The Ivory Coast is an independent republic, with a democratic government, which lies on the Gulf of Guinea and forms part of the West African region.
The political capital is Yamoussoukro and the commercial capital is Abidjan. Other major towns are Dimbokro and Daloa and the ports of Sassandra and Tabou.
The official language is French but over 60 native dialects are spoken. The Ivory Coast has a free economy and an active stock exchange. The local currency is the CFA-franc. (US$ / CFA Franc – current exchange rate).
The creation of a regional commercial court in the Ivory Coast in mid 1999, was part of the establishment of a unified system of commercial law by 16 francophone African countries.
The oil industry of the Ivory Coast is one of the key elements in the economy of the country. In particular the downstream industry is well developed with an oil refinery at Abidjan and 8 oil companies engaged in the distribution and marketing of petroleum products.
In addition to its oil industry, the Ivory Coast has an active chemicals industry, as well as being one of the larger markets in the lubricants industry in the West African region. The country’s mining industry is another important sector in the country’s economy. Electricity is provided by the parastatal utility, Compagnie Ivoirienne d’Electricite (CIE).
Based on a government decision in the 1980’s, the Oil, Gas, and Energy sectors of the economy are and will be the main driving engines of the economy in future decades. Offshore discoveries, including gas finds in the Gulf of Guinea provide opportunities for hydrocarbon exploration in the Ivory Coast.
Situated in a tropical area where there is plenty of rainfall and fertile soil, the Ivory Coast is highly dependent on agriculture and related products. As a result the economy is greatly affected by international price fluctuations and weather conditions.
The Ivory Coast is among the world’s largest producers and exporters of coffee, cocoa beans and palm oil.
The Ivorian economy has experienced steady growth since 1995 due to devaluation of the CFA franc, improved cocoa and coffee prices, growth in non-traditional primary exports, limited trade and banking liberalisation, offshore oil and gas discoveries as well as external financing and debt rescheduling by multilateral lenders and France.
A slump in economic growth is predicted for 1999-2000 as a result of the need for conditions of international donors to be met as well as continued low prices of key exports. Sustainable growth lies in the development of a modern labour force, upgrading organisational capabilities of institutions while accelerating pro-poor policies. Effective governing is necessary in order to achieve this.
The international time zone for the Ivory Coast is GMT. The international dialling code is +225. 19 airlines fly to the Ivory Coast which is also the headquarters of Air Afrique. As at September 1995 most visitors to the Ivory Coast require visas except nationals of Scandinavian countries, some West European countries and the USA.
Small businesses in the Ivory Coast have welcomed the linking of the CFA franc to the Euro as currencies in the Francophone region are now fixed, allowing for exportation to a wide zone without forex costs. Privatisation of a large number of companies was planned by the government in 1999 as well as the sale of its stakes in some companies listed on the West African Regional Bourse.
International banking transactions can be carried out through the central bank, the Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO). The Ivory Coast is a member of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the BCEAO – Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, the CEAO – Communauté Economique de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, the UEMOA – Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africaine (West African Economic and Monetary Union), and is headquarters to the African Development Bank.
In 1998 the Ivory Coast signed a three-year, $384 million Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce budget deficit, liberalise economic sectors and allocate more resources to health and education.
As a result, public sector external debt has dropped and if the Ivory Coast fulfils the terms of the ESAF, the World Bank/IMF debt forgiveness program will provide additional debt forgiveness in 2001.
Due to the state of health, the immunisation status, location and the local disease situation; cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis A,B and C, malaria, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever and AIDS can occur in the Ivory Coast. Water needs to be boiled before consumption. Meat, fish and vegetables need to be cooked and fruit peeled.