The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Cote d'Ivoire: Cocoa bean capital of the world
Côte d’Ivoire, also known as Ivory Coast, is located on the coast of western Africa. The total population of the nation is 27.7 million. The de facto capital is Abidjan, boasting a population of 3.7 million, and the administrative capital is Yamoussoukro; population 194,530. 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 above sea level. Most of the western border with Liberia and Guinea is shaped by mountain ranges, the highest point being Mt. Nimba at 5,748 feet, situated in the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982), where the borders of the three countries meet.
The country is made up of four natural regions. The coastal fringe consists of a strip of land, no more than 40 miles 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 wide. It has now been reduced to an area roughly triangular in shape, with the apex lying slightly 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 favorable for stock breeding. About 4,500 square miles in this region have been set aside to form Komoé National Park, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.
Drainage and soils
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 tapped, however.
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 savanna areas.
Climate of Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial and southern savanna types of climate prevail. North of approximately 8 degrees 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 in the northeast and center to approximately 60 inches in the northwest. The northern region is drier than the rest of the country and, because of the elevation, somewhat cooler.
Côte d’Ivoire is a land of plenty in so many different respects. Its pristine white-sand beaches along the Atlantic coast are eye candy of the highest quality; and the nation's productive agricultural harvests of cocoa beans and cotton to coconut, pineapples, mangoes, vegetables and legumes boost and ever-growing GDP, one of the highest in the African continent.
More eye candy from Côte d’Ivoire's rivers, waterways, and water- falls. The nation keeps on giving. Four major river systems follow meandering courses from north to south in Côte d’Ivoire, draining into the Gulf of Guinea. From west to east these are the Cavally, Sassan- dra, Bandama, and Co- moé — all relatively untamed rivers naviga- ble only short distances inland from the coast.
Abidjan, the largest and most populous city in Côte d’Ivoire with 3.7 million people, is the economic capital of the nation. A cultural crossroads of West Africa, Abidjan is characterized by a high level of industrialization and urbanization. The city
expanded quickly after the construction of a new wharf in 1931, followed by its designation as the capital city of the then-French colony in 1933. Abidjan remained the capital of Côte d’Ivoire after its independence from France in 1960. The completion of the Vridi Canal in 1951 enabled Abidjan to become an important sea port. In 1983, the city of Yamoussoukro was designated as the official political capital and administrative capital of Côte d’Ivoire. However, almost all political institu- tions and foreign embas- sies are still located in Abidjan in 2022. Yamous- soukro is known for the enormous Basilica of Our Lady of Peace with its stained-glass windows and towering dome.
Côte d’Ivoire invested remark- ably in its transport system. Transport infrastructures are much more developed than they are other West African countries. Since its indepen- dence in 1960, Côte d’Ivoire put an emphasis on increasing and modernizing the transport network for human as well as for goods. Major infrastruc- tures of diverse nature were built including railways, roads, waterways, and airports. The nation's railway system is part of a 783-mile long route that links the country to Burkina Faso and Niger; 719 miles of railroad links Abidjan to Ouag- adougou, the capital of Bur-
Beauty adds to the alluring mix in Côte d'Ivoire. Charming eye candy to be sure. A statement of truth about the wider global standard of beauty.
Last, but not least, are the treasures hidden in the Côte d'Ivoire rain forest —her majestic wild beasts protected in the nation's reserves, including chimpanzees, monkeys and baboons, zebras, leo- pards, African buffaloes, hippopatomus, warthogs and antelopes. Birds include raptors, pigeons, herons, flamingos and storks, and amphibians. Reptiles include various species of lizards, snakes and crocodilians such as the dwarf crocodile. Whales and dolphins are found offshore.
South of 8 degrees 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 Novem- ber on the coastal fringe. Abidjan receives approximately 75 inches 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 Fahrenheit to the low 90s F. 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, and the relative humidity is often high. On the mountains farther west there is no dry season, and precipitation amounts to about 80 inches.
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 center is Banco National Park, on the northwestern edge of Abidjan. Trees more than 150 feet 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 neighboring 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. Grand-Béréby Marine Protection Area, off the Atlantic coast in the southwest of the country, is a conservation area that is home to coral reefs, sea turtles, rays, and sharks.
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 neighboring states.
Language and religion
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.
Islam is followed by about two-fifths of the population, found primarily in the northwest and in Abidjan. About one-third of the population is Christian, mostly Roman Catholic or Evangelical. 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.
About one-half of Côte d’Ivoire’s population lives in rural areas. 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 centers 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 respon- sible for hunting, gathering kola nuts and oil palm nuts, and coastal 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 (an 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 neighboring 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 blood spilling.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Agriculture provides a livelihood for more than half the labor force, and locally grown subsistence crops meet most rural domestic needs. Urbanization and the growing use of hired labor throughout the country created a demand for foodstuffs other than yams, cassava, plantains, and corn. An acquired taste for bread and beer led to signifi- cant 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 producer of cocoa beans. Coffee, though it has fallen in export value, remains a favorite 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 export crop. 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 Mount Nimba. About 60 percent 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 laborers. 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.
Finance and trade
Côte d’Ivoire’s monetary unit is the Communauté Financièr Africaine (CFA) 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, Togo, and 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 China, France, and Nigeria for imports, which include machinery and transport equipment, fuel, and food products.
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 dirt 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 accommoda- tions 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 Côte d’Ivoire, serves the country’s airports 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 very popular. Internet service is available, although access is somewhat limited beyond urban areas.
Government and administrative
Côte d’Ivoire was proclaimed an independent republic on Aug. 7, 1960. The 1960 constitution was suspended following the December 1999 military coup, and a new constitution was approved in 2000. Another new constitu- tion was approved in 2016 and amended in 2020, under which executive power is vested in the president, who is directly elected, serves a five-year term, and, beginning in 2020, can only be reelected once. The president, who serves as the head of state, is assisted by a vice president, who is chosen by the elected president and approved by parliament. The president is also assisted by the prime minister, who serves as the head of government. 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, Social, Environmental and Cultural Council and the Constitutional Council.
Legislative power is vested in a bicameral parliament, consisting of the National Assembly and the Senate. The 255 members of the National Assembly are directly elected for five-year terms. The Senate, which was provided for under the 2016 constitution but was not created until 2018, has 99 members, of which 66 are indirectly elected by local and regional councils and 33 are appointed by the president. Senators serve a five-year term. For admin- istrative purposes, Côte d’Ivoire is divided into 2 autonomous districts (Abidjan and Yamoussoukro) and 12 dis- tricts, which are further divided into régions and then départements. There are also smaller administrative units of sous-préfectures, communes, and villages, each with an elected council.
Côte d’Ivoire has an independent judiciary. The three highest bodies are the Court of Cassation, which deals with criminal and civil matters; the Council of State, which handles administrative disputes; and the Court of Auditors, which oversees matters pertaining to public finances and accounts. There are also subordinate Courts of Appeal and Courts of First Instance. The Superior Council of Magistracy is the body that oversees matters pertaining to the employment and disciplinary matters of judges. The High Court of Justice is a court of exceptional jurisdiction that judges the president, vice president, and other members of the government. The Constitutional Council is concerned with electoral issues and the constitutionality of laws.
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, notably the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and Houphouëtist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP).
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 gendarmerie.The Ivorian army had three infantry battalions, an armoured battalion, an artillery battery, and seven specialist companies in 1993. The effective strength of the army was more than 8,000 troops in the mid-1980s before declining steadily to about 5,500. It has always remained the largest branch of the armed forces. Armament includes Russian-made T-55 battle tanks, armoured vehicles, including infantry fighting vehicles, personnel carriers, artillery, and air defense weapons.
The Ivorian armed forces also is comprised of a small air force and navy with a limited number of combat aircraft and naval vessels.
Health, welfare, housing
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 south- western 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 centered around Abidjan and Yamoussoukro. About half of Côte d’Ivoire’s population age 15 and older can read and write.
Art, culture, music
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 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.
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 world.
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.
Sports and recreation
As in many other African countries, soccer is a major sport in Côte d’Ivoire. A soccer 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. In Track and Field, Gabriel Tiacoh became the first Ivoirian to win an Olympic medal when he won a silver medal in the men’s 400 meters 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, comprised of many daily papers, weeklies, and periodicals, has become more bold 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 broadcast in French as well as in African languages. There is also a state-run television station; international television programming is available via satellite.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License