Ivory Coast, republic in West Africa. The capital is Yamoussoukro.
Land and climate
The Ivory Coast occupies about 124,503 sq mi (322,462 sq km) on the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea and is bordered on the east by Ghana, on the west by Liberia and Guinea, and on the north by Mali and Upper Volta. Behind the sand spits, navigable lagoons, and surf beaches of the 315-mi (507-km) coastline, a dense rain forest extends northward over more than a third of the country. Beyond the forest the ground rises to a plateau, with grass and woodland savannas and isolated granitic masses. The northwest is mountainous. The Sassandra, Bandama, Comoé, Cavally, and other rivers flow southward to the Gulf of Guinea, but only short distances are navigable owing to the many rapids. The climate is hot. The rainy season lengthens and the amount of rain increases the farther one goes south. The extreme south has 2 distinct rainy seasons.
The population contains many ethnic and tribal groups, the most important being the Baoulé, Agnis-Ashantis, Kroumen, Mandé, Dan-Gouro, and Koua. Nearly a million Africans from Upper Volta, Guinea, and Mali live in the Ivory Coast, and there are some 35,000 French, Lebanese, and others. Around 40% of the population lives in the towns, the largest of which is Abidjan, chief port, and university center. Over 60% of the population is animist; 25% (mainly in the north) is Muslim, and nearly 13% is Christian. Some 60 tribal languages are spoken, but French is used officially and in commerce and education. The republic devotes more than 25% of its annual budget to education.
The Ivory Coast was one of the most prosperous countries in West Africa. Farming, forestry, and fisheries provide most of the gross national product. Major cash crops are coffee, and cocoa. Palm oil, pineapples, and bananas are also exported, as are hardwoods, including mahogany, iroko, satinwood, and teak. Diamonds and petroleum are mined. Trade is chiefly with European Community (EC) countries and the United States. The Ivory Coast is an associated state of the EC.
Once a French colony, the Ivory Coast became autonomous within the French Community in 1958, but soon opted for full independence (1960). Close economic, cultural, and defense ties with France were retained. Its attitude has tended to be pro-Western, but so far as East-West relations were concerned its official line was neutrality. From 1960 until 1993 Félix Houphouet-Boigny dominated politics. The matter of his succession caused severe political and social unrest.