Côte d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, is a country on the western coast of Africa. First colonized by the French in 1893, the country remained under French control and influence until 1961. In addition to slaves, Côte d’Ivoire was active in the ivory tusk trade, hence its name “Ivory Coast.”
Unlike other African nations, Côte d’Ivoire had three decades of peaceful and prosperous rule following independence from colonialism. Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of Côte d’Ivoire, ruled effectively and made the country into one of the most prosperous in Africa.
With his contacts in France, President Houphouët was able to make better deals in cash crops than his African neighbors. Two of the country’s primary exports were coffee and cocoa. Aside from oil-producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire had the highest per-capita income in the early 1980s.
Côte d’Ivoire’s downfall, however, came at the end of Houphouët’s presidency and life. Nationalistic tension arose when migrants began settling in the northern parts of the country. By 2002, civil war broke out, leaving the once model nation in disarray.
Today, Côte d’Ivoire is one of the top 20 poorest countries in the world. One quarter of its population lives under $1 per day. Even though it still ranks number one in cocoa exports in the world, poor farmers in the northern and western rural areas of the country suffer.
Resources in the country have been exploited for the quick financial return on cash crops. Unregulated environmental procedures have caused over-farming in some areas and made the future of agricultural activities tenuous for the Ivorian people. Poor farmers don’t have the funds to feed themselves and their families, much less send their children to school.
Another issue that plagues Côte d’Ivoire today is a lack of proper healthcare. Following the onset of the civil war, healthcare provision was disrupted. This is likely due to people dispersing within and leaving the country. Services then were provided for free. A lack of healthcare professionals to provide such demand for care overwhelmed the system. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is only 1 doctor per 10,000 people in Côte d’Ivoire.
Like many other countries within the African continent, Côte d’Ivoire is launching initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS. It has one of the highest prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in western Africa. Malaria and Tuberculosis also major problems for the country.
There is, however, hope for the people of Côte d’Ivoire. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) was launched to reduce poverty rates by providing channels for better governance, creating partnerships with the private sector to stimulate growth, and improving access to social services. It also is taking measures to lessen inequalities between varying populations.
In conjunction with ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the Ivory Coast’s government has implemented an agricultural policy that includes addressing the sustainable environmental issues within the country.
– Aysha Rasool