Country, western Africa.
Area: 123,863 sq mi (320,803 sq km). Population (2008 est.):
19,624,000. Capital: Yamoussoukro; de facto capital Abidjan. The
population consists of various ethnic groups, notably the Akan and
Mande. Languages: French (official), Baule, Anyi, Bete, Bambara, Dan.
Religions: Islam, Christianity, traditional beliefs. Currency: CFA
franc. Côte d’Ivoire can be divided into four major regions: a narrow
coastal region, an equatorial rainforest in the west, a cultivated
forest zone in the east, and a savanna region in the north. Agriculture
employs about half the workforce. The country is a major producer of
cocoa and petroleum; other exports include timber and wood products and
coffee. It is a republic with one legislative house; its chief of state
and government is the president, assisted by the prime minister.
European powers came to the area to trade in ivory and slaves beginning
in the 15th century, and local kingdoms gave way to French influence in
the 19th century. The French colony of Côte d’Ivoire was founded in
1893, and full French occupation took place in 1908–18. In 1946 it
became a territory in the French Union; in 1947 the northern part of the
country separated and became part of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso).
Côte d’Ivoire peacefully achieved autonomy in 1958 and independence in
1960, when Félix Houphouët-Boigny was elected president. The country’s
first multiparty presidential elections were held in 1990. Political
turmoil has persisted since Houphouët-Boigny died in 1993, and a civil
war in 2002 left the country divided into northern and southern
sections. Attempts at reconciliation were initiated over the following
years, including a 2007 power-sharing agreement signed by both sides.
Official name République de Côte d’Ivoire (Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
Form of government transitional regime2 with one legislative house
(National Assembly )
Chief of state and government President assisted by interim Prime
De facto capital Abidjan
Official language French
Official religion none
Monetary unit CFA franc (CFAF)
Population estimate (2008) 19,624,000
Total area (sq mi) 123,863
Total area (sq km) 320,803
1 Côte d’Ivoire is the official protocol version of the country name
2Côte d’Ivoire was split between a government-controlled south and a
rebel-held north from September 2002 through March 2007. The peace
accord signed between the warring factions in March 2007 enabled the
creation of a power-sharing transitional government in April 2007.
3Both positions were transitional as of December 2008.
country located on the coast of western Africa. The de facto capital
is Abidjan; the administrative capital designate (since 1983) is
Côte d’Ivoire is bounded to the north by Mali and Burkina Faso,
to the east by Ghana, to the south by the Gulf of Guinea, to the
southwest by Liberia, and to the northwest by Guinea.
The ground rises constantly as it recedes from the coast, and the
northern half of the country consists of high savanna lying mostly 1,000
feet (300 metres) above sea level. Most of the western border with
Liberia and Guinea is shaped by mountain ranges, whose highest point,
Mount Nimba (5,740 feet [1,752 metres]; see also Nimba Range), is
situated in the the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (designated a
UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981), where the borders of the three
The country is made up of four natural regions. The coastal fringe
consists of a strip of land, no more than 40 miles (64 metres) wide,
studded with lagoons on its eastern half. Access from the sea is made
difficult by the surf and by a long submarine sandbar. Behind the
coastal fringe lies the equatorial forest zone that until a century ago
formed a continuous area more than 125 miles (200 metres) wide. It has
now been reduced to an area roughly triangular in shape, with the apex
lying a little to the north of Abidjan and with the base lying along the
Liberian border. The cultivated forest zone, which lies to the east of
this triangle, consists of forest land that has been partially cleared
for plantations, especially along the Ghana border and in the area
around Bouaké. The fourth region, the northern savanna, consists of a
sparsely populated plateau, offering open ground favourable for stock
breeding. About 4,500 square miles (11,650 square km) in this region
have been set aside to form Komoé National Park, which was designated a
UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.
Apart from the Cavally River, which forms most of the border with
Liberia, major rivers from west to east are the Sassandra, the Bandama,
and the Komoé, all of which drain southward into the Gulf of Guinea.
Because all are broken by numerous falls and rapids, their value for
transportation is minimal. Their hydroelectric potential is being
The forest soils of the south tend to lose their fertility because
of excessive leaching and turn into laterites, which contain iron oxide.
The poorly drained, yellow, swampy soils, also found largely in the
south, more readily maintain their fertility because of their silica and
clay minerals content. Crustlike “shields,” formed as a result of rapid
evaporation, alternate with rich black silico-clayey soils in the
Equatorial and southern savanna types of climate prevail. North of
approximately 8° N latitude, the southern savanna type of climate
occurs, characterized by the parching wind known as the harmattan, which
blows from the northeast beginning in December and ending in February.
The dry season lasts from about November to March. A single rainy season
from April to October produces annual precipitation totals ranging from
around 45 inches (1,100 mm) in the northeast and centre to approximately
60 inches (1,500 mm) in the northwest. The northern region is drier than
the rest of the country and, because of the elevation, somewhat cooler.
South of 8° N latitude, two rainy seasons occur, and three climatic
subdivisions may be discerned. Rain falls largely from May through July
and to a lesser extent in October and November on the coastal fringe.
Abidjan receives approximately 75 inches (1,900 mm) of precipitation
annually, although considerable variations are experienced at different
places along the coast. Average monthly temperature variation is small,
and diurnal temperatures range from around the low 70s F (low 20s C) to
the low 90s F (mid-30s C). In the forest zones and in the southern part
of the savanna region, the rainy seasons are less pronounced. Diurnal
temperatures vary between around the low 60s and low 100s F (mid-10s and
upper 30s C), and the relative humidity is often high. On the mountains
farther west there is no dry season, and precipitation amounts to about
80 inches (2,000 mm).
Plant and animal life
The tropical rainforest in the south contains valuable timber
species, including African mahogany and iroko (or African teak). An
important afforestation centre is Banco National Park, on the
northwestern edge of Abidjan. Trees more than 150 feet (45 metres) high
can be found at Taï National Park, which was designated a UNESCO World
Heritage site in 1982.
The animal life of the forest zone differs little from that of
adjoining Ghana, although the larger ungulates (hoofed mammals) are
lacking, with the exception of the bongo (a reddish brown antelope) and
the forest buffalo. There are also several varieties of dwarf antelope,
ranging from the royal antelope to the yellow-backed duiker. The giant
forest hog is widespread, and the red river hog is locally plentiful. To
the north the savanna woodlands have some 10 species of antelope, as
well as lions and occasional herds of elephants. Komoé National Park in
the northeast is well stocked with wildlife. There are lions, elephants,
leopards, green monkeys, and more than 20 species of pigs. In addition,
more than 400 species of birds have been identified there so far. Taï
National Park, near the Liberian frontier, is notable for its pygmy
hippopotamuses, and the chimpanzee population there has been the subject
of a long-term study by Hedwige Boesch-Achermann and Christophe Boesch.
Jean L. Comhaire
There are more than 60 ethnic groups in Côte d’Ivoire.
Traditionally, the groups were independent from each other, but, over
time, internal migration and extensive intermarriage greatly reduced
group identity with a particular cultural tradition in any given
locality. Each of these groups has ethnic affiliations with larger
groups living outside the borders of the country. Thus, the Baule, as
well as other peoples living east of the Bandama River, are affiliated
with the Akan in Ghana, as are the lagoon fishermen farther south. The
forest people west of the Bandama are connected to the Kru peoples of
Liberia. In the interior the Kru group is subdivided into small
groupings scattered over large areas of the forest.
The savanna peoples may be divided into two main groups. The Mande
group, which is particularly strong in Mali, is represented by the
Malinke farmers and by the Dyula traders. The Gur group, represented by
the Senufo, Lobi, and Bobo, are widely scattered over the northeastern
region and also live in neighbouring states.
All African languages represented in Côte d’Ivoire belong to one of
three subgroups of the Niger-Congo family: Kwa in the south, Mande in
the northwest, and Gur in the northeast. A trade language, known as
Dyula-Taboussi and akin to the Mande Bambara, is spoken throughout the
country by Muslim traders, and français de Moussa is a pidgin French
widely spoken in Abidjan. The official language is French.
Traditional religions, followed by almost two-fifths of the
population, continue to predominate among rural communities. Islam is
followed by about one-quarter of the population, found primarily in the
northwest and in Abidjan. Almost one-third of the population is
Christian, mostly Roman Catholic or Methodist. Also present in the
country are followers of the Harrist faith, a syncretic religion
indigenous to Côte d’Ivoire. Founded by William Wade Harris during World
War I, it claims an estimated 100,000 adherents in the country.
In the southeastern quarter of the country, most people live in
compact villages and towns. The entire area is divided into small states
with kings and an elaborate hierarchy of ministers and palace officials,
but these traditional rulers have no official standing in the modern
state. Open-air markets are held in some town centres every four days.
Women sell produce, as they do in many parts of western Africa.
Fishermen maintain their own separate markets.
Among the Kru and other peoples of the southwestern forest zone,
dwellings are clustered around a central open area. Women do most of the
daily work, both at home and in the fields, where they grow such crops
as yams—the most basic national staple—and corn (maize), cassava
(manioc), and peanuts (groundnuts). The men are responsible for hunting,
gathering kola nuts and oil palm nuts, and—on the coast—fishing.
The Malinke people of the northwestern part of the country are
descendents of the Mali empire. Much earlier a regional revolution was
created when the use of millet, still their staple food, was discovered.
Other cereals such as sorghum and corn were later introduced, and cotton
has been cultivated for centuries. Cattle are kept by everyone, but for
purposes of prestige and for use on ceremonial occasions rather than for
economic reasons. The men who raise livestock and cultivate crops may
also travel extensively for trade. The village chief has authority over
the population as does the traditional nobility, which comprises the
chief representatives of the linear descendants of the first settlers.
Some professions, such as blacksmith and griot (a historian-minstrel),
are hereditary and reserved only for certain families.
The rest of the savanna is part of the domain of the Gur-speaking
peoples, many of whom live in neighbouring Burkina Faso. Among them, the
Senufo live immediately east of the Malinke and have adopted many
Malinke customs. They live in comparatively large villages overseen by
local chiefs. All other savanna communities are split into dispersed
homesteads. Millet and sorghum are the staple foods, and the men do most
of the agricultural field work. All the people keep cattle. The people
are great traders; local market trading is conducted by women, and
outside trading is conducted by the Dyula, a subgroup of the Malinke.
Each community is run by the head of the main lineage group, who seeks
above all to mediate in disputes so the earth may never be defiled by
Abidjan, one of the many trading ports built by Europeans along the
African coast, is located on a lagoon rather than on the sea. The city
is divided by a branch of the lagoon into Plateau, the first European
settlement, to the north, and Treichville, the first large African
settlement, to the south. Bridges connect the two areas.
Plateau was recommended for settlement as early as 1898, and
Europeans began living there in 1903. Treichville, located behind the
fishing village of Anoumabo, owes its importance to the boom in colonial
trade that followed World War I. It remained a very small town until
1934, when the seat of colonial government was moved to Abidjan from
Bingerville. Urban growth was rapid after the 1.7-mile (2.7-km) Vridi
Canal opened in 1950 and provided access to the sea. Under a new era of
economic expansion, Treichville gained 150,000 inhabitants and reached
its population saturation point within a decade. Comprehensive planning
for urban growth after 1960 was rendered impossible because of the many
confining branches of the lagoon waters.
The first planned urban extension consisted of building a colonial
army camp north of Plateau. Adjamé and Attiécoubé, two places with
African inhabitants, offered an abundance of moderate-rent dwellings,
but they rapidly deteriorated and were inconsistent in design with
African traditions of family life. Across the small bay east of Abidjan,
Cocody grew up in isolation as an area of expensive housing (including
the presidential tower mansion) with two hotel complexes and a tourist
Petit-Bassam Island, where Treichville lies, also contains the
settlements of Marcory and Koumassi. Beyond them Port-Bouët grew up on
the seashore, 8 miles (13 km) southeast of Plateau. Squatters helped
develop Yopougon-Attié and Abobo across the bay to the west. Greater
Abidjan was finally organized into 10 municipalities (each one with an
elected council and a mayor) in 1986.
During the latter half of the 20th century, Côte d’Ivoire had one of
the highest population growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa and in the
world. Its high rate of natural increase together with the huge influx
of immigrants from the impoverished countries to the north, which its
comparatively strong economy attracted, were the main reasons for its
rapid growth. This growth rate is declining, however, in part because of
the increasing number of HIV-positive people in the population.
Birth and death rates in Côte d’Ivoire are higher than those of the
rest of the world. Although life expectancy in the country is average
for the region, it is lower than that of the world. Côte d’Ivoire’s
population is relatively young, with about two-fifths under age 15.
Immigrants constitute approximately one-fourth of the total
population. Nearly one-half of the population lives in urban areas, and
among the urbanites there is a large French community as well as a
number of Lebanese and Syrians. In the wake of the civil war that began
in 2002, thousands of people fled the country and hundreds of thousands
more were internally displaced.
Côte d’Ivoire had a good financial reputation for many years, but
this began to change in the late 1980s, and the country experienced
seven straight years of recession from 1987 to 1993. During that time
the country was unable to meet its foreign debt obligations, but new
financial arrangements by creditor banks and a 50 percent devaluation of
the CFA franc helped the country toward economic recovery by the
mid-1990s. The CFA devaluation, mandated by France, made Ivoirian
exports of timber, fish, and rubber more attractive. A significant fall
in cocoa and coffee prices at the end of the 20th century, however,
interrupted the recovery. Political instability since the late 1990s
also hindered the process.
Ivoirian financial policy is fundamentally liberal, and investments
are welcomed through tax exemptions and legal protection against
nationalization. Increased privatization became government policy in the
mid-1980s, partly in response to the government’s previous participation
in too many specialized undertakings in its attempt to diversify the
economy. The Ivoirian government successfully met international lender
conditions for debt repayment, but it is still struggling to enact
reforms in the management of its public finances and to reduce serious
inequalities in the distribution of income.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Agriculture provides a livelihood for more than half the labour
force, and locally grown subsistence crops meet most rural domestic
needs. Urbanization and the growing use of hired labour throughout the
country created a demand for foodstuffs other than yams, cassava,
plantains, and corn. An acquired taste for bread and beer led to
significant imports of wheat.
Cocoa beans became the main export crop, cultivated by more than
one-quarter of the population, and by the late 1980s, after overtaking
Ghana in cocoa bean exports, Côte d’Ivoire became the world’s leading
cocoa bean producer. Coffee, though it has fallen in export value,
remains a favourite crop and business venture for many families in the
southeast. Though the local coffee is of low quality, it constitutes a
safe investment, and it enjoys a privileged position on the French
market because of low production costs and much publicity. Thousands of
acres close to the sea have been planted with coconut trees to increase
the production of copra, the dried kernel from which coconut oil is
extracted. The same area is also suitable for pineapples, a valuable
The southwest provides good soils and climate for oil palm and rubber
trees. A South American species of hevea rubber tree was introduced in
the early 1960s, and the cultivation of palm trees for oil was promoted
at about the same time. In the north, cotton planting was fostered by
using higher-yielding varieties; the practice of cotton-rice and
cotton-yam crop rotation also increased yields.
The forest floor, after clearing, provides a rich soil for the
cultivation of edible roots and bananas, as well as of such commercial
tree crops as coffee, cacao (grown for its seeds, cocoa beans), and
rubber. The savanna soils are good for rice and other cereals. Cotton
and sugarcane grow in both areas.
Côte d’Ivoire was once primarily noted for its forest resources.
About 30 species of trees are of high commercial value, the most
important types being sipo (utile) and sambu (obeche). Forests underwent
rapid depletion after many decades of exporting timber, exacerbated by
overexploitation in the 1960s and ’70s, and although reforestation was
begun at numerous locations, illegal logging activity prevalent after
the start of the civil war in 2002 and continuing in the following years
contributed to the country’s having one of the highest deforestation
rates in the world.
Livestock raising prospers in the northeast, but national needs are
also met by imports from Mali and Burkina Faso. Fishing, an important
economic activity, is a traditional occupation in the lagoons and is
also practiced on a commercial basis. Overfishing was a concern in the
early 21st century.
Resources and power
Offshore reserves of petroleum and natural gas have been exploited
since 1995 and are a significant source of export revenue for the
country. Mineral resources exploited in Côte d’Ivoire include diamonds
and gold. Deposits of iron ore, bauxite, and manganese also exist but
have not been extensively developed, although iron ore is mined near
Almost three-quarters of the country’s power is supplied by thermal
stations, with hydroelectric sources supplying the remainder. Expansion
of thermal capacity utilizing natural gas has been the focus of energy
projects since the mid-1990s. Crude petroleum is refined in Abidjan to
meet local needs, and refined products are exported to Mali, Burkina
Faso, and other countries.
The Ivoirian industrial sector retains much of the legacy of a
colonial policy founded on export rather than the more desirable
expansion of the local market. Many French and Lebanese companies
shifted their headquarters to Abidjan after Dakar lost its status as the
federal capital of the French West African federation when the regions
in it became independent countries. More than 700 industrial companies
were registered in the mid-1980s, but most of them were kept at low
levels of activity, because of reluctance to invest capital locally and
competition for skilled labourers. Nevertheless, the country became one
of the best-equipped in western Africa. Since the beginning of the
1990s, the government has made a serious attempt to privatize many
state-owned companies, including electricity and water utilities, as
well as palm-oil and sugar companies.
Although the importance of petroleum-related industries increased in
the early 21st century, Ivoirian industry rests largely on the
agricultural sector—based on the development of timber, cotton, cacao,
and coffee for export—that evolved during the period between the two
World Wars. More crops were later added to these—among which pineapple
became an outstanding success—as local canning and preserving facilities
developed. Palm oil, also benefiting from equipment development, was
used to produce fine soap and edible oils. Timber was used for
furniture, cotton fabrics for garments, and sisal for string. Imported
raw materials were shipped to local bakeries and breweries.
Côte d’Ivoire’s monetary unit is the CFA (Communauté Financière
Africaine) franc. From independence the CFA was pegged to the French
franc; beginning in 2002, it was tied to the euro. The Central Bank of
the States of West Africa (Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de
l’Ouest) is the bank of issue for member states including Benin, Burkina
Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo as well as Côte
d’Ivoire. Many foreign and domestic banks, credit institutions,
insurance companies, and real estate agencies exist in the country, most
of which have headquarters in Abidjan. The city is also home to a
regional stock exchange, Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières, that
serves the French-speaking countries of western Africa.
Exports are reasonably diversified—though mostly agricultural and
petroleum-related—with the United States and the countries of the
European Union among the major destinations. Côte d’Ivoire primarily
depends on France and Nigeria for imports, which include machinery and
transport equipment, fuel, and food products.
Until the 1970s, business travelers accounted for most of the
visitors to the country. Since then tourism has expanded, although
governmental upheavals have caused fluctuations.
Transportation and telecommunications
A single-track railway line connects Abidjan with Ouagadougou, the
capital of Burkina Faso. The country’s road network is one of the
densest in sub-Saharan Africa. Paved roads have been extended to replace
beaten-earth roads, and tolls were introduced on some roads in the
mid-1990s. A secondary system of dry-season roads feeds the main roads.
Daily local trade is still conducted along the innumerable tracks that
crisscrossed the country long before the advent of Europeans.
As western Africa’s largest container port, Abidjan has separate
docking accommodations for passengers, for goods requiring special care
such as bananas, minerals, and petroleum, for fishermen, and for boatmen
who transport goods by canoe. Other ports are Sassandra, Tabou, and
San-Pédro; the latter port largely handles timber and cocoa exports.
Abidjan has a fully equipped international airport, located at
Port-Bouët. Other international airports exist at Bouaké and
Yamoussoukro, and regional airports serve smaller areas. The national
airline, Air Ivoire, serves the country’s airports and landing fields in
the interior, as well as some international destinations.
By regional standards, Côte d’Ivoire’s telecommunications sector is
fairly well-developed. In addition to telephone landline infrastructure,
several mobile phone companies provide cellular service, which is
growing in popularity. Internet service is available, although access is
somewhat limited beyond urban areas.
Government and society
Côte d’Ivoire was proclaimed an independent republic on August 7,
1960. The 1960 constitution was suspended following the December 1999
military coup; under the new constitution approved in 2000, executive
power is vested in the president, who serves a five-year term and can
only be reelected once. The president appoints the prime minister and,
with the prime minister’s recommendations, the Council of Ministers. In
addition, there are two other advisory bodies: the Economic and Social
Council and the Constitutional Council. There is a single-house
legislature, the National Assembly, with 225 members elected for
five-year terms. Yamoussoukro was officially named the new national
capital in 1983, but austerity measures and other factors have slowed
the transfer of government functions, and Abidjan remains the de facto
For administrative purposes, Côte d’Ivoire is divided into 19
régions, which are further divided into départements and communes, each
with an elected council. Towns have elected municipal councils. In
general, traditional authorities do not fit within such a regime, which
is of French inspiration. Nevertheless, some chiefs, especially among
the Akan group, have won elective positions.
Côte d’Ivoire has an independent judiciary. There are trial courts
located in Abidjan, Bouaké, and Daloa, and their judges may be assigned
to 25 other towns or be called upon to constitute special labour and
juvenile courts. The same three towns are visited by an assize court
dealing with serious criminal offenses. Abidjan also has a court of
appeals and a supreme court.
The political system was controlled for 30 years by the Democratic
Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), the only authorized party. It originated
as a league of African farmers founded at the end of World War II by
Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who in 1960 would become the country’s first
president, a position he held until his death in 1993. In 1990 he was
forced to accept the legalization of opposition parties and to allow
contested presidential and legislative elections. Since then more than
100 political parties have been established.
Côte d’Ivoire’s military comprises an army, a navy, an air force,
and a presidential guard. The army is by far the largest branch of the
armed forces. Paramilitary forces include a presidential guard and
Health and welfare
Health services in Côte d’Ivoire were comparatively good before the
late 1980s, when the economic crisis made it hard to meet the needs of
an exceptionally rapidly growing population. In 2002 the civil war
severely disrupted health care services in the northern part of the
country and caused many medical personnel to flee from the region; many
have since returned and resumed practice. Western-style hospitals are
located in Abidjan, Bouaké, Daloa, and Korhogo, and clinics can be found
in other areas. There are many practitioners of indigenous forms of
medicine, found throughout the country but especially in the rural
areas. Since the late 1990s, AIDS has been an increasing problem; other
significant health issues include tuberculosis and malaria.
Rural housing in Côte d’Ivoire varies among people and locations.
Many houses in the southeastern quarter of the country are rectangular
in shape and made of reeds, poles, or dried clay. Traditionally, roofs
were thatched; corrugated iron sheets are now more frequently used.
Houses among the Kru and other peoples of the southwestern forest zone
may be either rectangular or round, varying according to place.
Dwellings are clustered around a central open area, which often serves
as an evening meeting place and is where councils of elders dispense
justice. The Malinke of the northwestern part of the country build round
houses of mud and sun-dried brick covered by a conical thatched roof.
Fences surround the dwellings, which are clustered in compounds. In the
northeastern corner of the country and as far away as northern Benin,
distinctive rectangular houses that somewhat resemble castles are built
out of mud or brick and are crowned with crenellated parapets built
around a flat roof.
Educational services expanded considerably after independence, and
primary education is both free of charge and officially compulsory for
six years. Secondary schooling is provided in two cycles of three years
and two years, respectively. The civil war that began in 2002 severely
disrupted education in the country, particularly in the north, where the
impact of both the war and subsequent administration by rebel forces
lingered in the following years.
Universities in Côte d’Ivoire include the University of Abobo-Adjamé
and the University of Cocody, both in Abidjan, and the University of
Bouaké; there are also several colleges in the country, primarily
centred around Abidjan and Yamoussoukro.
The literacy rate of Côte d’Ivoire is slightly lower than the
regional average and is significantly lower than the world average.
Robert John Mundt
The cultural milieu has remained split, rather more completely than
in other African countries, between a maze of ethnic-based cultures and
a foreign intrusion that is almost exclusively French. Traditional arts
flourish. The Senufo carve masks, decorate doors with esoteric symbols,
and dance to the slow, majestic rhythms of drums supported by
xylophones. The mountaineers of the Man forest wear masks showing
horrifying faces, and they dance to a pace governed by the sound of
drums and led by stilt-walkers. Versatile Baule artists make fine gold
jewelry and wooden sculptures.
Ivoirian literature in French was born in colonial times at the
Ponty High School in Dakar, Senegal. One of its graduates, Bernard B.
Dadié, became world-famous for autobiographical reminiscences in novel
form. His schoolmates Coffi Gadeau and Amon d’Aby won a large local
audience and many followers through their plays for the national
theatre. A younger playwright, Zadi Zaourou, launched a chair in African
literature at an Ivoirian university, and Ahmadou Kourouma, a Muslim,
inaugurated a new era of the Ivoirian novel with Les Soleils des
indépendances (1968; “The Suns of Independence”), first published in
Canada. Ake Loba is another well-known writer from the country.
Music is a vital part of Ivoirian culture. There is a strong
tradition of griots who use music to help tell historical stories. The
Senufo use marimbas and tuned iron gongs, among other instruments, to
make their music. Music that combines both African and European
traditions also exists. Alpha Blondy, who is strongly influenced by
reggae, is Côte d’Ivoire’s most internationally known musician.
Jean L. Comhaire
The national library is located in Abidjan, as is a museum that
houses a variety of artistic, ethnographic, and scientific collections.
As the country’s largest city, Abidjan also has an active nightlife and
is known as the Paris of Africa. The Hotel Ivoire, which contains an
ice-skating rink, a swimming pool, a bowling alley, a movie theatre, and
other attractions, is located there. Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro
Basilica, which resembles St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, was built by
former president Felix Houphouët-Boigny in Yamoussoukro, his hometown;
upon completion in 1989, it was the largest Christian church in the
Sports and recreation
As in many other African countries, football (soccer) is a major
sport in Côte d’Ivoire. A football field exists in just about every town
and village, and there is at least one football club in every city. Côte
d’Ivoire also has a baseball federation, and many Ivoirians play
basketball and rugby. Tennis attracts a number of athletes, and the
country has competed in the international Davis Cup tournament. The
country made its Olympic debut at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, and it first
entered the African Nations Cup in 1965. Gabriel Tiacoh was the first
Ivoirian to win an Olympic medal when he won a silver medal in the men’s
400-metre race at the 1984 Games held in Los Angeles.
Media and publishing
Although freedom of the press is guaranteed under the constitution,
in reality it is restricted. Still, the press consists of many daily
papers, weeklies, and periodicals, and this sector has become more
lively since the 1990s. Almost all publications are published in French
in Abidjan. Radio is the most prevalent media form throughout the
country. Several radio stations exist, and they broadcast programs in
French as well as in African languages. There is also a state-run
television station; international television programming is available
Robert John Mundt
This article focuses on the history of Côte d’Ivoire from
prehistoric and ancient times to the present. For more-detailed
treatment of this country in its regional context, see Western Africa,
Abundant archaeological evidence confirms the presence of early
humans in what is now Côte d’Ivoire. Groups in the north were drawn into
the trans-Saharan trade networks of the Ghana and Mali empires. Islam
arrived with Malinke merchants as trade expanded. Mali’s collapse in the
16th century resulted in a great upheaval that sent waves of migrants
southward, where they founded new kingdoms in the hinterlands of the
forest zone. The original inhabitants were either displaced or
assimilated by these new groups.
Important kingdoms flourished in the precolonial period. In the
savanna country, towns developed around communities of Dyula traders.
Kong existed for several centuries before Sekou Ouattara and his sons
established a new dynasty there in the early 18th century. Kong lasted
until 1897, when it was destroyed by Samory Touré, who was in the
process of creating a new Muslim empire that included what is now
northern Côte d’Ivoire. The Bouna kingdom was created in the late 17th
century by Bounkani, an immigrant from Dagomba (now Ghana). It, along
with Kong, became a major centre of Islamic learning.
The wars associated with the rise of the Asante empire in the late
17th century led to the migration of numerous Akan peoples into the
forest region of Côte d’Ivoire. The most powerful of the states
established was the Abron kingdom of Gyaman founded by Tan Daté. It was
conquered by the Asante in the 1730s, and, despite numerous revolts,
remained subject to it until 1875. In much the same circumstances the
Anyi kingdoms of Indénié (Ndenye) and Sanwi were founded. Following the
death in 1750 of the ruler of the Asante, Asantehene Opoku Ware, a
succession struggle in Kumasi (the capital of the Asante empire) forced
one contender, Queen Abla Poku (Awura Poku), and her supporters to enter
the north-central part of Côte d’Ivoire. They founded the Baule kingdom,
remarkable for its blending of Akan and local traditions.
Arrival of Europeans
Until the 19th century, European contact was confined to the coast,
where French and Portuguese traders sought slaves and ivory.
Louis-Édouard Bouet-Willaumez began signing treaties with coastal chiefs
in the 1830s that allowed France to build forts and trading posts.
France withdrew in 1870, but private merchants remained. Arthur Verdier
sent explorers north and imported the first coffee plants. By the 1890s,
inland penetration by traders such as Marcel Triech-Laplène and military
missions such as those of Capt. Louis-Gustave Binger in 1887–89 resulted
in more treaties and French “protectorate” relationships with many
As the European rush to divide Africa accelerated, France claimed
Côte d’Ivoire as a colony in 1893. Borders were determined in 1898,
following the capture of Samory Touré. Gov. Gabriel Angoulvant began the
military occupation in 1908. Imposition of forced labour and head taxes
led to fierce resistance, especially among the Baule, Anyi, and Abe
(Abbey). New revolts broke out when France conscripted thousands of
Ivoirians to serve with other western African soldiers in World War I.
France’s superior weaponry eventually triumphed, although the colony was
not considered under control until 1918.
March toward independence
Following World War I, concerted efforts toward economic development
were taken. The railway was extended to Bobo Dioulasso, which, along
with most of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), was attached to Côte
d’Ivoire in 1933. Schools and Western-style health facilities were
introduced, exploitation of the forests was intensified, and Africans
were encouraged to plant cash crops for export. By 1939, Africans grew
90 percent of the cocoa and 80 percent of the coffee produced in the
Forty thousand Ivoirians fought for the French army during World War
II. Between 1940 and 1942 the colony, along with the rest of French West
Africa, chose to remain under the Vichy government. Racist legislation,
economic discrimination against African planters, increased forced
labour, and a depression caused by Britain’s naval blockade created
enormous discontent. Educated Africans thus welcomed the subsequent Free
French regime. In 1944 Félix Houphouët-Boigny and Auguste Denise formed
the African Farmers Union (SAA), which, with the support of the colony’s
governor, André Latrille, secured equal treatment for African planters.
Houphouët-Boigny’s all-African slate swept local elections in 1945. The
following year, with Côte d’Ivoire part of the French Union, he was
elected to the French Assembly, where he spearheaded the law to abolish
forced labour throughout the empire. The present borders were set in
1947, when the north reverted to the country of Upper Volta.
Côte d’Ivoire since independence
In 1946 Houphouët-Boigny helped found the African Democratic Rally
(RDA), a western Africa–based umbrella organization that sought equality
for Africans; the Ivoirian branch was the Democratic Party of Côte
d’Ivoire (PDCI). Though at first harshly repressed, the RDA achieved
many of its goals. In 1960 Houphouët-Boigny, who had been a cabinet
minister in two French governments, was elected president of the newly
independent Côte d’Ivoire. He ruled until his death, in 1993 during his
seventh term in office. Despite reported coup attempts in 1963 and 1973,
Houphouët-Boigny had a remarkable ability to reconcile opponents, which
sustained the country’s peaceful and prosperous relations with France
and with its neighbours throughout most of his rule. However, political
unrest and strained foreign relations were increasingly evident from the
late 1980s. Côte d’Ivoire’s first multiparty elections were held in
1990, and Houphouët-Boigny managed to defeat challenger Laurent Gbagbo
of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) in a presidential election that was
unsuccessfully appealed to the Supreme Court. Upon his death in 1993,
Houphouët-Boigny was succeeded by the president of the National
Assembly, Henri Konan Bédié, who was, like his predecessor, a member of
the Baule ethnic group and the PDCI.
The PDCI and Bédié were victorious again in the1995 elections that
were boycotted by most of the opposition. Long-standing ethnic and
religious tensions continued to exist, exemplified by the government’s
attempt to rewrite the constitution to prevent certain challengers from
running for president. With tensions escalating, soldiers mutinied on
Dec. 23, 1999, and Brig. Gen. Robert Gueï, a former member of
Houphouët-Boigny’s government, took control of the country the next day.
Although he pledged that he would allow legislative and presidential
elections by October 2000 and that he would not be a candidate, he
changed his mind and ran for president. After a controversial election
in which Gueï tried to manipulate the outcome, Gbagbo of the FPI was
eventually installed as president.
Nancy Ellen Lawler
Robert John Mundt
Civil war and its aftermath
Gbagbo’s rule was not without discord, culminating in a failed
coup on Sept. 19, 2002. Gueï, who the government claimed was behind the
coup, was killed during the fighting. The failed coup fueled unrest and
ignited civil war, leaving the country divided into the rebel-held north
and the government-controlled south. Peacekeeping troops from France,
the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and later the
United Nations (UN) created a buffer zone between the rebels and the
Ivoirian government troops.
Although the government and rebel forces reached a peace agreement in
January 2003, months of stalemate followed, and the cultural and
nationalistic issues that had ignited the civil war—including land
ownership, the basis for nationality, and qualifications for holding
office—were never completely settled. Despite an initiative by UN and
African leaders to restart the implementation of the peace agreement,
simmering tensions exploded in November 2004 when the government
violated the cease-fire agreement by bombing rebel-held areas in the
north. The already volatile situation worsened when French peacekeeping
troops were accidentally killed in one of the Ivoirian bombing raids,
prompting retaliatory bombing by France that in turn resulted in
anti-French demonstrations and the looting and burning of French
businesses, schools, and residences. In response to the escalating
situation, the UN Security Council imposed a 13-month arms embargo on
Côte d’Ivoire in an attempt to stem the influx of weapons into the
region. In April 2005, peace talks held in South Africa led to a new
cease-fire agreement between the Ivoirian government and the rebels,
with all parties declaring an end to the war. However, the terms of the
agreement were not immediately implemented, and fighting resumed. In
2007, talks in Burkina Faso resulted in a power-sharing agreement signed
by both sides, and a new transitional government was inaugurated that
International Business Publications USA, Côte d’Ivoire Country
Study Guide (2007); Robert E. Handloff (ed.), Côte d’Ivoire: A Country
Study (1991); Raymond Borremans, Le Grand Dictionnaire encyclopédique de
la Côte d’Ivoire (1986–88); and Pierre Vennetier (ed.), Atlas de la Côte
d’Ivoire, 2nd ed. rev. and updated by Pierre Vennetier and Geneviève
Daverat (1983), provide a general overview of the country. Ethnographic
studies include Enid Schildkrout (ed.), The Golden Stool: Studies of the
Asante Center and Periphery (1987); and Ivor Wilks, Wa and the Wala
(1989). An excellent memoir of life in a Senufo village is provided in
Carol Spindel’s In the Shadow of the Sacred Grove (1989).
Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile: Côte d’Ivoire (annual),
provides up-to-date information on the country’s economy, resources, and
industry. Laurent Gbagbo, La Côte-d’Ivoire (1982), is a critical history
of economic and social developments in the 20 years before independence.
Thomas J. Bassett, The Peasant Cotton Revolution in West Africa: Côte
d’Ivoire, 1880–1995 (2001), discusses the growth of the cotton economy.
Further discussions of economic history and policies are presented in
Bastiaan A. Den Tuinder, Ivory Coast (1978); I. William Zartman and
Christopher Delgado, The Political Economy of Ivory Coast (1984);
Hartmut Schneider, Adjustment and Equity in Côte d’Ivoire; and John
Rapley, Ivoirien Capitalism: African Entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire
Aristide R. Zolberg, One-Party Government in the Ivory Coast, rev.
ed. (1969), is a landmark study of Ivoirian political history. A more
contemporary view of politics is provided in Tessy D. Bakary Akin, La
Démocratie par le haut en Côte-d’Ivoire (1992); and Francis Akindès, The
Roots of the Military-Political Crises in Côte d’Ivoire (2004). Robert
J. Mundt, Historical Dictionary of the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), 2nd
ed. (1995), a valuable reference work, has an extensive bibliography.
Jean-Noël Loucou, Histoire de la Côte d’Ivoire, vol. 1, La Formation des
peuples (1984), presents the origin and development of the country’s
major ethnic groups. Timothy C. Weiskel, French Colonial Rule and the
Baule Peoples: Resistance and Collaboration, 1889–1911 (1980), provides
insight into the mindsets of those who imposed colonialism. F.J. Amon
d’Aby, La Côte d’Ivoire dans la cité africaine (1951), is a pioneering
and still valuable survey.
Jean L. Comhaire
Nancy Ellen Lawler
Robert John Mundt