Economy, energy and environment
What was once known as one of the most advanced economies on the continent (the ‘Switzerland of Africa’) still suffers heavily from the aftermath of ten years of internal conflict. At the same time, the newfound political stability seems to favor strong economic growth of around 8%, which should continue in the short term. Furthermore, the new president is putting all his resources of international credibility to good use to overcome years of recession and reconnect with international donors.
French companies, for example, will build a one and a half kilometer bridge in Abidjan and modernize the port of San Pédro. After a decade of underinvestment, the significant potential of the agriculture, mining and hydrocarbon sectors is attracting suitors from Europe, North America and Asia (particularly China), encouraged by the stability that appears to be underway in the country. Between November 2011 and June 2012, international creditors forgave 60% of the debt, paving the way for the re-establishment of more favorable international economic relations.
From the colonial era onwards, the Ivory Coast economy has been based on the cultivation of tropical products and, more recently, on the production of oil, mainly sold to the United States. In particular, the country is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and a major producer and exporter of coffee and palm oil. Consequently, the economy is highly sensitive to international fluctuations in the prices of these products and, to a lesser extent, to climatic conditions. Furthermore, the systematic exploitation of forests for the production of precious woods or to make room for agricultural monocultures has led to the deforestation of about 80% of their original extension, putting the biodiversity of the country at risk.
Up to now about 68% of the population is employed in the agricultural sector. Land ownership is reserved for Ivorian citizens and is largely private, despite the existence of some public companies. Thanks to natural gas production facilities, Cote d’Ivoire is a net exporter of energy. In 2008, foreign direct investments accounted for 40-45% of the total and in particular French investments represented 55-60% of foreign investments, further evidence of the very close political and economic link with the former motherland. After an initial economic crisis in the 1980s, the country went through a new phase of recovery through reforms led by the International Monetary Fund, with the devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994 for half its value.
According to indexdotcom, the devaluation was long opposed by Paris despite the insistence of the World Bank. The increase in political instability had produced a sharp contraction in foreign investments and a worsening of economic parameters and quality of life. The moderate phase of economic growth was momentarily interrupted by the civil conflict in 2011, but it found new momentum following the renewed political stability, reaching an average of 8% in the following two years. However, a large informal economy contributes to limiting tax revenues while relieving unemployment. Overall, the Ivory Coast suffers from a low level of per capita income, but above all it suffers from the negative effects of war and growing corruption.
Defense and security
On a strategic level, following the end of the civil war, the Ivorian army is today facing the challenge of demobilizing the troops and living with the large presence of international military forces on the territory. Since 1961, France has maintained its own contingent in the country, providing weapons and training to the local army. During the 2002 crisis this contingent reached 4000 soldiers.
In the crisis that followed the presidential elections of November 2010, France once again strengthened its presence in the country and helped determine the surrender of Gbagbo and his supporters (at that time France had 1,650 soldiers in the country, which is now reduced to 450). In January 2003 the Ecowas deployed a force of 1,500 men, which then merged, together with the French contingent, in the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, decided by the Security Council in 2004 and now operating in the territory.
Most of the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, including the Ivory Coast, have recently been united by a threat that does not only concern the security sphere but also the economic one. In 2013, piracy attacks in the gulf almost doubled compared to the previous year and caused a growing maritime insecurity which manifests itself in a rise in transport costs and a decrease in trade. The main contributors to piracy are poverty and the lack of effective multilateral naval cooperation between the Gulf states. To remedy the problem, Ecowas and the Economic Community of Central African States (Eccas) are in the process of developing initiatives that should be supported internationally and coordinated at the regional level.