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Poverty in Cote d'Ivoire
The West African country of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, is home to approximately 26 million people. The country is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans, and it boasts beautiful beaches and wildlife preserves. It is also the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. The country has shown resilience as well as growth and development over the past decade. Côte d’Ivoire is among the fastest-growing countries in the world, with an economy that has expanded an average of 8% annually since 2011. So, with all this advancement, why does 46.3% of the population still live below the poverty line? Here are three main causes of poverty in Côte d’Ivoire.

3 Main Causes of Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Gender Inequalities: The maternal mortality rate in Côte d’Ivoire is 645 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is significant compared to the U.S. and Italy which suffer 14 and 2 deaths per 100,000 live births respectively. Additionally, only 42% of girls complete secondary school in Côte d’Ivoire compared to 55.5% of boys. Because women make up about half of the world’s population, it is proven that empowering women through better healthcare, education and social opportunity increases the standard of living as well as providing a significant boost in economic productivity for the entire population. Côte d’Ivoire has recognized a need for change, and revolutionary legislation emerged in the new 2016 constitution. This created legal imperatives to eliminate all forms of violence against women and promote their voices and representation in an elected assembly. Although much work is necessary, legal protection for women is a huge step in the right direction.
  2. Public Health: Even though infrastructure has improved in recent years since the 2002 civil war, healthcare systems have struggled in Côte d’Ivoire. There are about 0.2 doctors and 0.5 hospital beds per 1,000 patients. Tuberculosis and malaria are also significant health threats with reports of two million cases of malaria in 2012. However, the biggest healthcare challenge the country faces is HIV/AIDS. The disease affects 6% of the population and has left 320,000 children orphaned as of 2018, which means Côte d’Ivoire has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in West Africa. On the upside, the government has made important financial commitments to help combat the spread of disease. Not only has domestic funding for HIV/AIDS been increased to $10 million, but the government is also working to reduce or eliminate medical fees, a significant barrier to testing and treatment.
  3. Fluctuations in Export Prices: Cocoa, coffee and palm oil are incredibly important exports for Côte d’Ivoire. Nearly two-thirds of the population work in farming or agriculture. Increased prices as well as fluctuations in weather and insect activity can greatly affect the year to year success and productivity of Ivorians, which impinges on livelihoods. Recently, 800,000 Ivorian farmers living in rural areas—about half of whom are female—have benefited from the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP). This program contributed agricultural processing equipment and provided an average of 22% increase in the household income for the farmers.

The Good News

Although people are struggling, much positive change is coming to Côte d’Ivoire including developments in farming and agriculture, medical innovations and increased education for women. The country is achieving aid through domestic reform as well as international aid. These efforts are helping the people of Côte d’Ivoire out of extreme poverty and increasing the standard of living.

Noelle Nelson
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

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
Photo: Flickr