IVORY COAST ECONOMY – A SHORT HISTORY
The Ivory Coast is a vital cog in the wheel of commercial success on the African continent. We share a short history of the Ivory Coast Economy leading to the current economic status.
It seems the first settlers were North African traders who visited south Saharan states in search of gold – they were the first written record keepers. Until the 1840s, the indigenous people of Côte d’Ivoire flourished in relative isolation, being protected from European colonialism by the inhospitable coastline.
According to SA History online, in 1840, the Portuguese arrived, followed later by other Europeans, but it was the French who eventually took control, “trading for ivory, and establishing coffee and cocoa plantations, which are still the backbone of the economy”
In 1842 the French declared the area their protectorate with formal French colonial rule being introduced in the 1880s. In 1904, Ivory Coast became part of French West Africa until 1960 when the country regained independence from France. Houphouët-Boigny became the first President.
His policies were wildly successful. He maintained close economic ties with France and raised the country’s agriculture game which resulted in Côte d’Ivoire becoming the world’s largest producer of cocoa. The Lonely Planet reports that the economy maintained a 10% annual growth rate for 20 years.
There are several interesting historical articles on this era on the Ivory Coast. You can read one such interesting article from 5 May 1899 here
INTO THE 1900’s
Unfortunately, world recession, drought, collapsing prices on agricultural products and over-logging all contributed to Côte d’Ivoire’s economic troubles resulting in civil unrest. Houphouët-Boigny won the 1990 open elections but died in 1993 after 33 years as the country’s president. The Ivory Coast remained a model of stability and good economic growth even after his passing until the first military coup of 1999. The consequences of military coup were an economic breakdown and civil war splitting the country into two halves, north and south.
INTO THE 2000s
For the last 5 years, Cote d’Ivoire’s growth rate has been among the highest in the world. Cote d’Ivoire is heavily dependent on agriculture and related activities, which engage roughly two-thirds of the population. Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and a significant producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil. Consequently, the economy is highly sensitive to fluctuations in international prices for these products and to climatic conditions. Cocoa, oil, and coffee are the country’s top export revenue earners, but the country has targeted agricultural processing of cocoa, cashews, mangoes, and other commodities as a high priority. Mining gold and exporting electricity are growing industries outside agriculture.
Following the end of more than a decade of civil conflict in 2011, Cote d’Ivoire has experienced a boom in foreign investment and economic growth. In June 2012, the IMF and the World Bank announced $4.4 billion in debt relief for Cote d’Ivoire under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative
GETTING A GLIMPSE INTO THE MERCHANT MARINE
The Ivory Coast Merchant Marine has a total fleet of 15 vessels comprising 2 oil tankers and 13 vessels in the classification ‘other’. The country has 2 major seaports, being Abidjan and San Pedro, and one mail oil terminal, the Espoir Offshore Terminal.
Abidjan’s port history does not go back very far. It was a small village in 1898 that became a town in 1903 with scant port facilities until 1950. In 1950, the city was opened to the sea with the construction of the Vridi Canal. It soon became French-speaking West Africa’s major shipping and financial center.
TODAY’S ECONOMIC PICTURE
We can get a glimpse into the current active industries keeping the Ivory Coast economy alive, via the CIA website. These industries include foodstuffs, beverages, wood products, oil refining, gold mining, truck and bus assembly, textiles, fertilizer, building materials & electricity
The country enjoys an industrial production growth rate of 4.2% (2017 est.) and a labor force of 8.747 million (2017 est.) Unfortunately, in 2015 the population below poverty line amounted to a staggering 46.3%
Exports were estimated at $11.74 billion in 2017, a slight drop on the 2016 figure of $11.77 billion.
Exports partners include the Netherlands 11.8%, US 7.9%, France 6.4%, Belgium 6.4%, Germany 5.8%, Burkina Faso 4.5%, India 4.4%, Mali 4.2% in the commodities of cocoa, coffee, timber, petroleum, cotton, bananas, pineapples, palm oil, fish
Imports were estimated at $9.447 billion in 2017, an increase from $7.81 billion in 2016. Imported commodities include fuel, capital equipment and foodstuffs, from partners such as Nigeria 15%, France 13.4%, China 11.3% and US 4.3%
Today, despite the recent political instability, the Ivory Coast Economy is stable. “Ivory Coast is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans, and its citizens enjoy a relatively high level of income compared to other countries in the region” – BBC News .
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