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Cote D’Ivoire
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Brief History

The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, commonly known in English as Ivory Coast, is a country in West Africa. Little is known of the early history of the area now called Côte d'Ivoire. Most of its people entered the country in comparatively recent times, mostly from the northwest and the east. It gained its independence from France in 1960 and since then, the development of cocoa production for export, and foreign investment made Côte d'Ivoire one of the most prosperous of the West African states, but did not protect it from political turmoil. Côte d'Ivoire has experienced two coups d’état (1999 and 2001) and a civil war in 2002, although elections and a political agreement between the new government and the rebels have brought a return to peace on March 4, 2007. Although most of the fighting ended by late 2004, the country remained split in two, with the north controlled by the New Forces (FN).Citizen identification and voter registration pose election difficulties, and balloting planned for November 2009 was postponed with no future date set. Several thousand U.N. troops and several hundred French remain in Côte d'Ivoire to help the parties implement their commitments and to support the peace process.

Geography

Côte d’Ivoire, capital Yamoussoukro, lies on the Gulf of Guinea and forms part of the West African region. Covering an area of 322,463 square kilometers, it is bordered by Mali and Burkina Faso to the north, Ghana to the east, Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Liberia and Guinea to the west. The country’s climate is tropical along the coast and semiarid in the north with three seasons, warm and dry (November to March), hot and dry (March to May), and hot and wet (June to October). Most of the inhabitants live along the sandy coastal region; apart from the capital area, the forested interior is sparsely populated. Côte d’Ivoire is rich in natural resources such petroleum, natural gas, diamonds, manganese, iron ore, cobalt, bauxite, copper, gold, nickel, tantalum, silica sand, clay, cocoa beans, coffee, palm oil, hydropower. Abidjan, with a population of 3,310,500, is the largest city and serves as the commercial and banking center of Côte d'Ivoire as well as the de facto capital.

People

Côte d’Ivoire has a population of 21,058,798 (2010) of multiple ethnic groups including Akan, Voltaiques, Northern Mandes, Southern Mandes, Lebanese and French. Ivoirians speak French, the official language, and other local languages, Baoulé, Dioula, Dan, Anyin and Cebaara Senufo. The literacy rate is 48.7% and it has an unemployment rate may have climbed up to 40-50% as a result of the civil war. The main religions are Islam (38.6%), Christianity (32.8%) and various indigenous religions.

Government

TThe Côte d’Ivoire is an independent republic, with a democratic government based on a presidential regime established 1960. Its legal system is based on the French civil law system and customary law. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. Its chief of state is President Laurent GBAGBO that was elected for a five year term, with no limits on the number of terms; however, he has been assuming this role since October 2000. Elections were originally scheduled for 2005 but they have been repeatedly postponed by the government until date. The head of government is Prime Minister Guillaume SORO who was elected on 4 April 2007. The presidential elections were last held on 10 December 2000 with by-elections on 14 January 2001. The official currency is the CFA Franc (Communaute Financiere Africaine) which is tied to the euro where 1 euro is equivalent to 655.957 CFA Franc (XOF).

Economy

Since the colonial period, Côte d'Ivoire's economy has been based on the production and export of tropical products. Agriculture, coffee, cocoa beans, palm oil, forestry and fisheries account for a substantial part of GDP and of exports. Between 60% and 70% of the Ivoirian people are engaged in some form of agricultural activity. Côte 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 the weather conditions.

Despite government attempts to diversify the economy, it is still heavily dependent on agriculture and related activities, engaging roughly 68% of the population. Since 2006, oil and gas production have become more important engines of economic activity than cocoa. According to IMF statistics, earnings from oil and refined products were $1.3 billion in 2006, while cocoa-related revenues were $1 billion during the same period.

Since the end of the civil war in 2003, political turmoil has continued to damage the economy, resulting in the loss of foreign investment and slow economic growth. GDP grew by more than 2% in 2008 and nearly 4% in 2009. Per capita income has declined by 15% since 1999.

In March 2009, Côte d’Ivoire reached the decision point for debt relief under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. The IMF approved a US$565.7 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility.

Still a regional economic powerhouse, Côte d'Ivoire hopes to retake its place in promoting regional stability when the resolution of its current crisis permits. Côte d'Ivoire belongs to the UN and most of its specialized agencies; the African Union, West African Economic and Monetary Union, ECOWAS; etc…. Côte d'Ivoire also belongs to the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank. It is an associate member of the European Union.

The country has an inflation rate of 2% (2009) and its Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$ 983.75 (2010).


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