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Côte D’ivoire:will The Jewel Of West Africa Gleam Again?

cote-d-ivoire Bedugul, Bali, Indonesia

Perhaps the name of Côte d’Ivoire has not been highlighted in much of a positive way in the past years. Most of the news coming from the West African county is about civil war and financial crises. However, the country’s progress is steady in comparison to other countries in Africa. Its economy was the continent’s fastestgrowing in 2015. The government is playing a great role through intensive public investment and various reforms in different aspects of economic as well as social policies. Most of the public investments are directed towards infrastructure projects. Furthermore, in the next couple of months, Ivorian people will participate in a referendum to vote on a new constitution introduced by the Parliament. The new constitution aims at solving some social issues which have been the cause for economic instability over the past few decades.

No language, religion, or ethnicity is dominant by the majority of people in Côte d’Ivoire. While this may be the cause of the destructive conflict between the different groups, it can lead to constructive diversity for the betterment of the nation.

Côte d’Ivoire occupies approximately 322,460 square kilometres. Located on the south coast of West Africa, it borders the North Atlantic Ocean, with Liberia and Guinea to the west; Mali and Burkina Faso to the north; and Ghana to the east. The country is made up of three distinct geographic regions: the southeast is marked by coastal lagoons; the southern region, especially the southwest, is densely forested; and the northern region is called the savannah zone. The official capital is Yamoussoukro; Abidjan is the administrative capital. The country’s three largest population centres are Abidjan (2.6 million), Daloa (1 million), and Man (957,706), and almost one-half of the country’s population is concentrated in the urban cities of Abidjan and Bouaké.

REPUBLIC OF COTE D’IVOIRE

Capital Yamoussoukro
Population 22,701,556 (2015)
Area 318,000 sq. km
Major Language (s) French
Major Religion (s) Islam , Christianity
Life Expectancy Male: 50.74 years ; Female:52.42 years
Currency West African CFA franc
Literacy rate Youth 50.23%, Adults 43.11%
GDP Per Capita USD 1,545.96 (2014)

ECONOMY AND POLITICS

Life in Cote d’Ivoire is very much affected by the political conflict in the country which is believed to delay and minimise the desired progress in all aspects across the country. Therefore, the best beginning to establish a strong basis for a quick and comprehensive development is to tackle this issue. It seems that the government has realised this fact and, therefore, the efforts to deepen national reconciliation have been notable since the re-election of President Ouattara who reshuffled his cabinet in January as he begins his second five-year term. President Ouattara called upon drawing up a new constitution which will be to a referendum soon. The President has also indicated that the country will vote in legislative and municipal elections in late 2016. The government priorities include redistributing uneven wealth and tackling high youth unemployment.

Cote d’Ivoire is the 77th largest export economy in the world and the 92nd freest economy according to the Economic Freedom Index. In 2014, Cote d’Ivoire exported USD 14.3 billion and imported USD 11.4 billion, resulting in a positive trade balance of USD 2.87 billion. In the same year, the GDP of Cote d’Ivoire was USD 34.3 billion and its GDP per capita was USD 3.26 billion. The top exports of Cote d’Ivoire are cocoa beans (USD 3.58 billion), refined petroleum (USD 1.61 billion), cocoa paste (USD 998 million) , Rubber (USD 783 million) and coconuts, brazil nuts, and cashews (USD 735 million) , using the 1992 revision of the HS (Harmonized System) classification. Its top imports are crude petroleum (USD 2.34B), special purpose ships (USD 626 million), rice (USD 422 million), non-fillet frozen fish (USD 331 million) and packaged medicaments (USD 295 million).

The top export destinations of Cote d’Ivoire are the United States, the Netherlands, France, Germany and South Africa. The top import origins are Nigeria, France, China, the Bahamas and India.

The poverty incidence in Côte d’Ivoire slightly diminished from an estimated 51 per cent in 2011 to 46 per cent in 2015 according to the findings of the 2015 Living Standards Monitoring Survey (LSMS – ENV2015). This decline is reported to be a response to the recent rebound of economic growth. Between 1985 and 2008, the estimated share of the population living below the poverty line increased from around 10 per cent to about 49 per cent. During this period, the increase in the depth and severity of poverty was dramatic. The current decline in poverty rate indicates improved conditions in both rural and urban areas. Poverty, however, continues to be overwhelmingly rural with disparities in access to basic services, and gender disparities across wealth and urban-rural groups.

SOCIAL LIFE AND CULTURE

The population of Côte d’Ivoire is ethnically diverse and delineated by the places the more than sixty indigenous ethnic groups live, although this number is often reduced to four major cultural regions—the southeast, sometimes referred to as the Atlantic East (Akan), the southwest, sometimes referred to as the Atlantic West (Kru), the northeast/northcentral (Voltaic), and the northwest (Mande). The official language of the country is French. It is spoken mostly in the cities and towns and is used in higher education. However, the masses of the people prefer pidgin (popular) French, called Dioula. All of the country’s approximately sixty ethnic languages belong to the Niger- Congo family. However, even the most widely spoken language is spoken by only about 23 per cent of the population.

cote-d-ivoire Ivory Coast

Food plays an important role in the ceremonial and religious ceremonies of most native people groups. Among the Akan people, the most important of these is the yam festival, a time of thanksgiving for good harvests and an opportunity to remember the discovery of the yam. One of Côte d’Ivoire’s most famous festivals involving food is the Festival of Masks, which takes place in villages in the Man region every February. Every March, the Carnival in Bouaké is filled with festivities and food. Along the blessed month of Ramadan, the Muslim population of Côte d’Ivoire’s observes the fasting by month-long activities reflecting the Islamic traditions, and then ends the fast with a huge feast during Eid al-Fitr. Another Muslim holiday focused on feasts, prayer, fellowship, and gift giving is Eid al-Adha which comes in conjunction with the annual season of pilgrimage to Makkah.

Côte d’Ivoire’s year-round climate resembles summer weather in multi-seasonal countries. During the rainy summer months, the weather is somewhat cooler, and long-sleeved clothing is comfortable. Rainwear and umbrellas are necessary items. Men find that either business suits (light-weight) or locally tailored bush suits are appropriate for most occasions. However, those whose work does not entail contact with the host government or the public normally wear slacks with either short- or long-sleeved shirts. Sports clothes and casual wear are recommended for leisure activities.

Most women wear summer dresses or blouse and skirt combinations, supplemented by sweaters for air-conditioned buildings. Neither shorts nor very short dresses are worn in the downtown area or while traveling in the country. Washable fabrics are preferable, since local dry cleaning is expensive; in Côte d’Ivoire’s hot, humid climate, wrinkle-resistant fabrics that breathe are desirable. Hosiery usually is worn only for special occasions, and gloves and hats (with the exception of sun hats) are seldom seen. Sandals, comfortable walking shoes, and sports footwear are all useful.

TOURISM AND ATTRACTION

Despite the unstable political situation in Côte d’Ivoire, the government continues its efforts to promote the country’s tourist attraction sites. In 2014, around 500 thousand tourists visited the country. These tourists enjoy exploring a number of the wonderful places in Côte d’Ivoire. Many of these places are located in Abidjan such as the National Museum, which contains a fascinating collection of artifacts that tell the country’s history from the Stone Age to the present; St. Paul’s Cathedral, a church designed by Italian architect Aldo Spirito which is laid out in a stylised version of the figure of Paul with his robes flowing behind him; and Parc du Banco, a park covering 7,500 acres which is the home to a diverse collection of hard woods, flowers, bushes and wildlife. The beautiful Mosque of Plateau is another site visited by tourists, with its minaret and the gold blue dome emerging in the landscape of Plateau, the business district of Abidjan, where the Presidential Palace and the Town Hall also stand.

Stabilising the social and political situation in Côte d’Ivoire guarantees smooth development of the tourism industry, which will impact the national economy and create thousands of new jobs.

cote-d-ivoire National Museum in Abidjan

Other areas have tourism sites, though. For example, Tiagba is a coastal community located in the south-central part of Côte d’Ivoire. It is popular with tourists because nearly all of the homes here are built on stilts. Visitors can spend the night in one of the traditional stilt homes and enjoy a fresh seafood meal at one of the seaside restaurants. In the capital Yamoussoukro, the Our Lady of Peace Basilica is a Roman Catholic Church, which claims to be the largest church is the world, is the main attraction. It was constructed in 1990 as a modern version of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and it is large enough to seat 7,000 people. Assouinde is a seaside resort, located about 30 miles east of Abidjan, boasts long stretches of palm-fringed, uncrowded beaches, small seaside hotels and excellent surfing conditions. The Comoe National Park is one of the largest in West Africa and is a UNESCO World Heritage designation because of the park’s pristine rain forest and diversity of plant and wildlife.