off capital expenditure, caused a boom in investment following the devaluation. Cote d'Ivoire has also begun to turn the corner on its daunting debt problem: first with a generous rescheduling of official bilateral debt at the Paris Club in March 1994; more recently, with a tentative London Club agreement in November 1996, and the April 1997 decision by the G-7 countries to include Cote d'Ivoire in the new IMF-World Bank debt forgiveness initiative for highly indebted poor countries.

Cote d'Ivoire's recent economic performance has been impressive, particularly in 1995 and 1996. Real GDP growth was 7% in 1995, 6.8% in 1996, and an estimated 6% in 1997. The country has been meeting its IMF targets for growth, inflation, government finance, and balance of payments. Traditional commodity exports were boosted both by the devaluation (though improved prices in local currency terms were only partially passed through to farmers) and by higher world prices for cocoa and coffee. At the same time, the devaluation and the generally favorable business environment produced growth in nontraditional crops, local processing of commodities, and the services sector.

In 1996 and 1997, inflation continued the downward trend begun after the devaluation, when the government kept a tight lid both on salary increases and on the size of the public sector work force. Inflation as measured by the increase in the consumer price index has fallen sharply, from 1994's post-devaluation 32.2% to 7.7% in 1995, 3.5% in 1996, and an estimated 5% in 1997.

Public sector finances are another bright spot: Government revenues are on a strongly rising trend since 1993, capped by a 15% increase from 1995 to 1996. The stronger revenue picture, when combined with restraint on the spending side, has resulted in three years of primary surpluses (i.e., receipts minus expenditure, excluding borrowing and debt service). Following a concerted government repayment effort, domestic arrears had been virtually eliminated by the end of 1996.

The outlook for the near and medium term in Cote d'Ivoire remains positive. The government hopes to attain double-digit real GDP growth, but this appears achievable only in a best-case scenario, including continued or enhanced investment flows, additional oil or mineral production, and no drop in world commodity prices; short of this optimistic scenario, a continuation of 6% or 7% growth seems likely for the near term.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Throughout the Cold War, Cote d'Ivoire's foreign policy was generally favorable toward the West. The country became a member of the United Nations in 1960 and participates in most of its specialized agencies. It maintains a wide variety of diplomatic contacts, and, in 1986, announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. Cote d'Ivoire sought change in South Africa through dialogue, and its ambassador was one of the first to be accredited to post-apartheid South Africa.

The Ivorian Government has traditionally played a constructive role in Africa. President Houphouet-Boigny was active in the mediation of regional disputes, most notably in Liberia and Angola, and had considerable stature throughout the continent. President Bedie has set in train a friendly neighbor policy with all contiguous states, having visited all of them. In 1996-97 Cote d'Ivoire sent a medical unit to participate in regional peacekeeping in Liberia, its first peacekeeping effort. President Bedie has announced that Cote d'Ivoire will expand its involvement in peacekeeping.

Cote d'Ivoire continues to maintain extremely close relations with France. President Houphouet, who was a minister in the French Government prior to independence, insisted that the connection remain unsevered. Concrete examples of Franco-Ivorian cooperation are numerous: French is Cote d'Ivoire's official language, Ivorian security is enhanced by a brigade of French marines stationed in Abidjan, some 20,000 French expatriates continue to make their home in Cote d'Ivoire, and the country's currency, the CFA franc, is tied to the French franc.

Cote d'Ivoire belongs to the UN and most of its specialized agencies, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), African Mauritian Common Organization (OCAM), Council of Entente Communaute Financiere Africane (CFA), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nonaggression and Defense Agreement (ANAD), INTELSAT, Nonaligned Movement, African Regional Satillite Organization (RASCOM), InterAfrican Coffee Organizations (IACO), International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), Alliance of Cocoa Producers, African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP), and Association of Coffee Producing Countries (ACPC). Cote d'Ivoire also belongs to the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank; it is an associate member of European Union.

U.S.-IVORIAN RELATIONS
U.S.-Ivorian relations are friendly and close. The United States is sympathetic to Cote d'Ivoire's program of rapid, orderly economic development as well as its moderate stance on international issues. Bilateral U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding, with the exception of self-help and democratization funds, has been phased out.

The United States and Cote d'Ivoire maintain an active cultural exchange program, through which prominent Ivorian Government officials, media representatives, educators, and scholars visit the United States to become better acquainted with the American people and to exchange ideas and views with their American colleagues. This cooperative effort is furthered through frequent visits to Cote d'Ivoire by representatives of U.S. business and educational institutions, and by visits of Fulbright-Hays scholars and specialists in various fields.

A modest security assistance program provides professional training for Ivorian military officers in the United States.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Lannon Walker
Deputy Chief of Mission--Jackson McDonald
Commercial Counselor--Frederic Gaynor
Political/Economic Counselor--vacant
Defense Attache--Col. Gerald Saltness
Administrative Counselor--vacant
Consular Affairs Officer--Steven Koutsis
Public Affairs Officer--Thomas Hart

The U.S. embassy is located at 5 Rue Jesse Owens, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire (tel. 21-09-79, telefax, 22-23-59); mailing address is 01 B.P. 1712, Abidjan 01, Cote d'Ivoire.



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.