U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Cote d'Ivoire, April 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs

April 1995 
Official Name: Republic of Cote d'Ivoire
Area: 124,500 square miles (322,500 sq. kms.); slightly larger than 
New Mexico. 
Cities: Capital--Yamoussoukro (official). Other cities--Abidjan, 
Bouake, Daloa, Gagnoa, Korhogo, Man.  
Terrain: Mostly flat.  
Climate: Tropical.
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.
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, 
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.
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 

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 
National Security
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 
military regions.

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 
Kablan Duncan 
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 
political parties.

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 
three jobs. 

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 1994. 

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 
South Africa.

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
Ambassador--Hume Horan 
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. 
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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 
permission; citation of this source is appreciated. 
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government 
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