For years, people have known the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire as a bastion of religious and ethnic harmony with one of Africa’s most well-developed economies. However, an armed rebellion in 2002 split the nation in two. Even though renewed violence has intermittently interrupted peace deals, the country has slowly moved toward a political resolution. Côte d’Ivoire has seen its economy continue to flourish in recent years. The country has a population of nearly 24 million and remains the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans, the primary force driving its economy. Though poverty in Côte d’Ivoire has reduced, the country is far from eliminating it entirely. The poverty rate stands at 46.3%, and a quarter of the labor force remains unemployed. The most significant challenge for solving poverty in Côte d’Ivoire is how to translate a growing economy into social inclusion and a reduced poverty rate.
Background: Political Unrest
Côte d’Ivoire has a recent history of violent political unrest. In October 2018, conflicts over local elections resulted in the killing of 10 people. These tensions persist from conflicts in 2002 when incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo faced off with the Forces Nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire. Conflicting ideals and values lead to a fully militant civil war from 2002 to 2004. The primary cause of the civil war was a feeling of discrimination among Muslim northerners by the politically dominant Christian southerners.
Today, political unrest in Côte d’Ivoire is at an all-time high since the civil war as the 2020 presidential election has caused tensions to rise. There is significant uncertainty as to whether or not President Alassane Ouattara is going to run for reelection. Additionally, the International Criminal Court recently acquitted former president Gbagbo and is scheduled for release from prison. There is much speculation that Gbagbo will join the 2020 presidential race. As such, the current leading Party (Parti Démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire) and the opposition party (Front Populaire ivoirien) have established a new independent electoral commission in the hopes of easing tensions between supporters of the two sides. Despite this hopeful step, arrests of political opponents in May and clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators have heightened unrest.
The Economy Now
Since 2011, the economy in Côte d’Ivoire has been among the fastest-growing in the world at 8% per year. Despite this, the country’s GDP growth has not increased. Instead, in recent years, Côte d’Ivoire’s GDP has declined by nearly 3%, from 10.1% in 2012 to 7.7% in 2017. Furthermore, Côte d’Ivoire ranks low in both the UNDP’s Human Development Index (170 out of 189 countries) and the human capital index score (0.35). Many poverty-related factors contribute to the low economic development rate.
The most significant challenges in solving poverty in Côte d’Ivoire are similar to those of many countries facing major poverty issues. One of the larger systemic problems perpetuating the country’s gender inequality is the secondary education completion rate, which is 42.7% for girls and 55.5% for boys. The low overall secondary education completion rate (35.5%) creates a challenge for future economic development. Also, the maternal mortality rate is high at 645 deaths per 100,000 live births, and there is a crisis of infant malnutrition. Finally, youth unemployment, which comprises people between the ages of 15 and 35, sits at 36% of the population. Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire is much deeper than economic growth, which does not directly translate to poverty reduction.
Reducing Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire
Despite the variety of issues outlined above, Côte d’Ivoire is working toward ending poverty in the country. In 2009, the country worked in conjunction with the IMF and World Bank to set initiatives for development. The four strategic outcomes outlined in the plan were: Reestablishing the Foundations of the Republic, Transforming Côte d’Ivoire into an Emerging Economy, Social Well-Being For All and Côte d’Ivoire is a Dynamic Actor on the Regional and International Scene. Through these initiatives, Côte d’Ivoire has a robust framework for progressing not just economically, but socially as well.
Once political unrest subsides in Côte d’Ivoire, the nation can continue to enact initiatives to end poverty. The country’s continually growing economy is a positive first step in ultimately reducing poverty. Through continued work with the IMF and World Bank, Côte d’Ivoire has the potential to flourish economically and translate those results to its impoverished people.
– Max Lang