Ivory Coast Population, Economy, and History

Population. – The Avorian population amounts to 4.6 million residents, which are distributed unevenly over the 322,463 km 2 of the territory (average density: 14 residents per km 2), and has a growth rate of 25 ‰, similar to the average for African countries. Abidjan, the capital with 360,000 residents, rises on the coast, and along the only railway axis that connects it with the interior of the country is the second city: Bouaké (85,000 residents). Various centers of some importance are located roughly in a strip of contact between the coastal plain and the first hills. The low percentage (about 18%) of the urban population and the high population of the capital testify to an urban development of a colonial type, common to many African countries.

Economy. – According to cancermatters, he Ivory Coast d’A is undoubtedly one of the most prosperous countries in West Africa, and this is also testified by the relatively high per capita income (387 dollars in 1972) and by the rate of increase of the national product which reaches almost 10% per year. The main activity is agriculture; the country ranks third in the world ranking of coffee producers and fourth for cocoa (2.7 and 1.8 million q respectively in 1972). While the former is a traditional product, the other has seen a huge increase from 1960 onwards. Other plantation products destined for the world market are bananas, pineapple (also in strong increase in recent years), tobacco, peanuts.

No less important for the local economy are subsistence crops that guarantee the population sufficient resources for a decent level of nutrition and a certain amount of exports to neighboring countries: these are cassava, millet, corn, rice, etc. The increase of this latter crop has been remarkable (from 1.4 to 3.6 million q from 1960 to 1972), while the others follow fluctuating trends.

Even today, the two types of crops, market and subsistence, correspond to two well-defined regional frameworks: the first are mainly located in the south, in the sub-equatorial climate area with favorable soils, more densely populated, richer, in which a rural bourgeoisie has recently formed which is unusual for this part of the continent; the others are distributed, with some exceptions, in the central and northern regions, with a drier climate, less rich and less populated. This diversity gives rise to intense exchanges and leads to a difference in regional development to which the central bodies do not dedicate many resources to overcome, given the concern not to divert investments from the more profitable crops and from the industrial sector, which is also present mainly in the south.

The zootechnical patrimony is in progress (from 300 to 450,000 cattle and from 400 to 900,000 sheep, from 1960 to 1972), but the production is insufficient and gives rise to imports from neighboring countries. Fishing activity is also undergoing strong development (the quantity caught has more than doubled during the 1960s), but this too is not enough to meet the needs.

The main mineral resources are manganese and diamonds: while the first production, which began in 1960, shows a pronounced decline due to the depletion of the main field – but others will soon go into production -, the second is increasing (from 188 to 334,000 carats from 1959 to 1972). Recently discovered deposits of bauxite and iron are not yet the object of systematic exploitation.

The industry, which is enjoying rapid development, is predominantly located around the capital where a large oil refinery has recently been built. The main industrial sector consists in the processing of agricultural raw materials for export: canning of pineapples, processing of cocoa and coffee (there is a Nestlé plant). Another sector concerns the production of consumer goods for the local market and for neighboring countries: cotton weaving, matches, tobacco, finishing of imported products. There is also a modern sector with cement factories, chemical and mechanical plants (in addition to the aforementioned refinery), which is relatively backward compared to the others but in rapid development. The main port, Abidjan, has benefited from major works that have allowed the access to the lagoon port for large tonnage ships. Total freight traffic nearly reached 6 million tonnes in 1972.

The trade balance is constantly active: in 1973 the balance was 147 million dollars. The most intense relations are maintained with France and affect almost 50% of imports and over 30% of exports.

History. – The over seventy year old F. Houphouët-Boigny, leader of the PDCI (Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire) and arbiter of the life of the country thanks to a pragmatic authoritarian paternalism and very solid ties with Paris (French are the main advisers and political-economic leaders, a key military contingent, most of the capital and 50,000,000 residents), was re-elected president in 1980 and in 1985. After 1977, economic growth halted due to low world prices for cocoa, coffee and timber; foreign debt and inflation magnified. From 1980, amid rumors of military conspiracies, Houphouët began a reorganization of the political leadership and from 1981, under the directives of the International Monetary Fund, implemented an unpopular policy of privatization of state-owned enterprises and reduction of public spending. Faced with the protest of employees and especially teachers and students, the president reacted by alternating repression with individual concessions and populist measures, such as the further Africanization of cadres or the 1984 campaign against corruption. After the 1982-84 drought, the economic situation seemed to improve, but in 1987 the renewed crisis pushed the government, unable to continue the austerity policy, to negotiate a global debt renegotiation. In the country, the widespread need for a more open political dialectic finds it hard to find references and leaders of the stature of Houphouët and in the twilight of the presidency ethnic and regionalist demands reappear. Meanwhile, social and economic problems worsen due to the high demographic rate (4%), urban planning (46%) and high unemployment.

During the first half of 1990 an unprecedented wave of social protest led by students and sections of the military brought the country to the brink of anarchy as Paris declined government requests for military intervention, based on the Franco-Ivorian agreement of 1961. The demonstrators openly called for the resignation of the president and multi-partyism. Preparing for the presidential elections in the autumn, the government tried to use the papal visit of September 1990 as a consensus-seeking successor, the old president reappeared in the elections and was reconfirmed in office (October 1990).

Ivory Coast Economy