Côte d’Ivoire—the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and cashew nuts and a significant producer of coffee and palm oil—has enjoyed remarkable economic success since 2012 and is a major economic power in the West African subregion.
Côte d’Ivoire has maintained a relative stability since the end of the 2010-2011 post-electoral war. But recent political developments have been fueling tension in the country. With presidential polls due in October 2020, President Alassane Ouattara has not said whether he will seek a third term. The coalition he formed with Henri Konan Bédié, his former ally against Gbagbo, has collapsed and a presidential bid by Bédié cannot be ruled out.
Former president Laurent Gbagbo was acquitted by the International Criminal Court but released under conditions pending an appeal by the prosecutor. If the appeal is completed in time, he could possibly join the presidential race. Recent tension within the ruling RHDP coalition has also culminated in the recent resignation of the speaker of the Parliament, Guillaume Soro.
In the meantime, talks for the reform of the Independent electoral commission (CEI) has started between the government and representatives of opposition parties. The United Nations has at several occasions stressed the need to overhaul the CEI, saying that it does not reflect the reality of the political landscape of Côte d’Ivoire. Many Ivoirians fear that without consensus on a reformed electoral commission and enhanced confidence in an impartial election administration, the upcoming 2020 presidential poll would lack legitimacy risking a return to violence and conflict.
The economy has expanded by an average of 8% per year since the exit of the political crisis in 2011, which makes Côte d’Ivoire one of the fastest growing country in the world during this period. However, the country’s GDP growth has gradually declined from 10.1% in 2012 to 7.7% in 2017 and is estimated at 7.4% in 2018. The economy is facing the dual challenge of maintaining a rapid growth rate and of making it more inclusive (poverty remains high at 46.4%) while reducing fiscal imbalances. The proximity of the national elections (October 2020) may create uncertainty and have a negative impact on private investments.
In early January, President Alassane Ouattara declared 2019 as a “year of social actions”, with the aim to make social services available and affordable for the most vulnerable, create thousands of jobs for the youth and hire over 10,000 teachers for primary and secondary education. A few later, public school teachers started a long strike from the end of January to early March after government negotiations with labor unions over allocations and conditions failed. Other civil servants have also threatened to walk out and end a truce that put to rest a series of strikes that paralyzed the administration and public services in 2017.
The consecutive years of rapid economic growth since 2012 have been less inclusive than expected. Poverty rate is still high in the country. In 2018, Côte d’Ivoire ranked 170th among 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. Between 1985 and 2011, the depth and severity of poverty increased considerably, and the proportion of poor population rose from approximately 10% to 51%. However, the findings of the most recent Living Standards Monitoring Survey carried out by the government indicate that the recent economic upturn has brought the poverty rate back down to 46.3%.
The Government of Côte d’Ivoire must now strive to ensure that the most vulnerable segments of the population receive a greater portion of the spoils of economic growth. It must also work to develop the country’s human capital to better meet the needs of the labor market. The production of modern goods and services requires skills that are still missing from the local workforce. Women must not be overlooked in this drive to develop human capital. Despite recent efforts, Côte d’Ivoire remains one of the countries with the highest gender inequality rates in the world.
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2019