This week the Ivory Coast is celebrating 13 years of independence from France -- years which have seen unprecedented development.
This week the Ivory Coast is celebrating 13 years of independence from France -- years which have seen unprecedented development. The first steps away from the French colonial umbrella were tentative. Government leaders were reportedly reluctant to risk the financial security of that arrangement.
However, despite minor outbreaks of political unrest, the first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny is still in power, and the Ivory Coast has enjoyed a growth unrivalled in West Africa. In addition, French technical assistance and foreign investment continued to flow in after independence.
The economy was based firmly on the plantations, which were developed with overseas money. In 1965, for instance, coffee, cocoa and timber products accounted for 90 per cent of the country's exports. And those exports had increased four-fold in the 15-years since 1950. The Ivory Coast is the world's third largest cocoa exporter, and produces more balance than any other African nation. The fishing industry, too, is expending, with financial assistance from Europe -- the major customer.
On the base provided by plantation crops, the Government has planned a programme of light industrial expansion...and this has become an important national growth factor.
Tourism is big business, as the Government pushes on with promotions to make the Ivory Coast Africa's version of the Riviera. Millions of pounds (sterling) have been set aside for tourist projects, including "village"-style resorts -- one of them a nudist colony.
However, there are problems, and they appear to be growing. Unemployment has reached an alarming level, and the rate of development is easing. Drought has hit the plantations, and wide social divisions are evident in the rural areas.
SYNOPSIS: Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast, which this week celebrates the thirteenth anniversary of its independence from France.
Thanks partly to French technical assistance and other foreign investment, it has been a period of growth unrivalled in West Africa. The regime has been stable and, despite minor outbreaks of unrest, the first President Felix Houphouet-Boigny is still in power. Tourism is being encouraged by the Government and the visitors find in the country -- apart from sunny golden beaches -- a proud and ancient culture. To cope with the influx, more hotels are rising.
An attempt is also being made to stimulate light industry, now an important national growth factor. A variety of small and medium-sized plants are flourishing, after an original investment booster from abroad. But despite those moves to diversify the economy, the Ivorian Minister of Finance predicts that the country will still have a balance of payments deficit in 1973. This is due mainly to the continued dominance of the primary sector: timber and coffee, which together comprise three-quarters of the country's exports, and cocoa.
In addition, agriculture is a vital element and the crops this year have been affected by the West African drought. The Ivory Coast normally produces more bananas than any other nation on the Continent -- 200,000-tons.
Overall, though, exports have increased four-fold in the years since 1950.
The Ivory Coast is the world's second greatest exporter of coffee and stands fourth in the cocoa rankings. Grown mainly in the coastal area, these have been little affected by the drought. Together, they make up 65 per cent of the export total.
The fishing industry, based in the port of Abidjan, is expanding rapidly, with assistance from Europe and the Government. Most of the exports go to European countries. There are processing facilities in the Ivory Coast and canning is one of the officially boosted light industries.
The balmy climate and unspoilt beaches have proved attractive to tourists.
Rather than crowed the visitors into the cities, the authorities are providing resort villages where sun seekers can spend a quiet holiday and also see native culture.
But though the most prosperous of France's African ex-colonies, the Ivory Cost must still solve a growing unemployment problem, weld deep social divisions and further diversify its economy.