U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Cote d'Ivoire, April 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Republic of Cote d'Ivoire
Area: 124,500 square miles (322,500 sq. kms.); slightly larger than
Cities: Capital--Yamoussoukro (official). Other cities--Abidjan,
Bouake, Daloa, Gagnoa, Korhogo, Man.
Terrain: Mostly flat.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Ivorian(s).
Population (est.): 13.2 million.
Annual growth rate: 3.8% (with immigration).
Ethnic groups: More than 60.
Religions: Indigenous 25%, Muslim 39%, Christian 20%.
Language: French (official) local dialects.
Education: Years compulsory--to age 16. Attendance--76%. Literacy--
Health: Infant mortality rate--95/1,000. Life expectancy--52 yrs.
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,
Administrative subdivisions: 50 departments; 135 communes.
Political Parties: Parti Democratique de la Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI) ruling
party; Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI); Parti Ivoirien des Travailleurs
(PIT); Rallies des Republicaines (RDR) numerous other smaller
political parties operate in Cote d'Ivoire.
Suffrage: Universal at 21.
GDP (1994): $7 billion.
Annual real growth rate (1994): 1%.
Per capita income: $475.
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 (1993): Exports--$2.6 billion: cocoa, coffee, timber, rubber,
cotton, palm oil, pineapples, bananas. Major markets--France,
Germany, Netherlands, U.S. Imports--$1.6 billion: consumer goods,
basic food stuffs (rice, wheat), capital goods. Major suppliers--Francy live in the central region
around Bouake. The Bete, in the Krou division, and the Senoufo in the
north are the second and third largest groups, with roughly 18% and
15% of the national population, respectively. Most of the principal
divisions have centers 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. A non-
African expatriate community includes roughly 18,000 French and at
least 100,000 Lebanese.
The number of school-aged children attending classes increased from
22% in 1960 to 55% in 1988.
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 ethnic
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.
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
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.
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). 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 three 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 only true road to African solidarity is through step-
by-step economic and political cooperation, recognizing the principle
of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other African states.
Cote d'Ivoire's 1959 constitution provides for a 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.
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 introduced by its own members or
by the president.
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 50
departments, each headed by a prefect appointed by the central
government. There are 135 communes, each headed by an elected
The small Ivorian armed forces include an army, navy, air force, and
gendarmerie. The army, the largest of the organizations, has four light
infantry battalions, located in Abidjan, Bouake, Daloa, and Korhogo.
Each battalion falls within one of the country's four military regions
and is headquartered at one of these four principal cities. Specialized
army units include an armored battalion, artillery battalion, engineer
battalion, air-defense, and a special unit composed of a para-
commando company, and a rapid intervention deployment force.
The army staff serves as the joint staff at Ivorian Armed Forces
Headquarters at Abidjan, with a major general acting both as the
commander of the army and chief of staff. Command of the various
military units stationed throughout Cote d'Ivoire is exercised through
the army military region commanders (all colonels).
The gendarmerie, the second largest military service, is a national
police force responsible for territorial security, especially in rural areas.
It is composed of a headquarters in Abidjan, commanded by a major
general, and four gendarmerie legions that correspond to the four
The Ivorian air force and Air Ivoire, the national airline, function
within a single organization. The military/civil inventory consists of
five alpha jets, 12 transport/utility aircraft, and two helicopters. The
Ivorian navy, the smallest of the armed services, is equipped with four
patrol craft and one small landing ship. The Ivorian Navy also owns
about 20 small craft that are used for traffic on the lagoon,
immigration, and narcotics control. The navy's primary mission is
patrolling the 340-mile shoreline. The total strength of the uniformed
services (which includes the military forces and the gendarmerie but
not the police) is 16,000. A mutual defense accord signed with France
in 1961 provides for stationing French forces in Cote d'Ivoire, and a
French Marine Infantry Battalion currently is based near Abidjan.
Principal Government Officials
President--Henri Konan Bedie
Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Finance and Plan--Daniel
Ambassador to the United States--Moise Koumoue Koffi
Ambassador to the UN--Gervais Jean-Marie Kacou
Cote d'Ivoire maintains an embassy at 2424 Massachusetts Avenue,
NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (202-483-2400).
Cote d'Ivoire is a stable, multiparty democracy which achieved
independence from France in 1960. President Felix Houphouet-Boigny,
a moderate leader of considerable stature in Africa, assumed power at
independence and ruled unopposed until 1990. Until that time,
Houphouet's Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI) was the sole
permitted party in the country. In 1990, Houphouet liberalized the
political system and called for multiparty elections. Several dozen
parties formed following the announcement, including the Ivorian
Popular Front (FPI), the largest of the opposition parties. The
opposition won 10 seats in the National Assembly out of a possible
175, and Houphouet was reelected. Despite some accusations of
irregularities, the final results were accepted by all participating
In 1993, Houphouet died and was replaced by his constitutional
successor, National Assembly President Henri Konan Bedie. The
constitution calls for Bedie to serve out the rest of Houphouet's term,
which ends in October 1995. Preparations are currently underway for
presidential, legislative, and municipal elections in late 1995.
The ruling party, the PDCI, is a centrist party without strong
ideological identification. The major opposition party, the FPI, is a
moderate "socialist" party more concerned with political issues than
with radical economic change. The Ivorian Workers' Party, which has
one deputy in the National Assembly, is more left-leaning. Few of the
80 or so other Ivorian parties have made much of an impact on the
Ivorian political scene.
Agriculture has provided the impetus for Cote d'Ivoire's development
into one of Africa's most prosperous economies, with annual real
growth of nearly 7% from 1960 to 1980. Cocoa, coffee, and timber
woods were key exports during this era and continued to account for
51% of export earnings in 1993, despite impressive diversification
efforts. To reduce dependence on this limited range of export goods,
the government has encouraged, with minimal success until recently,
the production of bananas, palm oil, cotton, pineapples, coconuts,
rubber, and sugar. Yields of cotton, sugar, and rubber have increased
significantly in recent years. In 1993, agriculture accounted for
approximately 33% of Cote d'Ivoire's GDP. Agriculture also continues
to be a critical source of employment, accounting for two out of every
A decade of impressive economic growth for Cote d'Ivoire came to a
halt in the early 1980s. From 1981, the economy contracted in real
terms. Over-ambitious state investment in the 1970s, at a time of high
coffee and cocoa prices, was financed largely by external borrowing.
When world prices for coffee and cocoa plummeted in the early 1980s,
the government, hopeful of a recovery, continued its practice of
external borrowing. A continued decline in commodity prices, high
external debt obligations incurred during the boom years, and a two-
year drought contributed to Cote d'Ivoire's deep recession and
concomitant financial crisis during the early 1980s. Conditions for
what proved to be a transitory recovery were laid by a stringent
austerity program and structural adjustments in association with the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Record
export crops in 1985 spurred a return to real growth of about 5%,
followed by a 2%-3% increase in 1986. The collapse of coffee and
cocoa price in the latter half of 1986, however, plunged the economy
into a recession from which it has only recently begun to emerge.
In 1989, Cote d'Ivoire embarked upon a new IMF adjustment program
and a new World Bank structural reform program to be supported by
substantial amounts of bilateral assistance and official and commercial
bank rescheduling. The IMF and the World Bank, however, suspended
disbursements under these programs primarily because of concerns
about the country's overvalued currency. IMF and World Bank
agreements required the restoration of "competitiveness" in the Ivorian
export sector. These conditions have not been met, primarily because
of currency overvaluation.
Economically, 1994 has been a year of unprecedented change for Cote
d'Ivoire. In January 1994, the CFA franc was devalued by 50%, after
46 years of fixed parity with the French franc. The devaluation brought
an end to a period of drift in the country's economic and political
management while opening avenues of opportunity blocked by the
overvalued exchange rate. With the currency devalued, cooperation
resumed with the major multilateral lending institutions, which in turn,
opened the way for substantial new concessional credits. Official
creditors then agreed at the Paris Club to a substantial rescheduling and
reduction of the country's crushing debt burden. Private interests,
meanwhile, contributed by reversing the capital outflow, which had
been driven by the inevitability of the CFA franc's devaluation.
Fortunately, over the same period, the prices for key Ivorian
commodities (cocoa, coffee, and cotton) started rising to levels that had
not been seen for years. As this was occurring, an American firm
announced oil and gas discoveries that may make Cote d'Ivoire self-
sufficient in natural gas and electrical power. SIR, the Ivorian oil
refinery which moved in 1985 from being a loss center to generating
some profits, also stands to benefit significantly from the discovery. In
the mining sector, a U.S. firm increased its output of gold significantly
In the short term, agriculture and agro-industry stand to gain the most
from the new conditions. The traditional cash crops, which are mostly
exported, are not only rebounding on world markets but have doubled
in value in local currency terms as a result of the devaluation. Domestic
demand for local fruit, vegetables, and meat should strengthen
significantly. With urban wages rising, on average by only 10% in
nominal terms after the devaluation, Ivorian consumers can be
expected to turn from expensive imports toward local alternatives. The
devaluation has also improved the prospects for light manufacturing,
especially in textiles.
Over the long term, the more competitive macroeconomic environment
is likely to lead to new investment in sectors that were previously
overlooked or where production did not employ modern technologies.
Good examples would be rice production and food processing.
However, as long as the government maintains subsidies on imported
rice for urban consumers, there will be significant disincentives to
domestic rice and other food crop production. The new
competitiveness and concomitant in the economy (lower real cost of
doing business) should also add to Abidjan's attractiveness as a
regional center for foreign businesses operating in the area; Abidjan is
the home to a number of foreign firms; and there is evidence of an
increased interest on the part of multinational corporations in
relocating their regional management operations from Europe to
Regulatory reform could also lead to growth. The arrival of new
American investment in gold mining and petroleum extraction could be
followed by more. The new government has made reform of the
mining and hydrocarbons codes a high priority, and the new activity
underway has helped pioneer a new way of thinking about the future
development of underground resources. Available evidence points to
significant deposits of oil, gas, gold, diamonds, nickel, and other
minerals. Given the right regulatory framework, rapid growth could
Rapid economic development since 1950 was assisted by the opening
of the Vridi Canal, which made Abidjan a deepwater port, and the
Abidjan-Ouagadougou Railroad, which traverses the center of the
country. Railroad operations have not been successful. The national rail
company, SICF, has suffered from continued losses and is targeted for
privatization. A system of highways, most of which are paved, now
connect the major urban centers, many of which are also served by the
national airline, Air Ivoire. Air Afrique and other African carriers
provide regular intracontinental service. Intercontinental air service is
available daily between Abidjan and Paris; less frequent flights connect
Abidjan with Rome, Geneva, Zurich, Brussels, London, Madrid, and
New York. Tied to satellite communications, dialing direct to Western
Europe and North America provides the business traveler and tourist
with instant communications.
Cote d'Ivoire has a well developed transportation and communication
infrastructure. The government welcomes foreign private investment,
and has embarked on an ambitious program of privatization in 1990,
promising to sell off two-thirds of the 140 public companies. The
government has already sold its majority shares in the electricity,
water, and other select parastatals. Almost immediately after the
devaluation, the government privatized its shares in SAPH, the rubber
parastatal; this trend is expected to continue, particularly in the export
sectors. There are no formal investment treaties in force in Cote
d'Ivoire. The U.S. has neither investment nor tax treaties, but does have
an OPIC agreement in force.
When Cote d'Ivoire became an overseas territory under the Fourth
French Republic, it benefited from the French Overseas Development
Fund and the Investment Fund of Economic and Social Development.
The country has continued to benefit from considerable French
assistance and also receives important aid from the European
Community, the World Bank, and other donors.
Public organizations and private firms have found Abidjan well
situated as a headquarters for their regional activities. Among those
located in the city are the West African office of the World Bank, the
African Development Bank, the multinational Air Afrique, the African
Regional Satellite Organization (RASCOM), a satellite office of the
Central Bank of the West African Monetary Union, and the secretariat
of the Council of the Entente. Although the French dominate, the
spectrum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) countries are represented, as are a number of
developing countries. About 50 U.S. firms operate in Abidjan. Aside
from the manufacturers and an oil company are a bank, six accounting
firms, and many local and regional sales representatives.
Cote d'Ivoire's currency is the CFA franc, issued by the Central Bank
of the West African Monetary Union. The CFA franc is fully
convertible with the French franc, at a fixed parity of 100 CFAF=1FF.
International payments are readily made.
With the devaluation of the CFA franc and the resumption of
cooperation with major multilateral lending institutions, 1994 may well
be noted among the most eventful economic periods in Cote d'Ivoire's
Cote d'Ivoire's foreign policy has been 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 re-
establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. Cote d'Ivoire has also
sought change in South Africa through dialogue, and its newly named
ambassador was one of the first to be accredited to post-apartheid
The Ivorian Government has traditionally played an important 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 only
just begun to set the post-Houphouet foreign policy agenda. Bedie's
first official travel took him to Tunis in June 1994 for the Organization
of African Unity (OAU) summit, where he was named First Vice
President. Cote d'Ivoire was also made a member of the newly created
OAU conflict resolution mechanism.
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
18,000 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. In July 1994, President Bedie traveled to France for an official
state visit, during which he was accorded an especially warm welcome
by President Mitterrand and the French Government. French Prime
Minister Balladur followed up with a visit to Abidjan shortly thereafter.
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 and Mauritian Common
Organization (OCAM), Council of Entente Communaute Financiere
Africaine (CFA), Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS), Nonaggression and Defense Agreement(ANAD),
INTELSAT, Nonaligned Movement, African Regional Satellite
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 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 funds, has been phased out and
replaced by regional AID projects, such as training, energy initiatives,
child survival and vaccination programs, and housing loan guarantees.
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. Embassy Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Charles O. Cecil
Administrative Counselor--Kenneth Scott
Economic Counselor--Kenneth Kolb
Political Counselor--Michele J. Sison
Defense Attache--Col. Kenneth Hibl
Commercial Attache--Margaret Hanson-Muse
Consular Affairs Officer--Andrew Passen
Director, AID Regional Development--Willard Pearson
Public Affairs Officer--Thomas Hart
The U.S. embassy is located at 5 Rue Jesse Owens, Abidjan, Cote
d'Ivoire (tel. 21-09-79; telex, 23660; telefax, 22-23-59); mailing
address is 01 B.P. 1712, Abidjan 01, Cote d'Ivoire.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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Before your departure, seek information on travel conditions, visa
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National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department
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Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of Public
Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington, DC -- April
1995 -- Managing Editor: Peter A. Knecht -- Editor: Leila C.
Department of State Publication 8119 -- Background Notes Series --
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without
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For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
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