A Changing Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire is located in Western Africa off the Gulf of Guinea. In recent years, Côte d’Ivoire’s increased stability has attracted foreign investment and its swelling middle class has created domestic demand. Both of these have been possible as a changing Côte d’Ivoire evolves with its three main crops: cocoa, coffee and cashews.

History of Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire is a country with a troubled past. It began as a French colony that was granted independence in 1960 under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who held the post until his death in 1993. There was relative peace and democracy until the 2000 election when Alassane Ouattara decided to run against the current President Henri Konan Bedie. This election split the country into the north and south.

The north, led by Ouattara, was a Muslim-based rebel group; the South turned into a Christian-based government. Then, after some deadly hostilities, the U.N. sent a peacekeeping force in 2004. Events continued in this vein until 2010 when Ouattara was elected president. Laurent Gbagbo (who at the time had claimed leadership for himself) refused to accept terms, which led Ouattara to lead troops across the country in 2011. Gbagbo was captured and later tried for crimes against humanity.

It has been a long road since the end of the civil war in 2011, but the country has been on track for beginning to turn life around for its citizens. There are still instances of unrest, such as in 2017 when demobilized soldiers took to the streets, demanded pay and did not return to their barracks until the government had paid them back $21,000. In this particular instance, 15 people died.

Points of Concern

There are also suggestions of the government using false accusation to hold journalists or publishers back. On February 12th, six journalists were held for 48 hours after they reported the payment to the mutineers. Another instance was when an online news editor was charged for releasing fake news after an interview with ex-President Gbagbo’s son, Michel.

Along with potentially wrongful convictions is the concern over Côte d’Ivoire’s ability to handle criminals. Particularly those accused of the human rights abuse during the civil war. The trial of former First Lady Simone Gbagbo led many to lose belief in the judiciary system after she was released.

A Bright Future

Despite concerns, there have been some impressive steps in the right direction. President Ouattara is helping to create a changing Côte d’Ivoire with a new constitution as well as putting forth continued efforts to strengthen the judicial system. The government has also adopted a decree to help enforce the law that strengthened human rights defenders three years ago.  

The increased stability has led to increased investment and the ability to focus on agricultural strengths. Côte d’Ivoire has the second highest growth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa standing around 8.8 percent as of 2016. While the middle class is currently at 23 percent. Both of these growth trajectories have been made possible by the cash crops (cocoa, coffee, and cashews).

Cashews, while not being a native to Côte d’Ivoire, hit a record of 625,000 tons in its first growing season of 2015. By the end of 2015 Côte d’Ivoire passed India in cashew exports making it the largest cashew exporter. The Côte d’Ivoire government offered a bonus payment of CFA 400 for every kilogram of cashew exports.

Moments of Success

The Côte d’Ivoire has evolved as successes and incentives increased interest from foreign investors. China has invested and given foreign aid totaling around $4 billion to the Côte d’Ivoire in the last 15 years. Such investments lead to improved infrastructure, especially in Côte d’Ivoire’s energy sector. With its growing energy sector, power demand has grown 10 percent within the nation each year from 2012-2017.

A changing Côte d’Ivoire has brought wealth and prosperity to the country. However, there is still a ways to go as Côte d’Ivoire learns how to face and deal with the aftermaths of the civil war.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr