Despite recent conflict, its gorgeous beaches and rainforests make it a great stop. In the south, the Parc National de Tal has chimps and Man has a highland climate, fresh air, peaks and valleys. The beach resorts of Assinie and Grand Bassum are weekend retreats from Abidjan – home to lagoons winding their way between skyscrapers and cathedrals.
Official Name. Republic of Cote d’Ivoire
Capital and largest city. Abidjan 6°51’N 5°18’W
Languages. Official – French. Vernacular – Betel Dioula, baoule, Abron, Agui, Cebaara Senufo
Ethnic Groups. 42.1% Akan, 17.6% Voltaiques / Gur, 16.5% Northern Mandé, 11.0% Krous, 10.0% Southern Mandé, 2.8% others
Demonym. Ivorian, Ivoirian
Government. Unitary presidential republic. President Alassane Ouattara
Independence from France. 7 August 1960
Area. Total 322,463 km2 (69th). Water 1.4%
Population. 2014 estimate 23,919,000 (53rd). 2014 census 22,671,331. Density. 63.9/km2 (139th)
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate – Total $85.310 billion. Per capita $3,506
GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate. Total $34.284 billion. Per capita $1,409
When to Go. May-Jul: Storms with lots of rain and lightning. Jun-Oct: Wet in the north but humid with bursts of rain in the south. Temperatures about 28C. Dec-Feb: Prime beach season with temperatures hitting 30 and not a cloud in the sky.
MONEY. West African CFA fra (XOF). Exchange rate (Sept 2016): 1 Euro = 655.96 CFA fra. 1US$ = 587.94 CFA fra.
ATMs are widespread in Abidjan, Grand Bassam, Yamoussoukro and major towns. Visa best. Banks are open from 8-11:30am & 2:30-4:30pm M-F.
VISAS. All but nationals of Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) countries visiting must obtain a visa before arrival. The process is online at the Official Website. The website design is lacking and completing the application process may require you to translate some french. Extensions available in Abidjan.
The Ivory Coast embassy of Conakry currently (april 2016) refuses to deliver visas to get from Guinea to Ivory Coast and the border is theorically closed.
Yellow fever certificate required. Will be given on the spot if you don’t have it.
Ivory Coast is a country located in West Africa. Ivory Coast’s political capital is Yamoussoukro, and its economic capital and largest city is the port city of Abidjan. Its bordering countries are Guinea and Liberia in the west, Burkina Faso and Mali in the north, and Ghana in the east. The Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) is located south of Ivory Coast.
Prior to its colonization by Europeans, Ivory Coast was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire, and Baoulé. Two Anyi kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi, attempted to retain their separate identity through the French colonial period and after independence. Ivory Coast became a protectorate of France in 1843–44 and was later formed into a French colony in 1893 amid the European scramble for Africa. Ivory Coast achieved independence in 1960, they were led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who ruled the country until 1993. It maintained close political and economic association with its West African neighbours while at the same time maintaining close ties to the West, especially France. Since the end of Houphouët-Boigny’s rule in 1993, Ivory Coast has experienced one coup d’état, in 1999, and two religion-grounded civil wars – from 2002 and 2007 and the second during 2010-2011.
Ivory Coast is a republic with a strong executive power invested in its President. Through the production of coffee and cocoa, the country was an economic powerhouse in West Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. Ivory Coast went through an economic crisis in the 1980s, contributing to a period of political and social turmoil. Changing into the 21st-century Ivorian economy is largely market-based and still relies heavily on agriculture, with smallholder cash-crop production being dominant.
The official language is French, with local indigenous languages also widely used, including Baoulé, Dioula, Dan, Anyin, andCebaara Senufo. In total there are around 78 languages spoken in Ivory Coast. The main religions are Islam, Christianity (primarily Roman Catholicism), and various indigenous religions.
Originally, Portuguese and French merchant-explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries divided the west coast of Africa, very roughly, into five “coasts” reflecting local economies. The coast that the French named the Côte d’Ivoire and the Portuguese named the Costa do Marfim—both, literally, being “Ivory Coast”—lay between what was known as the Guiné de Cabo Verde, so-called “Upper Guinea” at Cabo Verde, and Lower Guinea. There was also a Pepper Coast also known as the “Grain Coast”, a “Gold Coast”, and a “Slave Coast”. Like those, the name “Ivory Coast” reflected the major trade that occurred on that particular stretch of the coast, the export of ivory.
Other names for the coast of ivory included the Côte de Dents, literally “Teeth Coast”, again reflecting the trade in ivory; the Côte de Quaqua, after the people whom the Dutch named the Quaqua (alternatively Kwa Kwa); the Coast of the Five and Six Stripes, after a type of cotton fabric also traded there; and the Côte du Vent, the Windward Coast, after perennial local off-shore weather conditions. One can find the name Cote de(s) Dents regularly used in older works. It was used in Duckett’s Dictionnaire (Duckett 1853) and by Nicolas Villault de Bellefond, for examples, although Antoine François Prévost used Côte d’Ivoire. In the 19th century, it died out in favor of Côte d’Ivoire.
The coastline of the modern state is not quite coterminous with what the 15th- and 16th-century merchants knew as the “Teeth” or “Ivory” coast, which was considered to stretch from Cape Palmas to Cape Three Points and which is thus now divided between the modern states of Ghana and Ivory Coast (with a minute portion of Liberia). It retained the name through French rule, though, and independence in 1960. The name had long since been translated literally into other languages, which the post independence government considered to be increasingly troublesome whenever its international dealings extended beyond the Francophone sphere. Therefore, in April 1986, the government declared Côte d’Ivoire (or, more fully, République de Côte d’Ivoire) to be its formal name for the purposes of diplomatic protocol, and officially refuses to recognize or accept any translation from French to another language in its international dealings.
Despite the Ivorian government’s request, the English translation “Ivory Coast” (often “the Ivory Coast”) is still frequently used in English, by various media outlets and publications.
Land migration. The first human presence in Ivory Coast has been difficult to determine because human remains have not been well preserved in the country’s humid climate. However, weapon and tool fragments indicate a large human presence during the Upper Paleolithic period (15,000 to 10,000 BC).
Pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. North African (Berber) traders from early Roman times, conducted caravan trade across the Sahara in salt, slaves, gold, and other goods. The southern terminals of the trans-Saharan trade routes were located on the edge of the desert, and from there supplemental trade extended as far south as the edge of the rain forest. The more important terminals – Djenné, Gao, and Timbuctu — grew into major commercial centres around which the great Sudanic empires developed.
By controlling the trade routes with their powerful military forces, these empires were able to dominate neighbouring states. The Sudanic empires also became centres of Islamic education. Islam had been introduced in the western Sudan (today’s Mali) by Muslim Berber traders from North Africa; it spread rapidly after the conversion of many important rulers. From the 11th century, by which time the rulers of the Sudanic empires had embraced Islam, it spread south into the northern areas of contemporary Ivory Coast.
The Ghana empire, the earliest of the Sudanic empires, flourished in present-day eastern Mauritania from the fourth to the 13th centuries. At the peak of its power in the 11th century, its realms extended from the Atlantic Ocean to Timbuctu. After the decline of Ghana, the Mali Empire grew into a powerful Muslim state, which reached its apogee in the early part of the 14th century. The territory of the Mali Empire in Ivory Coast was limited to the north-west corner around Odienné.
Its slow decline starting at the end of the 14th century followed internal discord and revolts by vassal states, one of which, Songhai, flourished as an empire between the 14th and 16th centuries. Songhai was also weakened by internal discord, which led to factional warfare. This discord spurred most of the migrations of peoples southward toward the forest belt. The dense rain forest, covering the southern half of the country, created barriers to the large-scale political organizations that had arisen in the north. Inhabitants lived in villages or clusters of villages; their contacts with the outside world were filtered through long-distance traders. Villagers subsisted on agriculture and hunting.
Pre-European era. Five important states flourished in Ivory Coast during the pre-European era. The Muslim Kong Empire was established by the Joola in the early 18th century in the north-central region inhabited by the Sénoufo, who had fled Islamization under the Mali Empire. Although Kong became a prosperous center of agriculture, trade, and crafts, ethnic diversity and religious discord gradually weakened the kingdom. The city of Kong was destroyed in 1895 by Samori Ture.
The Abron kingdom of Gyaaman was established in the 17th century by an Akan group, the Abron, who had fled the developing Ashanti confederation of Asanteman in what is present-day Ghana. From their settlement south of Bondoukou, the Abron gradually extended their hegemony over the Dyula people in Bondoukou, who were recent émigrés from the market city of Begho. Bondoukou developed into a major center of commerce and Islam. The kingdom’s Quranic scholars attracted students from all parts of West Africa. In the mid-17th century in east-central Ivory Coast, other Akan groups fleeing the Asante established a Baoulé kingdom atSakasso and two Agni kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi.
The Baoulé, like the Ashanti, developed a highly centralized political and administrative structure under three successive rulers. It finally split into smaller chiefdoms. Despite the breakup of their kingdom, the Baoulé strongly resisted French subjugation. The descendants of the rulers of the Agni kingdoms tried to retain their separate identity long after Ivory Coast’s independence; as late as 1969, the Sanwi attempted to break away from Ivory Coast and form an independent kingdom.
Establishment of French rule. Compared to neighboring Ghana, Ivory Coast suffered little from the slave trade, as European slaving and merchant ships preferred other areas along the coast with better harbours. The earliest recorded European voyage to West Africa was made by the Portuguese in 1482. The first West African French settlement, Saint Louis, was founded in the mid-17th century in Senegal, while at about the same time, the Dutch ceded to the French a settlement at Goree Island, off Dakar. A French mission was established in 1637 Assinie near the border with the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Assinie’s survival was precarious, however; the French were not firmly established in Ivory Coast until the mid-19th century. In 1843–4, French admiral Bouët-Willaumez signed treaties with the kings of the Grand Bassam and Assinie regions, making their territories a French protectorate. French explorers, missionaries, trading companies, and soldiers gradually extended the area under French control inland from the lagoon region. Pacification was not accomplished until 1915.
Activity along the coast stimulated European interest in the interior, especially along the two great rivers, the Senegal and the Niger. Concerted French exploration of West Africa began in the mid-19th century, but moved slowly, based more on individual initiative than on government policy. In the 1840s, the French concluded a series of treaties with local West African rulers that enabled the French to build fortified posts along the Gulf of Guinea to serve as permanent trading centres.
The first posts in Ivory Coast included one at Assinie and another at Grand Bassam, which became the colony’s first capital. The treaties provided for French sovereignty within the posts, and for trading privileges in exchange for fees or coutumes paid annually to the local rulers for the use of the land. The arrangement was not entirely satisfactory to the French, because trade was limited and misunderstandings over treaty obligations often arose. Nevertheless, the French government maintained the treaties, hoping to expand trade.
France also wanted to maintain a presence in the region to stem the increasing influence of the British along the Gulf of Guinea coast. The French built naval bases to keep out non-French traders and began a systematic conquest of the interior. (They accomplished this only after a long war in the 1890s against Mandinka forces, mostly from Gambia. Guerrilla warfare by the Baoulé and other eastern groups continued until 1917).
The defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and the subsequent annexation by Germany of the French province ofAlsace-Lorraine caused the French government to abandon its colonial ambitions and withdraw its military garrisons from its French West African trading posts, leaving them in the care of resident merchants. The trading post at Grand Bassam in Ivory Coast was left in the care of a shipper from Marseille, Arthur Verdier, who in 1878 was named Resident of the Establishment of Ivory Coast.
In 1886, to support its claims of effective occupation, France again assumed direct control of its West African coastal trading posts and embarked on an accelerated program of exploration in the interior. In 1887, Lieutenant Louis Gustave Binger began a two-year journey that traversed parts of Ivory Coast’s interior. By the end of the journey, he had concluded four treaties establishing French protectorates in Ivory Coast. Also in 1887, Verdier’s agent, Marcel Treich-Laplène, negotiated five additional agreements that extended French influence from the headwaters of the Niger River Basin through Ivory Coast.
French colonial era.
By the end of the 1880s, France had established what came through for control over the coastal regions of Ivory Coast, and in 1889 Britain recognized French sovereignty in the area. That same year, France named Treich-Laplène titular governor of the territory. In 1893, Ivory Coast was made a French colony, and then Captain Binger was appointed governor. Agreements with Liberia in 1892 and with Britain in 1893 determined the eastern and western boundaries of the colony, but the northern boundary was not fixed until 1947 because of efforts by the French government to attach parts of Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso) and French Sudan (present-day Mali) to Ivory Coast for economic and administrative reasons.
France’s main goal was to stimulate the production of exports. Coffee, cocoa, and palm oil crops were soon planted along the coast. Ivory Coast stood out as the only West African country with a sizeable population of settlers; elsewhere in West and Central Africa, the French and British were largely bureaucrats. As a result, French citizens owned one-third of the cocoa, coffee, and banana plantations and adopted a forced-labour system.
Throughout the early years of French rule, French military contingents were sent inland to establish new posts. Some of the native population resisted French penetration and settlement. Among those offering greatest resistance was Samori Ture, who in the 1880s and 1890s was establishing the Wassoulou Empire, which extended over large parts of present-day Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast. Samori Ture’s large, well-equipped army, which could manufacture and repair its own firearms, attracted strong support throughout the region. The French responded to Samori Ture’s expansion of regional control with military pressure. French campaigns, which were met with fierce resistance, intensified in the mid-1890s until he was captured in 1898.
France’s imposition of a head tax in 1900 to support the colony in a public works program provoked a number of revolts. Many Ivoirians viewed the tax as a violation of the terms of the protectorate treaties because they thought that France was demanding the equivalent of a coutume from the local kings, rather than the reverse. Many of the population, especially in the interior, considered the tax a humiliating symbol of submission. In 1905, the French officially abolished slavery in most of French West Africa.
From 1904 to 1958, Ivory Coast was a constituent unit of the Federation of French West Africa. It was a colony and an overseas territory under the Third Republic. In World War I, France organized regiments from Ivory Coast to fight in France, and colony resources were rationed from 1917-1919. Some 150,000 men from Ivory Coast died in World War I. Until the period followingWorld War II, governmental affairs in French West Africa were administered from Paris. France’s policy in West Africa was reflected mainly in its philosophy of “association”, meaning that all Africans in Ivory Coast were officially French “subjects”, but without rights to representation in Africa or France.
French colonial policy incorporated concepts of assimilation and association. Based on an assumption of the superiority of French culture over all others, in practice the assimilation policy meant the extension of French language, institutions, laws, and customs to the colonies. The policy of association also affirmed the superiority of the French in the colonies, but it entailed different institutions and systems of laws for the colonizer and the colonized. Under this policy, the Africans in Ivory Coast were allowed to preserve their own customs insofar as they were compatible with French interests.
An indigenous elite trained in French administrative practice formed an intermediary group between the French and the Africans. Assimilation was practiced in Ivory Coast to the extent that after 1930, a small number of Westernized Ivoirians were granted the right to apply for French citizenship. Most Ivoirians, however, were classified as French subjects and were governed under the principle of association. As subjects of France, they had no political rights. They were drafted for work in mines, on plantations, as porters, and on public projects as part of their tax responsibility. They were expected to serve in the military and were subject to the indigénat, a separate system of law.
In World War II, the Vichy regime remained in control until 1942, when British troops invaded without much resistance. Winston Churchill gave power back to members of General Charles de Gaulle’s provisional government. By 1943, the Allies had returned French West Africa to the French. The Brazzaville Conference of 1944, the first Constituent Assembly of the Fourth Republic in 1946, and France’s gratitude for African loyalty during World War II, led to far-reaching governmental reforms in 1946. French citizenship was granted to all African “subjects”, the right to organize politically was recognized, and various forms of forced labor were abolished.
Until 1958, governors appointed in Paris administered the colony of Ivory Coast, using a system of direct, centralized administration that left little room for Ivoirian participation in policy making. Whereas British colonial administration adopted divide-and-rule policies elsewhere, applying ideas of assimilation only to the educated elite, the French were interested in ensuring that the small but influential elite was sufficiently satisfied with the status quo to refrain from any anti-French sentiment. Although strongly opposed to the practices of association, educated Ivoirians believed that they would achieve equality with their French peers through assimilation rather than through complete independence from France. After the assimilation doctrine was implemented entirely through the postwar reforms, though, Ivoirian leaders realized that even assimilation implied the superiority of the French over the Ivoirians, and that discrimination and political inequality would end only with independence.
Independence. Félix Houphouët-Boigny,the son of a Baoulé chief, was to become Ivory Coast’s father of independence. In 1944, he formed the country’s first agricultural trade union for African cocoa farmers like himself. Angered that colonial policy favoured French plantation owners, they united to recruit migrant workers for their own farms. Houphouët-Boigny soon rose to prominence and within a year was elected to the French Parliament in Paris. A year later, the French abolished forced labour. Houphouët-Boigny established a strong relationship with the French government, expressing a belief that the country would benefit from it, which it did for many years. France appointed him as the first African to become a minister in a European government.
A turning point in relations with France was reached with the 1956 Overseas Reform Act (Loi Cadre), which transferred a number of powers from Paris to elected territorial governments in French West Africa and also removed remaining voting inequalities. In 1958, Ivory Coast became an autonomous member of the French Community (which replaced the French Union).
At the time of Ivory Coast’s independence (1960), the country was easily French West Africa’s most prosperous, contributing over 40% of the region’s total exports. When Houphouët-Boigny became the first president, his government gave farmers good prices for their products to further stimulate production. This was further boosted by a significant immigration of workers from surrounding countries. Coffee production increased significantly, catapulting Ivory Coast into third place in world output (behind Brazil and Colombia). By 1979, the country was the world’s leading producer of cocoa.
It also became Africa’s leading exporter of pineapples and palm oil. French technicians contributed to the “Ivoirian miracle”. In other African nations, the people drove out the Europeans following independence, but in Ivory Coast, they poured in. The French community grew from only 30,000 prior to independence to 60,000 in 1980, most of them teachers, managers, and advisors. For 20 years, the economy maintained an annual growth rate of nearly 10%—the highest of Africa’s non-oil-exporting countries.
Houphouët-Boigny administration. Houphouët-Boigny’s one-party rule was not amenable to political competition. Laurent Gbagbo, who would become the president of Ivory Coast in 2000, had to flee the country in the 1980s, as he incurred the ire of Houphouët-Boigny when Gbagbo founded the Front Populaire Ivoirien. Houphouët-Boigny banked on his broad appeal to the population who continually elected him. He was also criticized for his emphasis on developing large-scale projects.
Many felt the millions of dollars spent transforming his home village, Yamoussoukro, into the new political capital were wasted; others supported his vision to develop a centre for peace, education, and religion in the heart of the country. In the early 1980s, the world recession and a local drought sent shock waves through the Ivoirian economy. Due to the overcutting of timber and collapsing sugar prices, the country’s external debt increased three-fold. Crime rose dramatically in Abidjan.
In 1990, hundreds of civil servants went on strike, joined by students protesting institutional corruption. The unrest forced the government to support multiparty democracy. Houphouët-Boigny became increasingly feeble, and died in 1993. He favoured Henri Konan Bédié as his successor.
Bédié administration. In October 1995, Bédié overwhelmingly won re-election against a fragmented and disorganised opposition. He tightened his hold over political life, jailing several hundred opposition supporters. In contrast, the economic outlook improved, at least superficially, with decreasing inflation and an attempt to remove foreign debt.
Unlike Houphouët-Boigny, who was very careful in avoiding any ethnic conflict and left access to administrative positions open to immigrants from neighbouring countries, Bedié emphasized the concept of “Ivority” (Ivoirité) to exclude his rival Alassane Ouattara, who had two northern Ivorian parents, from running for future presidential election. As people originating from foreign countries are a large part of the Ivoirian population, this policy excluded many people from Ivoirian nationality, and the relationship between various ethnic groups became strained, which resulted in two civil wars in the following decades.
1999 coup. Similarly, Bedié excluded many potential opponents from the army. In late 1999, a group of dissatisfied officers staged a military coup, putting General Robert Guéï in power. Bedié fled into exile in France. The new leadership reduced crime and corruption, and the generals pressed for austerity and openly campaigned in the streets for a less wasteful society.
Gbagbo administration. A presidential election was held in October 2000 in which Laurent Gbagbo vied with Guéï, but it was peaceful. The lead-up to the election was marked by military and civil unrest. Following a public uprising that resulted in around 180 deaths, Guéï was swiftly replaced by Gbagbo. Alassane Ouattara was disqualified by the country’s Supreme Court, due to his alleged Burkinabé nationality. The existing and later reformed constitution [under Guéï] did not allow noncitizens to run for the presidency. This sparked violent protests in which his supporters, mainly from the country’s north, battled riot police in the capital, Yamoussoukro.
Ivorian Civil War (2002–2007). In the early hours of 19 September 2002, while the President was in Italy, an armed uprising occurred. Troops who were to be demobilised mutinied, launching attacks in several cities. The battle for the main gendarmerie barracks in Abidjan lasted until mid-morning, but by lunchtime, the government forces had secured the main city, Abidjan. They had lost control of the north of the country, and the rebel forces made their stronghold in the northern city of Bouaké.
The rebels threatened to move on Abidjan again, and France deployed troops from its base in the country to stop any rebel advance. The French said they were protecting their own citizens from danger, but their deployment also aided the government forces. That the French were helping either side was not established as a fact, but each side accused them of being on the opposite side. Whether the French actions improved or worsened the situation in the long term is disputed.
What exactly happened that night is disputed. The government claimed that former president Robert Guéï had led a coup attempt, and state TV showed pictures of his dead body in the street; counter-claims stated that he and 15 others had been murdered at his home, and his body had been moved to the streets to incriminate him. Alassane Ouattara took refuge in the German embassy; his home had been burned down.
President Gbagbo cut short his trip to Italy and on his return stated, in a television address, that some of the rebels were hiding in the shanty towns where foreign migrant workers lived. Gendarmes and vigilantes bulldozed and burned homes by the thousands, attacking the residents.
An early ceasefire with the rebels, which had the backing of much of the northern populace, proved short-lived, and fighting over the prime cocoa-growing areas resumed. France sent in troops to maintain the cease-fire boundaries, and militias, including warlords and fighters from Liberia and Sierra Leone, took advantage of the crisis to seize parts of the west.
2002 Unity Government. In January 2003, Gbagbo and rebel leaders signed accords creating a “government of national unity”. Curfews were lifted, and French troops patrolled the western border of the country. The unity government was unstable, and the central problems remained, with neither side achieving its goals. In March 2004, 120 people were killed in an opposition rally, and subsequent mob violence led to foreign nationals being evacuated. A later report concluded the killings were planned.
Though UN peacekeepers were deployed to maintain a “Zone of Confidence”, relations between Gbagbo and the opposition continued to deteriorate.
Early in November 2004, after the peace agreement had effectively collapsed following the rebels’ refusal to disarm, Gbagbo ordered airstrikes against the rebels. During one of these airstrikes in Bouaké, on 6 November 2004, French soldiers were hit, and nine were killed; the Ivorian government has said it was a mistake, but the French have claimed it was deliberate. They responded by destroying most Ivoirian military aircraft (two Su-25 planes and five helicopters), and violent retaliatory riots against the French broke out in Abidjan.
Gbagbo’s original mandate as president expired in October 2005, but due to the lack of disarmament, holding an election was deemed impossible, so his term in office was extended for a maximum of one year, according to a plan worked out by the African Union; this plan was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. With the late-October deadline approaching in 2006, the election was regarded as very unlikely to be held by that point, and the opposition and the rebels rejected the possibility of another term extension for Gbagbo. The UN Security Council endorsed another one-year extension of Gbagbo’s term on 1 November 2006; however, the resolution provided for the strengthening of Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny’s powers. Gbagbo said the next day that elements of the resolution deemed to be constitutional violations would not be applied.
A peace accord between the government and the rebels, or New Forces, was signed on 4 March 2007, and subsequently Guillaume Soro, leader of the New Forces, became prime minister. These events were seen by some observers as substantially strengthening Gbagbo’s position.
According to UNICEF, after the Civil War ended, the water and sanitation situation was greatly damaged. Communities across the country required repairs to their water supply infrastructure.
The presidential elections that should have been organized in 2005 were postponed until November 2010. Gbagbo contested election results and refused to cede power to Alassane Oualtara, the former prime minister, and who was recognized as the winner by most countries. After the inauguration of Gbagbo, Ouattara—These events raised fears of a resurgence of the civil war; thousands of refugees fled the country.
In 2010, a colonel of the Ivory Coast armed forces was arrested in New York for procuring and illegal export of weapons and munitions: 4,000 9 mm handguns, 200,000 rounds of ammunition, and 50,000 tear-gas grenades, in violation of a UN embargo. Several other Ivory Coast officers were released on their diplomatic passports.
2011 Civil War. The 2010 presidential election led to the Second Ivorian Civil War. International organizations reported numerous human-rights violations by both sides. In the city of Duékoué, hundreds of people were killed. In nearby Bloléquin, dozens were killed. UN and French forces took military action against Gbagbo. Gbagbo was taken into custody after a raid into his residence on 11 April. The country was severely damaged by the war, and observers consider that it will be a challenge for Ouattara to rebuild the economy and reunite Ivorians.
In November 2011, Gbagbp was extradited to The Hague charged with war crimes.
Ivory Coast is a country of western sub-Saharan Africa. It borders Liberia and Guinea in the west, Mali and Burkina Faso in the north, Ghana in the east, and the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) in the south. The country lies between latitudes 4° and 11°N, and longitudes 2° and 9°W. Around 64.8% of the land is agricultural land – arable land taking up 9.1%, permanent pasture with 41.5%, and permanent crops occupying 14.2%. Water pollution is amongst one of the biggest issues that the country is currently facing.
Climate. Tropical along coast, semiarid in far north; three seasons – warm and dry (November to March), hot and dry (March to May), hot and wet (June to October). The coast has heavy surf and no natural harbours; during the rainy season torrential flooding is possible.
Terrain. Mostly flat to undulating plains; mountains in the northwest. Most of the inhabitants live along the sandy coastal region. Apart from the capital area, the forested interior is sparsely populated. The highest point is Mont Nimba (1,752 meters).
Lagunes (Abidjan) – the coastal lagoons area around the de facto capital of Abidjan
Northern Savanna (Bouaké, Comoe National Park); the largely Muslim area held in recent years by rebel “New Forces”
Southwestern Forests (Taï National Park, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve); the tropical wet forest area inhabited by the Kru people bordering Liberia
Eastern Plantations (Yamoussoukro); the partially cultivated area between Lac de Kossou and the border with Ghana
• Abidjan – Remains the administrative center and other countries maintain their embassies there.
• Korhogo – Rebel head quarters; otherwise idyllic, bursts with commerce during Feb – May because of flowing cotton and cashew trade.
• Aboisso – Important mile stone on the route connecting Abidjan and Ghana trade route
• Bouaké – the second largest city
• San Pedro – the second port city
• Yamoussoukro – Although it has been the official capital since 1983, it is not the administrative centre.
• Grand-Bassam – A coastal town full of colonial charm, often a retreat for local Ivorians seeking to escape the city life of Abidjan on the weekends.
• Man – A town in the central west surrounded by hills and a great place for hiking up Mount Tonkoui.
Since 1983, Ivory Coast’s capital has been Yamoussoukro. Abidjan is the administrative center. Most countries maintain their embassies in Abidjan. The Ivoirian population continues to suffer because of an ongoing civil war. International human-rights organizations have noted problems with the treatment of captive noncombatants by both sides and the re-emergence of child slavery among workers in cocoa production.
Although most of the fighting ended by late 2004, the country remained split in two, with the north controlled by the New Forces. A new presidential election for 2005 was postponed until November 2010. Elections were held peacefully, and widely hailed as free and fair with Ouattara winning by a margin of 54% to 46%. In response, the Gbagbo-aligned Constitutional Council rejected the declaration, and the government announced that country’s borders had been sealed.
Foreign relations. Ivory Coast is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, African Union, La Francophonie, Latin Union, Economic Community of West African States and South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone. Ivory Coast have also partnered with various nations within the Sub-Saharan region in strengthening water and sanitation infrastructure. This has been done mainly with the help of organizations such as UNICEF and Nestle.
In 2015, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals focusing on health, education, poverty, hunger, climate change, water sanitation, and hygiene. A goal focused on majorly was the Clean Water and Sanitation. The WASH concept focuses on safe drinkable water, hygiene, and proper sanitation and has had a major impact on the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, particularly the Ivory Coast. By 2030, they plan to have universal and equal access to safe and affordable drinking water.
Military. As of 2012, major equipment included 10 T-55 tanks (unserviceable), five AMX-13 light tanks, 34 reconnaissance vehicles, 10 BMP-½ armoured infantry fighting vehicles, 41 wheeled APCs, and 36+ artillery pieces. The Airforce had one Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter and three SA330L Puma transports (marked as potentially unserviceable).
Ivory Coast has, for the region, a relatively high income per capita (US$1014.4 in 2013) and plays a key role in transit trade for neighboring, landlocked countries. The country is the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, constituting 40% of the monetary union’s total GDP. The country is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans, and the fourth-largest exporter of goods, in general, in sub-Saharan Africa (following South Africa, Nigeria, and Angola).
In 2009, the cocoa-bean farmers earned $2.53 billion for cocoa exports and were expected to produce 630,000 metric tons in 2013. According to the Hershey Company, the price of cocoa beans is expected to rise dramatically in upcoming years. The Ivory Coast also has 100,000 rubber farmers who earned a total of $105 million in 2012.
The maintenance of close ties to France since independence in 1960, diversification of agriculture for export, and encouragement of foreign investment have been factors in the economic growth of Ivory Coast. In recent years, Ivory Coast has been subject to greater competition and falling prices in the global marketplace for its primary agricultural crops: coffee and cocoa. That, compounded with high internal corruption, makes life difficult for the grower, those exporting into foreign markets, and the labor force with indentured labor in cocoa and coffee production.
The country’s population was 6.7 million IN 1975, 15,366,672 in 1998, 20,617,068 in 2009 and 23,919,000 in July 2014. IN 2012, the fertility rate was 5.0 children born per woman, with 3.7 in urban areas and 6.3 in rural areas.
Languages. Official: French – is taught in schools and serves as a lingua franca in the country. One cannot survive without French for long. And business travellers need French. 65 languages are spoken in Ivory Coast. One of the most common is Dyula, the trade language and major language of the Muslim population.
Ethnic groups. Akan 42.1%, Voltaiques or Gur 17.6%, Northern Mandes 16.5%, Krous 11%, Southern Mandes 10%, other 2.8% (includes 30,000 Lebanese and 45,000 French; 2004). About 77% of the population is considered Ivoirian.
Since Ivory Coast has established itself as one of the most successful West African nations, about 20% of the population (about 3.4 million) consists of workers from neighbouring Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Guinea.
Non-African. About 4%: French, Lebanese, Vietnamese and Spanish citizens, as well as Protestant missionaries from the United States and Canada. In November 2004, around 10,000 French and other foreign nationals evacuated Ivory Coast due to attacks from progovernment youth militias. Aside from French nationals, native-born descendants of French settlers who arrived during the country’s colonial period are present.
Religion. Very heterogeneous. Muslims dominate the north, while Christians dominate the south.
Islam, 35-40%, almost all Sunni, with some Ahmadi) and
Christianity 35 to 40%, mostly Roman Catholic with smaller numbers of Protestants, primarily Methodists. Ivory Coast’s capital, Yamoussoukro, is home to the largest church building[n 6] in the world, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro.
Health. Life expectancy at birth was 41 for males in 2004; for females it was 47. Infant mortality was 118 of 1000 live births. Twelve physicians are available per 100,000 people. About a quarter of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. About 36% of women have undergone female genital mutilation. According to 2010 estimates, Ivory Coast has the 27th-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. The HIV/AIDS rate was 19th-highest in the world, estimated in 2012 at 3.20% among adults aged 15–49 years.
Education. A large part of the adult population, in particular women, are illiterate. Many children between 6 and 10 years are not enrolled in school. The majority of students in secondary education are male. The country has universities in Abidjan (Université de Cocody) and Bouaké (Université de Bouaké).
None of Cote d’Ivoire’s conflicts have killed the population’s joie de vivre. Even in Abidjan, nightclubs remained open at the height of the fighting. Education and professional life are taken seriously in Abdijan and other large urban areas. In rural areas, family ties are treasured and
Music. Each of the ethnic groups in Ivory Coast has its own music genres, most showing strong vocal polyphony. Talking drums are also common, especially among the Appolo, and polyrhythms, another African characteristic, are found throughout Ivory Coast and are especially common in the southwest. Popular music genres include zoblazo, zouglou, and Coupé-Décalé. A few Ivorian artists who have known international success are Magic Système, Alpha Blondy, Meiway, Dobet Gnahore, Tiken Dja Fakoly, and Christina Goh..
Sport. The most popular sport in Ivory Coast is football. The national football team has played in the World Cup three times, the woman’s in the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. Ivory Coast notable footballers are Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, and Gervinho.
Rugby union is also popular.
Food. The traditional cuisine relies on grains and tubers like cassava and plantains. A type of corn paste called aitiu is used to prepare corn balls, and peanuts are widely used in many dishes.
Attiéké – a popular side dish of grated fermented cassava that looks like couscous but tastes slightly sour; often served grilled chicken or fish and vegetables (tomatoes, onions, cucumber).
Alloco – a common street food of fried ripe banana with a spicy sauce called piment (“PEE-monh”) with steamed onions and chili and eaten alone or with grilled fish.
Chicken – has a unique flavor due to its lean, low-fat mass.
Seafood includes tuna, sardines, shrimp, and bonito, which is similar to tuna.
Mafé – common, meat in a peanut sauce.
Shougouilla – a blend of charbroiled meat! You can always ask for extra vegetables, especially avocados
Slow-simmered stews with various ingredients are another common food staple in Ivory Coast. Kedjenou has chicken and vegetables
White rice or french fries are starchy alternatives to alloco and attiéké as side dishes.
Bangui is a local palm wine.
Maquis. Small, open-air restaurants unique to the region. They feature grilled “braisé” (pronounced “BRA-zay”) chicken and fish covered in onions and tomatoes, served with attiéké or kedjenou. Service can take a while at a maquis — typically women cook and sell the food and men sell the drinks, so don’t be surprised if you’re billed separately for food and drinks. Since one typically eats with one’s hands at a maquis, usually they will have a sink or offer a bucket and soap for hand washing before and after you eat. Note that locally people eat only with their right hands and kleenex are used for napkins.
Other kinds of restaurants. You can find most typical maquis food at more mainstream restaurants too, usually mixed with standard French and international dining options. In Abidjan, Lebanese food is another good offering, and there are several fancy (and expensive) French restaurants that are very good. Vietnames nems (fried spring rolls) are very popular and cheap.
When in doubt, skip getting a burger, local beef is very dry. Fish and lobster are usually freshly caught if you’re near the coast. Fresh fruits, like mangoes, pineapple and papaya are everywhere, and are the best in the world when in season.
La nourriture “végétarienne”. It’s common for locals to say that dishes containing chicken or fish are vegetarian since they don’t have “meat” in them, so it’s helpful to clarify if you’re looking to avoid it.
Drink. It is recommended for visitors from the west to visit bars and night clubs with security. If you do go, be aware of prostitutes that will want to talk to you. Treicheville and Cocody you should have private transportation or a cab.
Palm wine. This is the cheapest drink and is locally fermented and served out of large water bottles. It will likely give you a wicked hangover if you can stomach the taste.
Beer. Almost every bar or restaurant will sell Flag, Castel, Touborg, Heineken and occasionally Bock beer. Only Bock is Ivoirian; the rest are either regional or from Europe. Flag is seemingly the most-popular brand.
Wine. Most is imported from France and can be purchased for a reasonable price at any grocery store in Abidjan. Wine in restaurants is usually not very good and/or extremely overpriced.
Unesco World Heritage Sites: 1. Comoe NP 2. Mt Nimba Strict Nature Reserve 3. Tai NP – Dense rainforest with chimpanzees.
Mount Nimba, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia
Tourist villages, beaches, and photo safaris are some of the main tourist attractions to see. Famous Mapouka dance
Mount Nienokoue – a beautiful mountain 230 meters tall and consists mainly of forest and exotic animals with many breathtaking views.
Mount Tonkoui in Man in the west can see Liberia if the weather permits.
Tanu Sakkasu near Bouake – black pottery is traditionally made. You can visit the
Wananiere Village des Tisserands near Korhogo – learn how the traditional cloth is made.
Abidjan – A stunning skyline with great food and nightlife.
Grand Bassam – artistic with galleries and beachfront bistros.
Man – hike to where the three West African countries converge with views to green fields below. Mask and jewellery makers.
Do. Surfing best at Assssinie and Dagbego.
Birdwatching especially during the European winter migration season from December to March.
Festivals: Fete du Dipri in GamonNW of Abidjan March or April, all night and all day religious ceremonies where people go into trances.
Fete de I’Abissa in Grand Basssam October or November, week long honouring the dead.
Buy. You can buy traditional wooden masks, they all have spiritual meanings and can be either good or bad.
Tipping. A service charge is not included in the bill, and usually it’s seen as acceptable to tip at a flat rate of 500-2000 CFA, depending on the size of the group and effort of the waiter.
Air. The Felix-Houphouet Boigny International Airport (ABJ). The airport is a modern facility and increased security has shaken its old reputation as a place for travellers to be ripped off. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most highly taxed in West Africa, with an average of $90 in taxes and fees added to the cost of every international ticket.
Air France and Corsair – daily to Paris
Turkish Airlines to Istanbul
Brussels airlines to Brussels
Emirates to Dubai
Egyptian Air – semi-weekly flights to Cairo
Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca
South African Airways) – to Johannesburg
Ghana. Abidjan to crossing at Note takes 3 hours. Border closes at 6pm with impressive flag ceremony.
Guinea. Man to N’zerekore either through Danane and Nzo or BBiankouma and Sipilou. Closes at 6pm.
Liberia. Danane to GbeNda short hop by shared taxi or minibus. Abidjan to Monrovia bus takes 2 days by same route.
Mali. Abidjan, Yamoussoukro and Bouake to Bamako via Ferkessedougou and Sikasso. Border closes at 6pm.
Train. Passenger service Abidjan to Bobo-Dopi;assp om Birloma Faso is romantic in a gritty way. Abidjan-Ouagadougou sleeper takes two days. Trains are packed with people and luggages as well as the incidental goat. Seats are rather uncomfortable. Nevertheless, this is an amazing experience that’s well worth the price and back aches. Be aware that pickpockets are very common on this train, especially when you’re an obvious tourist. Never leave your luggage unattended and don’t go showing your newest smartphone or Breitling. Abidjan to Ouagadougou 30 hours.
Car. It is ill advised to try to enter Côte d’Ivoire from Guinea, Liberia, Mali, or Burkina Faso. The Ghanaian border is fairly secure: Elubo shared taxi to Aboisso and then a bus to Abidjan with ten military check-points between the border and Abidjan to check documents and vaccinatinos.
Bus. Daily between Abidjan and Accra.
Boat. The lagoon in Abidjan has a beautiful evening ride for tourists. Daily, hundreds of Ivorians take the route to reach offices on the port side.
Inter-city travel in Côte d’Ivoire is usually more comfortable than travel in neighbouring African countries. The roads are generally in good condition and the bus service is relatively modern. The down side is the very frequent military check-points which add hours to a trip. Though the stops are a hassle, Ivoirian soldiers tend to be pretty professional and don’t hassle non-French western travellers. Soldiers in Ghana for example are much more likely to demand a bribe than in Côte d’Ivoire. Most western governments recommend that their citizens steer clear of Côte d’Ivoire. This should be taken particularly seriously by people travelling on French passports. An Ivoirian soldier’s attitude towards you will change very quickly when you explain that you are not French.
Bus. UTB – Union de Transports de Bouake offers frequent busses to most destinations of interest. Their bus stations are widely known in the cities and are semi closed compounds so travel is not a hastle. Large relatively modern buses same price and much more comfortable than bush taxis or minibuses.
Bush Taxi and Minibus. Ageing Peugeots or covered pickups known as baches cover major towns and outlying communities not served by the large buses. Leave when full so long waits may be required.
Train. Romantically named
Travel in Abidjan is the best when you have your own vehicle to travel around. The roads are fairly good for the region, but traffic rules are flouted routinely, especially by taxis. There is no lane discipline and traffic lights are merely suggestions. Traffic jams get bad at rush hour and some selfish drivers make things worse through illegal and often reckless maneuvers. The police response to this is laughable, as they are unable to chase/punish the worst offenders and shake down people who aren’t doing anything wrong.
Taxis are a great and easy way to get around in Abidjan. Just look for an orange coloured car and flag it down. Fares are very affordable: US $2-4 depending on the length of the journey. Always negotiate before you get in the taxi — don’t use the meter as you’ll almost always pay more.
Hotels. Abigjan is expensive and not always good value for money. The safe ones are more expensive. La Licorne in Deux Plateaux – charming and clean. Better deals in the country but standards lower.
Some areas of Ivory Coast currently suffer from a widespread issue of extortion by security forces. Security forces of all kind (army, police, gendarmerie, customs, anti-drug police) set-up illegal checkpoints where they stop cars and minibus and either find or create a reason to request money from the driver or it’s passenger.
Most of the crime committed in Abidjan is by unemployed youth. Should you ever feel in danger it would be wise to seek the help of a middle-aged man. This older generation is often very contemptuous of young criminals and will likely help you out if you are being hassled.
Generally, Ivoirians will recognize the dangers to foreigners in their country and will often be very protective of naive travellers. This is especially true in the Abidjan neighbourhoods of Treichville and Adjame.
If you do drive at night do not stop fully at lights or signs. Beware of potential car jackers. Keep a brisk pace so they cannot carjack you.
Prostitution. Due to the high unemployment rate, prostitution was made legal. But only the exchanging sex for money, and only between adults (aged 18 and over). And Cote d’Ivoire has become a popular place for sex tourism. However, hiring a prostitute in Cote d’Ivoire is highly NOT recommended, due to the high rate of HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS has once reached epidemic proportions in the country, but has since seen huge improvements with an adult prevalence of 4.7%.
Neighboring Liberia and Guinea suffered under the Ebola crisis, but there have been no confirmed cases in Côte d’Ivoire and Ebola screenings are performed at all border crossings.
You should get a vaccine for Hepatitis A before coming but street foods are fairly clean.
Although the country was previously referred to in English as “Ivory Coast”, the country has requested that it be called “Côte d’Ivoire” (the equivalent in French). Pronouncing it “Coat di-VWAR” is close enough for an English-speaking person.