Ivory Coast: Cocoa king recovers from years of unrest

October 28, 2016 11:34 am
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An employee of the CEMOI chocolate factory in Abidjan empties bags of cocoa beans onto a metal grate for cleaning/AFP
An employee of the CEMOI chocolate factory in Abidjan empties bags of cocoa beans onto a metal grate for cleaning/AFP

, ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast. Oct 28 – The west African nation of Ivory Coast, which votes Sunday on a new constitution, is the world’s leading producer of cocoa.

One of the region’s major economies, it is also on the mend, after more than a decade of political and social unrest.

Overview
  • Ivory Coast is the world's leading cocoa producer, with more than 40 percent of the world's harvest.
  • That represents 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), more than half of its export earnings, and two-thirds of jobs and wages, according to the World Bank.

 

Here are key facts about the country:

Independence

Ivory Coast gained independence from France in 1960 and Felix Houphouet-Boigny became president. Multi-party politics were introduced in 1990 after a wave of protests.

When Houphouet-Boigny, known as “the father of the nation”, died in December 1993, he was succeeded by Henri Konan Bedie who won an election in 1995 amid widespread violence.

Crisis after crisis

After the death of Houphouet-Boigny, strong ethnic and social divisions began to affect a nation where the founding leader had sought to ensure parity among different groups.

In December 1999 an army mutiny was followed by a coup, the first in the country’s history. A junta led by General Robert Guei overthrew Bedie.

A disputed presidential poll in October 2000 was won by Laurent Gbagbo. September 2002 saw a military uprising which effectively cut the country in two with rebels holding the north and the army retaining control of the south.

France steps in

Former colonial power France intervened in 2002 by sending troops to protect expatriates and patrol territory between the army and the rebels. The French contingent later worked alongside soldiers of a UN mission deployed in 2004.

The next presidential election was postponed six times until a first round was finally held in October 2010. After the second round in November, Gbagbo refused to recognise the victory of rival Alassane Ouattara.

In April 2011, Gbagbo was arrested by Ouattara’s forces, following a 10-day conflict and several days of shelling by French and UN troops.

The post-electoral crisis claimed more than 3,000 lives, according to the current government.

Gbagbo is now on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in connection with that violence.

Ouattara was overwhelmingly re-elected on October 25, 2015, defeating former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan.

World’s top cocoa producer

Ivory Coast is the world’s leading cocoa producer, with more than 40 percent of the world’s harvest.

That represents 15 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), more than half of its export earnings, and two-thirds of jobs and wages, according to the World Bank.

It also exports bananas, cashew nuts, coffee, cotton and palm oil.

The economy has expanded by an average of nine percent over the past three years and per capita income stood at $1,410 (1,290 euros) in 2015, World Bank data shows.

23 million people

Ivory Coast lies on the Atlantic Ocean and has a population of 23 million, of whom 5.4 million are foreigners, according to a census published in late 2014.

The capital is Yamoussoukro, but most government offices remain in Abidjan.

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