Related BIMI WORLD Articles: SMART '98 - Vol. 3 1998
Côte d'Ivoire (known as Ivory Coast prior to 1986) is a West African nation located on the Gulf of Guinea. It is bordered by Ghana on the east, Burkina Faso and Mali on the north, and Guinea and Liberia on the west. Formerly a territory within French West Africa, it achieved independence on Aug. 7, 1960. Felix Houphou was president of the country from independence until his death in 1993.
LAND AND PEOPLE
The terrain of Côte d'Ivoire rises gradually from the Gulf of Guinea northward in four east-west zones: the littoral strip, rain forest, savanna, and tableland. The littoral strip, reaching as far as 50 km (30 mi) inland, is characterized by lagoons separated from the ocean by long sandbars. North of these lagoons, a cross-country rain forest belt some 300 km (185 mi) wide gives way to wooded savanna. Tablelands in the northernmost areas approach elevations of about 400 m (1,300 ft), with occasional peaks rising more than 900 m (2,950 ft). The highest altitudes are found near the Guinean-Liberian border, including Mount Nimba, the highest point in Côte d'Ivoire, which rises to 1,752 m (5,747 ft). The country's four main rivers are the Komoe, Bandama, Sassandra, and Cavally.
The climate zones of the country vary with topography. The subequatorial south is characterized by high humidity and a temperature range of 26 degrees-28 degrees C (79 degrees-82 degrees F). Precipitation averages 2,000 to 3,000 mm (80 to 120 in) annually, occurring primarily from April to November. The forest zone has lower humidity, temperature variations from 15 degrees to 40 degrees C (59 degrees to 104 degrees F), and rainfall of 1,000 to 2,500 mm (40 to 100 in), which decreases to the north. Temperatures drop with increasing elevations to the north, but a hot, dry wind from the Sahara prevails in the winter.
Wildlife includes antelope, giraffes, hyenas, lions, elephants, monkeys, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and snakes, as well as numerous species of birds. Forests, particularly of hardwood such as mahogany, constitute a major natural resource. Petroleum, first discovered offshore, is the leading mineral. Gold is also mined, and there are deposits of iron ore, copper, natural gas, and other minerals.
The country's more than 60 ethnic groups form seven main divisions: the Akan, mainly in the southeast; the Kru, in the southwest; the Lagoon or Kwa, along the littoral; the Mande, nuclear and peripheral, and the Senufo throughout the north; and the Lobi in the central regions. Large numbers of non-Ivorean Africans live in the country, particularly immigrants from Burkina, Mali, and Guinea, as well as smaller numbers of French and Lebanese. The transfer of the capital from Abidjan to Yamoussoukro began in 1983, but the legislature still meets in Abidjan. Bouake is the only other large city.
Although emphasis has been placed on education, schools remain poorly equipped. The university at Abidjan was established in 1964.
Unlike other newly independent nations, Côte d'Ivoire concentrated on developing agriculture and the infrastructure and encouraged foreign investment. One of France's least-developed colonies, the country came to have one of Africa's wealthiest and most diversified economies and one of the continent's highest rates of economic growth. Growth slowed in the 1980s, and per-capita income declined 25 percent between 1987 and 1993, when cuts in French aid and a 50-percent devaluation in the currency, the C.F.A. franc, dealt further blows to the economy.
Côte d'Ivoire is one of the world's largest producers of cacao and coffee, but a drop in world prices for these commodities that began in 1987 led to a steep decline in export earnings, while the price of imports continued to rise. A variety of other export crops—sugarcane, pineapples, oil palms, rubber, cotton, and bananas—are of growing economic importance. Serious depletion of the country's forests has led to a decline in timber exports and encouraged reforestation efforts. Light manufacturing industries process the raw materials of the country.
Côte d'Ivoire retains close ties to France, which is its leading trade partner. Heavy borrowing (principally from France) for development projects has created a large foreign debt. In an effort to improve the economy, the government has introduced a variety of economic austerity measures.
HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT
Little is known of Côte d'Ivoire's history before European involvement in the ivory and slave trades. French missionary contact in Côte d'Ivoire began as early as 1637, but an official French protectorate was not established until 1843-45, when treaties were concluded with local chiefs. Côte d'Ivoire became a French colony in 1893 and was a constituent of French West Africa from 1904 to 1958. It was made an overseas territory in 1946, and its inhabitants were given French citizenship. Côte d'Ivoire was proclaimed a republic within the French Community in December 1958; in 1960 it became independent.
Côte d'Ivoire is a republic, with a president elected for a 5-year term, an appointed cabinet, and a unicameral national assembly whose members are popularly elected for 5-year terms. Although voters were offered a choice of legislative candidates within the ruling party from 1980 on, the country was a de facto one-party state from 1960 until 1990, when unprecedented popular protests led the government to legalize multiple political parties. Despite calls for his resignation, Houphouet-Boigny was elected to a seventh term and his party retained its legislative majority in multiparty elections held later that year. Before Houphouet-Boigny died on Dec. 7, 1993, he had been Africa's longest-serving head of state. He was succeeded as president by Henri Konan Bedie, who was reelected in 1995 under rules that eliminated his chief rivals. The new administration's most pressing concern was to reverse the nation's economic decline.
Bibliography: Gottlieb, A., and Graham, P., Parallel Worlds (1993); Harshe, R., Preventive Entente: France and Côte d'Ivoire in African Affairs (1984); Lewis, B. C., The Côte d'Ivoire (1990); Rapley, J., Ivorean Capitalism (1993); Zartman, W. I., and Delgado, C. L., eds., The Political Economy of the Côte d'Ivoire (1984). ©1997 Grolier Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.