Industrialization of the Ivory CoastAlthough the Ivory Coast has a high poverty rate of 46 percent, its gross domestic product growth rate ranked number 10 out of 224 countries. High GDP growth implies increased productivity, which also leads to industrialization. The Industrial Revolution caused productivity to skyrocket along with mass industrialization and thus brought the poverty rate down. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast might be the key to eliminating the high poverty rate.

The Current Economy of the Ivory Coast

Rising prices of cocoa in 2018 and increased crop production marked a positive turn for the Ivory Coast since at least two-thirds of its population works in the agricultural industry. The Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa. Although the amount of cocoa in the market surprised even analysts, the Ivory Coast must still transition from agriculture into manufacturing and service industries. This follows the same pattern of evolution that the U.S. and Japan took as they were industrialized. The transitional period will be long and gradual as industrialization is a major change to an economy.

To sustain one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the government is investing more than $7 billion in infrastructure between 2018 and 2023. Most of the investment was directed to the capital and major port city Abidjan. “We want to be an emerging country but to achieve that, we will need high-quality infrastructure to support the economy,” states Amede Koffi Kouakou, Minister of Economic Infrastructure. Kouakou explains work must be done to fix the roads damaged by floods. A train network and bridges to Abidjan are other investments currently underway. The roads are in poor condition. However, an infrastructure boom is a sign that the country is prepared to become an emerging economy.

The Benefits of Industrialization

Japan presents an industrialization success story. From the 1880s to 1970, Japan grew rapidly and became a powerful economic leader by the 1980s. Japan is now highly developed and is the third-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, just behind the European Union and the United States. The process of becoming one of the most powerful economies took enormous effort and focused on infrastructures, such as building roads, schools and hospitals. Japan decreased its poverty rate from an unusually high number, the exact figure is unknown, to 16 percent as of 2013. In comparison, the U.S. has a poverty rate of about 15 percent. Ultimately, the progress Japan made originated with industrialization.

Job creation would be a major benefit of the industrialization of the Ivory Coast. Poor farmers flock to jobs and receive training. In turn, they become a valuable asset to companies and the particular industry. Another benefit is the advancement in farming equipment and machinery. These advancements will increase productivity and improve the quality of crops. This results in a more automated agricultural industry where machines do the arduous work and leave extra income to buy products and services.

“In developed countries, economic growth is driven by industrialization underpinned by strong manufacturing. We need to engage African leaders and policymakers to promote industrialization on the continent if we are to accelerate Africa’s transition into a middle-income continent,” states Joseph Mungarulire, director-general of the National Industrial Research and Development Agency in Rwanda. Mungarulire explains that Africa is mostly supported by agriculture, not industry, which leads to slow industrialization and high poverty.

A Pre-Requisite for Industrialization

Industrialization of the Ivory Coast must begin with a strong, stable government that welcomes private investment whether abroad or within its borders. Thankfully, China sees opportunity in investing in Africa. By 2018, China had invested more than $60 billion in Africa. Part of this investment is for building railroads, a simple but life-changing idea that brings jobs and people, just as it did in the U.S. from the 1830s to 1860s. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast, along with investments by the public and private sector, might be the solution to reduce poverty in the country.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

treating hiv in west and central africa
As of 2017, 1.8 million adolescents around the world are living with HIV. This accounts for five percent of total HIV cases. Approximately 1.5 million, or 85 percent, of these adolescents, live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of this, 61 percent live in Eastern and Southern Africa and 24 percent live in West and Central Africa. The region with the second-highest HIV rates for adolescents in the world is West and Central Africa. Ending HIV in West and Central Africa requires strong national and international efforts to protect and treat children and adults.

One of the largest problems in the region is a lack of HIV testing. According to Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, a majority of children living with HIV are not receiving the proper care because they have never been tested and do not know they have the disease.

One way to resolve this is to ensure testing is being done at primary health facilities in communities, with a family-centered approach. It is equally important to increase testing and treatment for pregnant women. Only 47 percent of pregnant women with HIV in West and Central Africa were able to use antiretroviral medicines, which prevent transmission to the unborn child.

Gender Matters

Among adolescents, there are often gender disparities in HIV infections. In many parts of the world—including South Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa—more boys than girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were newly infected in 2017. Whereas in West, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa significantly more girls than boys were infected. In West and Central Africa, 66 percent of the new were girls, while only 34 percent were boys.

Women and girls in this region are particularly at risk of HIV because of cultural, social and economic inequalities. They are less likely to attend school. Girls that are uneducated are twice as likely to become infected with HIV than girls who have attended school. Additionally, uneducated girls are at a greater risk for partner violence, increasing the risk for HIV.

Access to healthcare is also a significant issue. Women’s inability to see a healthcare provider prevents life-saving testing and treatments. Approximately 50 percent of girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are not allowed to make personal health decisions.

International Efforts

Ending HIV has long been a focus of international humanitarian organizations. Recently, with the increased focus on preventing HIV infections among adolescents, UNAIDS created ALL IN! This collaboration improves knowledge about HIV, as well as how it can be prevented and treated. The goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020, aiming for ending the epidemic by 2030.

UNAIDS reports that HIV has already decreased in some of the most severely affected countries due to the adoption of safer sexual practices by adolescents. Often, school is crucial to providing the necessary sex education.

Efforts to reduce HIV in West and Central Africa is not only being done by international organizations such as UNAIDS; governments and their partners are taking initiatives to better prevent and treat HIV in youth and adults.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the government made the decision to stop charging people for HIV testing and treatment services. Fees have long been a barrier for those who live in poverty. Currently, only 46 percent of those in Côte d’Ivoire living with HIV were accessing treatment. Hopefully, this initiative will begin to increase this number, helping nearly half a million people.

Treatments and Strategies

Those who are at a high risk of HIV in West and Central Africa but have not yet contracted the disease can take the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen. A pilot study is taking place in Burkina Faso, focusing on providing this preventative treatment to the most vulnerable. This includes homosexual men, who often avoid medical treatment due to the stigma surrounding their sexuality.

Once the study, which began at the end of 2018, is completed the plan is to expand PrEP across the nation and, eventually, the entire region. Benjamin Sana, a participant in this pilot study, is thankful for the treatment and believes that PrEP has the potential to save lives.

In response to a new survey, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president led the development of a Revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework for 2019 to 2021. Since 2010, Nigeria has tripled the number of people who receive HIV treatment and adopted an effected test and treat policy in 2016.

The new strategy aims to ensure services are being delivered to the people who need them the most, even in remote areas with less health care access. One of their primary goals is to ensure that no more children are born with HIV in Nigeria, according to the president.

These efforts in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, as well as other countries in the region, will hopefully have a significant impact on the future of HIV in West and Central Africa, saving thousands of lives.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Côte d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire produces 35 percent of all cocoa, making it the largest cocoa producer in the world. A majority of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, however, live below the poverty line. Within the past couple of years, a financial crisis within the cocoa sector has worsened conditions for cocoa farmers. Improving financial inclusion and increasing yields could become ways to bring cocoa farmers out of poverty.

In 2017, the cocoa crisis left many farmers without pay for their work. George Koffi Kouame, a 50-year-old cocoa farmer, told the BBC that he had delivered 1.8 tons of cocoa and had not been paid. This is the result of plummeting cocoa prices, which led up to 80 percent of cocoa buyers to terminate their contracts with farmers.

Living Conditions

However, even without this crisis, most cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are struggling. As a condition of their poverty, many lack adequate access to education, healthcare and drinking water.

Only 43 percent of farming communities observed in a study by Barry-Callebaut, a major chocolate manufacturer, had a health facility in their village. For 54 percent of the communities, the nearest health facility was, on average, 12 kilometers away, a little over seven miles.

Additionally, 25 percent of villages did not have a primary school, with 22 percent of villages having no school at all. While 87.4 percent of villages had a primary school located within five kilometers, having a school in each village ensures that education is accessible even to the most impoverished, as they may not have the means to travel for schooling.

Finally, access to safe drinking water is also a concern for some cocoa farmers. While 32 percent obtain some of their drinking water from the national water supply and 63 percent have access to pumped water, 5 percent of farming communities do not have access to either source. This suggests that they mainly drink surface water, which is more likely to be unsanitary.

Rural Côte d’Ivoire is in desperate need of better and more abundant schools and healthcare facilities, as well as access to drinkable water in certain villages. These changes would help improve the standard of living of cocoa farmers and their families more generally, potentially aiding in efforts to raise them out of poverty.

Financial Inclusion

Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are generally excluded from formal financial services. Rates for all residents of Côte d’Ivoire are high, with 53 percent of men and 64 percent of women lacking access to financial services.

Because of this, the crop cycle generally determines the financial lives of cocoa farmers. Cocoa farmers harvest from October to January and make their money for the year during this period. Then, from February to September, farmers must make the money they earned from this harvest last, as cocoa farming is the main source of income for most farmers.

If their money begins to run out during these months, many are forced to take informal loans with high-interest rates in order to make ends meet. Then, when the next harvest begins generating income, paying back these loans reduces their profit and makes it difficult to save money for the following year.

To improve the financial health of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and help them rise out of poverty, more financial products need to be available. Access to formal loans is incredibly important, as loans through the banking sector will have lower interest rates and be easier to repay. Many farmers would benefit from being able to get formal loans for school fees, as these are due before the harvest season has begun.

Additionally, education programs to teach farmers how to best manage their money in combination with access to savings accounts can help farmers become financially sustainable over time. Advans, an international microfinance group, has been working in Côte d’Ivoire since 2015, helping farmers set aside money for the future.

Crop Yields

Another solution, proposed by Barry-Callebaut, is to help farmers increase their crop yields, thereby increasing their income. Farmers sometimes do not use pesticides and fertilizers, decreasing their cocoa yields, partly due to low access to financial services. Improving access to financial services, as well as implementing educational programs for farmers to help them learn better agricultural practices, has the potential to significantly increase farmers’ yields over time.

Overall, improving financial inclusion and crop yields has the potential to help cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire rise out of poverty. Additionally, improving education, healthcare and drinking water access will improve their quality of life. As information about cocoa farming continues to be collected, this knowledge will hopefully be used to benefit impoverished farmers.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Cote d'IvoireAlthough Cote d’Ivoire’s GDP growth rate remains among the highest in the world from 2015 to 2017, 46.4 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line. The West African country, also known as Ivory Coast, relies heavily on agriculture, as do most developing countries. As the African country continues to develop, there are three possible areas that could help reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire: economic diversification, improving the agricultural industry and eliminating government corruption.

Economic Diversification

The country is over-reliant in one industry with 68 percent of Cote d’Ivoire residents having occupations in the agriculture sector. Although the country has grown partly due to the agriculture industry, relying solely on one industry is risky. Price fluctuations of popular exports, such as cocoa and coffee beans, are a high risk for Ivorians. Developing the healthcare, education, transportation, technology, infrastructure and mining industries would create tens of thousands of jobs and reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire.

Education is one productive area that would drive economic change and help reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire. Only about 48 percent of the population is literate. Education is a basic human right and necessary to develop further; investing in it is the foundation of a strong economy. However, Cote d’Ivoire is focusing more on public education. In 2014, the government spent about 4 percent of GDP on education. In comparison, the U.S. spent 5 percent of GDP on education in the same year. Investing in education has a spillover effect, as those seeking degrees in engineering or in the sciences may build hospitals or work in the lacking Ivorian healthcare industry.

Agricultural Industry Improvement

About 70 percent of the world cocoa production comes from West Africa. The country grew considerably and diversified the agriculture industry by exporting products such as cocoa beans, palm oil, coffee, bananas, sweet potatoes, cotton, sugar and many other products. Due to more than 60 percent of Ivorians relying on crops to feed their families and earn an income, further development in the agriculture industry is a viable option to reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire.

Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans. Small farmers make up most of the agriculture industry. As the country slowly transitions toward urbanization, especially in the capital and in the major port city Abidjan, investing in more advanced farming techniques could help increase production and lead to a higher income.

Eliminate Government Corruption

Reducing poverty in Cote d’Ivoire begins with government initiative and policy. A strong foundation in government policy, particularly in strengthening the economy and creating jobs, is one fundamental way to reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire. A corrupt or passive government will lead to slow or little progress toward eradicating poverty. Under the leadership of President Alassane Ouattara, the country plans to have universal, affordable and clean drinking water by 2030. This goal demonstrates that Ouattara, unlike his predecessor who started a civil war, believes in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Under President Ouattara, the Ivorian economy grew significantly. Cote d’Ivoire ranked 10th in the world in real GDP growth in 2017. In an effort to improve the economy after the civil war that stemmed from Ouattara’s election, the president increased investment in infrastructure and services. In 2008, the poverty rate was 48.9 percent. A decade later, it went down to 46.4 percent, a modest reduction, but still representing a large percentage of the population.

Reducing and ultimately eliminating poverty in Cote d’Ivoire is a long, and sometimes slow, process. It takes leadership with a moral vision to help its own people. Three solutions to the high poverty rate in Cote d’Ivoire are economic diversification, investment in the agriculture industry and strengthening government policy in order to create jobs that pay above the poverty level. Thanks to the strong growth in the Ivorian economy, poverty has already gradually reduced.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Côte d'Ivoire
The Côte d’Ivoire is just one of those numerous developing countries that, though undoubtedly facing problems, is unfairly regarded by most people. Indeed, peeling back the poverty statistics and tear-jerking photographs, one finds a portrait of a people rich in shared determination towards building a better future. In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Côte d’Ivoire and the everyday struggles of the people of the country, are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Hunger has become a real problem in Côte d’Ivoire after post-election violence disrupted cyclical planting and regular harvesting times for farmers. With so much of the population suffering from food insecurity, it is just as unsurprising as it is regrettable that the country received a Global Hunger Index Score with the score of just 25.7 out of 100.
  2. In addition to the various initiatives of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, organizations like the World Food Programme and Action Against Hunger have provided food for a combined one million Ivorians. The positive forward momentum is strong but gradual.
  3. Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire has led to the prevalence of substandard housing that further led to an increase in diseases as poorly constructed lodgings have granted malarial mosquitoes and similar infectious-insects easy opportunities to spread illness. Most families live in traditional homes made of mud walls and thatch roofs. However, local Habitat for Humanity office has succeeded in helping to break that deadly cycle. Since setting out on their mission 20 years ago to provide safe and secure homes with decent sanitation to the poor, their team of almost 10,000 volunteers have built or repaired over 6,000 homes, as well as provide around 10,500 local people with additional sanitation.
  4. The education problem in Côte d’Ivoire is reflected by one powerful statistic: in 2007, nearly one in two children did not attend primary school. Public schooling is both painfully underfunded and frustratingly overcrowded, owing to previous civil conflicts that shattered the national economy, and with it, the chance at a solid educational infrastructure.
  5. Through the concerted efforts of the UNICEF and the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, over two-thirds of children now attend primary school. Their accomplishments range from improving up to 200 schools with better furniture and more extracurricular activities, to a four-year national development plan to make the push for education a priority.
  6. The Tai Rainforest is one of the last primary rainforest left in West Africa and it is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, including the endangered pygmy hippo, chimpanzee and leopard. But similar to such defining features of Côte d’Ivoire, its teeming, verdurous rainforests have also become one of its most vulnerable, regularly encroached upon and deforested by ambitious cocoa farmers. As country relies primarily on cocoa for its economy and is the world’s largest cocoa exporter, serious concerns surround the remaining, protected 4 percent of the rainforests as illegal farmers continue to make moves.
  7. The government has worked with large chocolate companies to help stop the farming of protected land, but faces economical and ethical dilemmas as 40 percent of cocoa farms are estimated to be on such protected territory, and ending them would land a big punch to the country’s economy. Additionally, most farmers are poor and use the farm to support themselves and their families. One bill proposes legalizing cocoa plantations in reserves, which would create a place where new trees are planted while farmers continue to grow cocoa, dubbed as “protected agroforests” and is hoping to be footed soon.
  8. In 2011, when the Second Ivorian Civil War broke out, forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, battled against supporters of the internationally recognized president-elect, Alassane Ouattara. While Ouattara’s forces were victorious in the end, horrific human rights violations were reported on both sides. As a result, tensions between supporters of the two camps have increased ever since. Going into the new elections in 2020, Ivorians are hoping that the tension doesn’t lead the country into a new crisis. Nevertheless, Ouattara maintains that the 2020 elections will “take place in excellent conditions”.
  9. The standard of Côte d’Ivoire health care and health facilities is poor, especially in areas outside of the major cities and this problem is in no small part exacerbated by the previous abolishment of free public health care by the government in response to the political upheaval. At the start of 2015, Ivorians got their health care back, but endemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria still run rampant. As the HIV/AIDS problem is largely attributed to the lack of sexual education, UNICEF stresses the importance of information and awareness related activities when educating youngsters. So far, hundreds of thousands of kids have been educated and sensitized.
  10. One of the Côte d’Ivoire’s most endearing traditions is the Festival of Masks, held each December in the city of Man. In this well-known “fête”, competitions are held between villages to find the best dancer and homages are paid to the forest spirits that are represented on their decorated masks. In a politically divided country, Festival of Masks has helped to unify a people who are occasionally at odds with each other. Indeed, after suffering from two civil wars within the last 20 years, Côte d’Ivoire has been an at-times hotbed of political turmoil.

In conclusion, Côte d’Ivoire has its problems, but just as the country is experiencing them, innovative ways and solutions exist side-by-side. Hunger, poverty, disease, political strife and other discouraging statistics that the Ivorians are facing have not stopped the country’s improvements in many fields and various organizations are there making sure that the grim realities do not stop the citizens from sparking breathtaking change.

– William Cozens
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Cote d’Ivoire
When facing the prevalence of gender gap issues in the media today, the increase of eligibility for basic education, especially for young girls, has been a glaring and globally spread issue.

Over the past decade, however, Cote d’Ivoire has made extensive strides in trying to bridge this gap within the country’s borders. This West African country, although not at the forefront of the headlines, has had many successes that have been the model for many more developing girls education programs to come.

All of the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Cote d’Ivoire presented below are the result of such improvement and a true testament to the power of policymaking in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Cote d’Ivoire

  1. According to the Journal of Education and Learning, Ivory Coast’s Education for All program, whose goal is to implement compulsory education in the country, has made its focus to invest more resources towards marginalized groups including children of disadvantaged socioeconomic groups and especially girls. The success of the program depends on enabling all groups and communities to participate in education.
  2. In 2017, the gross enrollment of female students in pre-preliminary education was greater than that of male students. However, in all other levels of education, the enrollment for girls is at the lower level. On the flip side, the enrollment of girls is constantly increasing.
  3. The National Development Plan for Cote d’Ivoire (2016-2020) highlights the importance of education to the social wellbeing of the country. This plan included a new law that requires children from the ages of 6 to 16 to receive mandatory education furthering the skills of the country’s overall job force. The Plan would also enforce a greater incentive for female enrollment as they usually make up less than 10 percent of those enrolled in schools.
  4. Remarkably for developing countries, according to UNESCO, 89 percent of girls transition successfully from primary to secondary school. In comparison, percent of boys that transition is 95 percent, and the difference of 6 percent among genders is a truly noteworthy feat for the country.
  5. A recent Global Partnership for Education (GPE) grant focuses on a project that would provide and promote higher rates of girls’ education through in-service teacher training, the dissipation of learning materials and a school program with a focus on health and nutrition.
  6. In 2013, only 83.43 percent of female teachers were certified trained teachers. Today, 100 percent of all female teachers are properly trained for their jobs. Through the training of female teachers, girls are more likely to succeed in having both the trained educators and female role models to look up to.
  7. Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), notes that only about 2 percent of girls from rural areas have hope to complete secondary education. The organization has, in response to this problem, put together a program that focuses on reducing such inequalities. One of the most important goals is to facilitate the travel to school for girls who live in rural areas.
  8. In 2007, UNICEF administered 550,000 pupil kits to the targeted schools. More than 50 percent of the help is going towards girls who have little chance of going to school due to gender discrimination. This project had positive national, local radio and television message that promoted all children’s rights to education. The project has been a model for many ongoing projects today.
  9. According to UNICEF, over 72 percent of female adults are able to read. This surpasses the average for sub-Saharan Africa and has proven to have a huge impact on poverty and health in the country.
  10. Ivory Coast’s Education Sector Plan for 2016-2025 foresees quality education for all children by reducing inequalities in provided resources and opportunity based on gender. This new program promotes training in science and technology while especially increasing literacy rates for women.

Although there are many aspects that can be still be improved, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Cote d’Ivoire presented above show that the country has made huge efforts to eradicate the gender gap in education and to enable education for everyone.

With the help of several nongovernmental organizations, the country will continue to make positive strides in the future.

– Sarah Chocron

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Côte d’Ivoire
Recent reports indicate that the economic performance of the country of Côte d’Ivoire’s is improving.  In 2016, the Ivorian government committed to a National Development Plan designed to transform the country into a middle-income economy by the year 2020. A quick analysis indicates that these efforts have been successful so far. In fact, the country’s economic growth between 2016 and 2017 has it ranked among the most booming economies in Africa. Unfortunately, this growth has not translated into increased credit access in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Importance of Credit Access

In 2017, only 1 in 7 Ivoirians had an account with a financial institution. This statistic has remained unchanged over the past year. Since banks and other formal financial institutions are the primary providers of credit, a lack of access to these institutions can have major effects. Credit is often used to fund education, pay medical bills and purchase property. It is an essential tool in working toward socio-economic mobility. Thus, increasing credit access in Côte d’Ivoire is a crucial step toward improving the lives of the 46 percent of Ivorians currently living in poverty.

Limitations on Credit Access

According to the 2017 Global Findex Survey, the greatest obstacle preventing Ivorians from opening a bank account is a lack of sufficient funds. Roughly two-thirds of Ivorians cite this as the primary reason they do not have an account. Associated account fees are an additional barrier for nearly a third of the population. Other obstacles include a lack of necessary documentation, distance from a physical bank and a lack of trust in these institutions. As a result, more than half of the adult population has never used formal financial services.

The prospects of obtaining an account are even grimmer among disadvantaged populations. The poor are twice as likely as their more prosperous counterpart to be excluded from using formal financial services. Women are 45 percent more likely to be excluded than men; the gap between men and women’s access to financial institutions has risen by 90 percent in the last three years.

Even if an individual overcomes these obstacles, the possession of an account does not guarantee access to credit. Although 15 percent of Côte d’Ivoire’s adult population had a financial institution account in 2017, only 3 percent of Ivorians have borrowed from a financial institution or used a credit card. If a loan is needed, the most common solution among Ivorians is to borrow from friends and family. In fact, only 34 percent have ever borrowed outside of the household.

Mobile Money as an Alternative

While participation in traditional financial institutions remains low, Ivorians are finding other digital means to manage their money. Over the past decade, mobile money has been on the rise. Mobile money is essentially a digital wallet – its basic functions allow users to store, send and receive money as though it were cash. As of 2017, roughly 42 percent of Ivorians have a mobile money account. Moreover, statistics show that mobile money accounts are more accessible to disadvantaged populations.

While mobile money has helped circumvent the barriers associated with traditional banking, it is not designed to offer credit access in Côte d’Ivoire. Digital credit lenders are operating in several sub-Saharan economies, but they have yet to emerge in the Ivorian economy.

However, surveys suggest that Ivorians would welcome these new services. 59 percent of Ivorians express interest in using a digital credit product. Their decision to participate would depend on interest rates and associated fees, the feasibility of the repayment plan and the speed at which they can access the loan. Half of the Ivorians surveyed indicated they would be willing to pay 10 percent interest for a six-month loan if a CFA 100,000 digital loan was made available to them.

The introduction of these new digital credit services could have a profound impact on the Ivorian poor. However, in order to maximize the impact, additional materials must be provided to address low rates of technological and financial literacy. Although 87 percent of Ivorian adults have access to mobile phones, only 50 percent possess a feature phone or smartphone, which is necessary to access the digital financial services. Even fewer know how to navigate the phone’s interface, and even if they can navigate the interface, only 33 percent are considered financially literate. This means that a large group of new credit users in the country may be vulnerable to hidden fees and marketing fraud. Nonetheless, if provided with the proper assistance to improve financial and technological literacy, these digital alternatives to traditional banking could prove to be an effective solution to limited credit access in Côte d’Ivoire.

– Joanna Dooley
Photo: Flickr

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

Media Misrepresents Côte d’Ivoire
A good story can be hard to find. The term “good” is used here to mean positive or uplifting, and to find a “good” story reported about a developing country can require even further digging. The media misrepresents Côte d’Ivoire, and this can lead to uninformed conclusions about developing nations. Media outlets often correctly assume the tales that will catch public attention are only the ones of despair and depravity.

Côte d’Ivoire and France

Claimed by the French in 1893 during the European furor to divide Africa, Côte d’Ivoire’s people resisted occupation as colonizers imposed their culture and encouraged the planting of cash crops such as cocoa and coffee, thus beginning the exploitation of the country’s rich land and resources.

Côte d’Ivoire achieved independence from France in 1960. In the decades following, Côte d’Ivoire kept lucrative ties with its former colonizers, growing in economic wealth over the three-decade presidency of Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Since the 1990s, civil conflicts resulted in thousands of civilian and military casualties and the displacement of one million people.

There’ve been human rights and free speech violations, military mutinies, and the continuation of the illegal ivory trade. These are the stories that will barrage any search for information on Côte d’Ivoire.

Searching for the “Côte d’Ivoire”

If one sought out a better understanding of Côte d’Ivoire through mainstream media outlets, one’s sure to see a storm of instability and misfortune. Top search results from mainstream media sources paint a picture of toxic waste, violent uprisings and leaders committing war crimes. These misrepresentations box Côte d’Ivoire into a one-dimensional existence afforded to many African nations by first world lenses — primarily, one of chaos and dependence.

After the end of the First Ivorian Civil War, several thousand French and United Nations troops remained in the country to help implement the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. The United Nations Peacekeeping review for 2017 stated, “The collective efforts of our uniformed and civilian personnel have resulted in progress on the ground this year. We ended our operation in the Ivory Coast in June, where we have left behind a legacy of stability and peace after a presidential crisis in 2010 when some 3,000 Ivorians were killed and 300,000 became refugees.”

Presidential Progress

As of 2016, there has been measured progress in the realm of free speech and press. During Laurent Gbagbo’s presidency, much of the country’s media was state-produced to prevent criticism. In the first years of Alassane Ouattara’s presidency, the country’s media remained under the control of the state to keep media platforms closed to Gbagbo’s constituents who aimed to continue his crusade.

But in recent years, new spaces have been created for independent press and legislation. For instance, new legislation was drafted in 2016 to prohibit imprisonment of journalists and reduce fines for journalistic infractions. In December that same year, the broadcasting regulator in Côte d’Ivoire announced spaces would be open for private television stations; soon after this occurrence, four new privately-owned television channels were approved.

Cocoa and Economics

Côte d’Ivoire is the largest exporter of cocoa, producing more than twice as much as Indonesia, the next largest exporter. Encouraged by the French colonizers, Côte d’Ivoire devoted substantial land and resources to the production of cocoa. But after decades of farming, the nation’s aged trees and infertile soil made it susceptible to the effects of climate change.

To combat the destabilizing possibility of cocoa’s decline, the third-party organization Cocoa Life vowed to invest $400 million in educating and providing new technology to 200,000 cocoa farmers in the hope of one day reaching one million community members. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to have all the second largest chocolate producer Mondelēz International Inc.’s cocoa sustainably sourced.

By the end of 2017, Cocoa Life reached 120,500 cocoa farmers in 1,085 communities; this feat lead to sustainable sourcing of 35 percent of Mondelēz International’s cocoa.

Gender in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa farming industry holds a 70 percent gender pay gap. Cocoa Life focuses on increasing women’s land ownership, promoting women leadership positions, and enrolling young women in youth-oriented programs improving their livelihoods through financial freedom and entrepreneurial skills.

Côte d’Ivoire’s gender statistics are sobering. In a country where agriculture is the major source of income only 18 percent of the land is owned by women; in rural areas, 75 percent of women live in poverty; and on top of all that financial debilitation, 36 percent of women in Côte d’Ivoire are victims of physical and/or psychological violence, including female circumcision.

In 2017, the Centre for Women Entrepreneurs of Attécoubé opened in the suburbs of Abidjan. At the opening, the U.N. Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stated the center’s goals, “This center is a link between established and starting-up women entrepreneurs, and a chain of solidarity between the U.N., the Government, bilateral partners and civil society.”

Discovering Solidarity

President Ouattara officially joined the HeForShe global solidarity movement, and pledged to end female circumcision and support the end of all forms of violence against women by 2020.

The media misrepresents Côte d’Ivoire and innumerable other developing nations to pander to an audience who lusts for the sensationalization of the struggles of others to make them feel better about themselves. We should all do our part not to revel in decay, for it is all our responsibility to seek a full and well rounded portrait of those we do not know.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
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U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Côte d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire, located in West Africa, is also known as the Ivory Coast. Agriculture dominates its economy, with oil and natural gases improving economic growth, too. Another aspect helping the economy is foreign aid, and the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire as well.

A Strong Partnership

The U.S. has been building diplomatic relations with Côte d’Ivoire since 1960 when it became independent from France. The U.S. mainly focuses on four areas to assist Côte d’Ivoire:

  1. Upgrading the health care system
  2. Facilitating democracy and governance
  3. Exploring economic potentials
  4. Improving security reform

In 1999, a coup in Côte d’Ivoire disputed elections and spurred rebellion. The U.S. assisted Côte d’Ivoire in moving beyond its decade-long crisis by restoring peace, offering more than 25 percent of the funding for U.N. operations in Côte d’Ivoire. Later on, the U.S. Agency for International Development promoted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is a U.S. Trade Act issued on May 18, 2000.

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Côte d’Ivoire in Trade

Since then, the U.S. and Côte d’Ivoire have shared bilateral economic relations, and the amount of U.S imports from Côte d’Ivoire grew from $384 million in 2000 to $1,163 million in 2016. This is just one of the ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire.

Côte d’Ivoire is viewed as one of Africa’s fastest economic growing countries. From 2006 to 2016, Côte d’Ivoire’s gross domestic product has grown from $17.8 billion to $36.3 billion. In 2015, Côte d’Ivoire exported $12.7 billion in products and 29 percent was cocoa beans. Another noticeable product was refined petroleum, which composed 8.8 percent of the country’s exportation.

AGOA created duty-free imports for certain products from several sub-Saharan African countries. This act further stimulates the U.S. and sub-Saharan African trade and investment and integrates sub-Saharan African economy into the global picture.

Côte d’Ivoire’s economy is heavily based on the agricultural sector, especially cocoa beans. The U.S. is one of the biggest cocoa beans consumers and has easier and cheaper access to import cocoa beans from Côte d’Ivoire. In 2016, the U.S. had imported $834 million of cocoa beans from Côte d’Ivoire. AGOA eliminates extra costs for the U.S. on daily necessities. In this way, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire.

A Boost for the Future

In Nov. 2017, Côte d’Ivoire signed $525 million compacts from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation. The money will be spent in a five-year period to stimulate economic growth and eliminate poverty.

The government of Côte d’Ivoire will contribute another $22 million to various projects, such as the Abidjan Transport Project, which can maintain and improve transportation conditions. Another project receiving funding will be the Skills for Employability and Productivity Project, which will facilitate education systems and provide more opportunities to access secondary education.

Côte d’Ivoire is becoming an even stronger country with U.S. support. Its economic development is accelerating, and its social system is improving as well. Now, Côte d’Ivoire is trying to move its economic anchor from agriculture to other aspects. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire will increase if Côte d’Ivoire can develop into a more integrated economic model.

– Judy Lu

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