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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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