New Internationalist

Ivory Coast

Issue 166

new internationalist
issue 166 - December 1986

COUNTRY PROFILE

Ivory Coast
[image, unknown] YABRE is a migrant labourer from neighbouring Burkina Faso, working the plantations of Ivory Coast. 'I first came to Ivory Coast 20 years ago.

'That first time I worked on a coconut plantation, about 20 kilometres from the capital, Abidjan. There were 500 of us Burkinabe labourers, plus a couple of Malians. I worked in a team of 12 and our job was to climb the trees to get the coconuts down. We were paid about $18 a month, and had a free room to sleep in which several of us shared. Each month on payday I spent $10 on food: ten kilos of rice, some oil, salt and a few dried fish.

'After two years my father died and I went back to the village. I had saved $140 and bought a bicycle for $50. The rest of the money went on the funeral expenses, so after the next harvest I came back to Ivory Coast.

'Now I grow coffee and cocoa. I don't get any monthly pay, but my boss gives me a third of what I harvest, and I sell it afterwards. I live in a house beside the plantation which some friends and I made from bamboo leaves. The work is twice as hard as the coconuts, with lots more ants and snakes. And spraying the DDT hurts your nostrils. But I make more money this way.'

It has been the work of Yabre and millions of other migrant labourers which has made Ivory Coast's so-called economic miracle possible. The country's development has been based on the export of crops like coffee, cocoa and pineapples, and almost all of the labour has been supplied by immigrants from Burkina Faso. In contrast there was virtually no economic development in that country during the time of Ivory Coast's expansion.

Today the Ivory Coast is the major world producer of cocoa, but this market is a fragile one with uncertainty over the future of the international cocoa agreement which governs world prices. Major expenditure of the export crop revenues during the sixties and seventies turned Abidjan into something resembling a Parisian arrondissement, with its wide boulevards, chic skyscrapers and elegantly dressed cafe-loungers. But dependency on-the export of unprocessed crops took a now familiar path an economic crisis followed by IMF negotiations. The solution being proposed today is greater expansion of cocoa production - the 1985 harvest was a record one.

Despite the heavy reduction in public expenditure money was nonetheless found to finance the construction of the world's largest cathedral, in Abidjan, last year, just 50 kilometres from where Yabre is working the plantations.

And plans to move the capital city, at a cost of billions, from the coast to Yamoussoukro, the birthplace of the President, have only been temporarily slowed down. President Houphouët Boigny is the longest reigning African Head of State. He is now over 80, in his sixth term of office, and will almost certainly stay in power until he dies.

Leader: President Felix Houphouët-Boigny

Economy: GNP per capita $710 (US $14,110)
Monetary unit: OFA franc (Communauté Financèire Africaine)
Main exports: Cocoa, cotton, pineapples, bananas

People: 10 million

Health: Infant mortality: 110 per thousand live births(US 11 per 1,000) Percentage of population with access to clean water: 20%.

Culture: Religion: Animist, Catholic

Language: French official language; Boulé, Dioula and Bete are the African languages used.

Sources: State of the World's Children 1986, Africa Review 1986.


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Immigrant labourers do worst paid jobs

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Heavy foreign debt; dependence on exports

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Urban women slightly better off than rural sisters

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[image, unknown] Parliamentary democracy

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Women 24%, men 45%; very low

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Few political prisoners

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Poor at 52 years
(US 74 years)

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