U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Cote d'Ivoire, July 1998
Released by the Office of Francophone West African Affairs, Bureau of African
Official Name: Republic of Cote d'Ivoire
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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
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
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.
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
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 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
A modest security assistance program provides professional training for Ivorian
military officers in the United States.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Jackson McDonald
Commercial Counselor--Frederic Gaynor
Defense Attache--Col. Gerald Saltness
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
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