Learn more about Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast Boat

Ivory Coast

In the Ivory Coast there are approximately sixty ethnic groups (Malinké, Senoufo, Lobi, Dan, Krou, Baoule, Akan …) and each have many rich customs and rites of passage. On an artistic level, these ethnic groups, particularly the Dan and Baoulé, have produced masks and statues of curious beauty, which are now among the most sought-after works of the African art market. Most of the ethnicities are animists, i.e. only venerate a single god widely present throughout the universe. Moments of particular intensity are represented in the initiation ceremonies and ritual celebrations, lively dances to the beat of drums, flutes and pumpkins used as instruments, such as the rites of Poro, the Senoufo, or dances on stilts in the Yacouba country.

The country is divided into four areas of interest:

Coastal lagoon area: near Abidjan, the financial capital of the country. Administrative centre of the coast with a vaunted “skyline” showing the large number of modern and innovative buildings, which include “La Pyramide” designed by the Italian architect R. Oliveri and modern cathedral of St. Paul, designed by the Italian A. Spiritom.
Grand Bassam is a fascinating coastal city of the colonial period with a wonderful historic centre.
San Pedro is the second largest port city of the country. The coastal stretch reaches Sassandra, where there are beautiful beaches with great ocean waves, ideal for lovers of surfing.

Plantations in the east: a partially cultivated area located between Lake Kossou and the border with Ghana. This is the location of the current capital, Yamoussoukro. Political capital and very particular city, created from a small village inhabited by a few hundred inhabitants, by decision of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, characterized by having long avenues of six lanes extraordinarily lighted, with buildings that are architectural marvels, particularly the Notre Dame Basilica of Peace, which imitates, because of its size, Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Towards the border with Ghana, we can find the Akan and its golden kingdom.

Dan and Guere Mask

South-western forests: the area of tropical rain forests is inhabited by the Dan and Guere peoples, famous for their masks and bridges made with lianas, almost by magic, by initiates for only one night.

Northern Savannah: in this region we find Bouake, a city of reference of the Baoule; Korogho city of artisans, inhabited by the Senoufo, famous for their initiation rites; and Comoé National Park, a UNESCO heritage site.


Cote d’Ivoire borders the North Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Ghana and Liberia.

With close ties to France following independence in 1960, the development of cocoa production for export, and the foreign investment made in Cote d’Ivoire has made the country one of the most prosperous of the West African states.

Although the English name of the country is “Ivory Coast”, according to national law, the country’s name cannot be translated from the French Côte d’Ivoire.


Population: 23,295,302


Area: 322,463 km2

Language: French (official), 60 native languages among which Dioula is the most widely spoken

National holiday:  7 August

Time zone: GMT

Calling code:  +225

Currency: CFA franc

Ethnic groups: Akan 32.1%, Gur or Voltaïque 15%, Manden of north 12.4%, Krou 9.8%, Manden of the south 9%

Passport: necessary, must have a term of at least six months from the date of entry

Compulsory vaccinations: yellow fever

Entry visa: necessary


Not much is known of the history of Ivory Coast for the period before the arrival of European ships, although it is known that the first contacts took place in 1637 when some French missionaries arrived in the vicinity of Assinie, near the border of the Gold Coast (now Ghana).The main ethnic group arrived from neighbouring regions in rather recent times: the Kru migrated from Liberia around the year 1600; the Senoufo and Lubi came down southward from Burkina Faso and Mali. It was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the Akan people arrived, including the Baoule, who emigrated from Ghana in the eastern area of ​​the country, and the Malinke, who migrated in the same period from Guinea to the northwest of the Ivory Coast.
Unlike Ghana, neighbouring country, Ivory Coast has not suffered from a lot of slave trafficking. Merchant ships preferred other areas of slaves along the coast offering safer landings.
By mid-nineteenth century, the French created the first settlements of Assimie and Grand-Bassam, stipulating treaties with local chieftains and paid a tariff for land use. France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (in 1871) forced the French to withdraw its military garrisons from these early settlements in West Africa, leaving only merchant communities.
In 1885, France and Germany held a conference in Berlin to regulate the “dispute of the colonies” in Africa. In 1886, France carried out the actual occupation of Côte-d’Ivoire.
The Ivory Coast became the only West African country with a significant population of settlers, fundamentally due to the fact that the French and English were generally both in West and Central Africa. A third of the cacao, coffee and bananas plantations were in the hands of French citizens.

Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the son of a Baoulé chief, was destined to become an architect of the independence of the Ivory Coast. In 1944 he founded the first agricultural union of cocoa farmers. Irritated by the fact that colonial policy favoured French plantation owners, farmers united to recruit migrant workers for their farms.  Houphouët-Boigny quickly assumed an important role and one year later was elected to the Parliament of Paris.
At the time of the independence of the Ivory Coast in 1960, the country was the most prosperous of French West Africa, and was the source of more than 40% of total exports of the region. When Houphouët-Boigny became the first president of the Ivory Coast, the government guaranteed high prices to farmers to stimulate production. Coffee production increased significantly, pushing the Ivory Coast into third place for total export volume after Brazil and Colombia. The same happened with cocoa: in 1979 the country was the world’s largest producer, soon becoming the largest African exporter of pineapples and palm oil. Over 20 years, the economy maintained an annual growth rate of nearly 10%: the highest among African non-oil exporting countries.


The Ivory Coast can generally be described as a large plateau that rises gradually from sea level in the south of the country, reaching almost 500 meters altitude in the northern regions.
The southeast region is characterized by coastal lagoons. The southern region is covered by dense tropical forests. The centre of the country stretches from east to west as a transition zone between coastal forests and the savannah of the interior. The north is mainly a territory characterized by rolling plains, with low mountains to the northwest. The peak in Côte d’Ivoire is Mount Nimba at 1752m above the sea.
The main rivers are the Bandama, the longest in the country, the Cavally River, which forms part of the border with Liberia, the Sassandra River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean near the town of the same name. To the east, the Komoe River crosses the country from north to south. A short stretch of the border with Ghana is delimited by the Black Volta. Kossou Lake is the largest of the Ivory Coast and is located in the central region.
To choose the best time to visit the Ivory Coast is important to note that the climate is generally warm and humid year round. It varies from equatorial climate in the south coast, tropical in the centre of the country, and semi-arid in the far north. There are three seasons: warm and dry (November to March), and sweltering hot-dry (March to May), and hot and wet (June to October). The average temperature is between 25° C and 30° C, with variations between 10° C and 40° C.


Cote d’Ivoire is heavily dependent on agriculture and related activities, which employs roughly two-thirds of the population. Cote 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 on climatic conditions. Cocoa, oil, and coffee are the country’s top export revenue earners, but the country is also mining gold. Following the end of more than a decade of civil conflict in 2011, Cote d’Ivoire has experienced a boom in foreign investment and economic growth. In June 2012, the IMF and the World Bank announced $4.4 billion in debt relief for Cote d’Ivoire under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.


Ivory Coast has invested remarkably in its transport system. Transport Infrastructures are much more developed than in other West African countries despite a crisis that restrained their maintenance and development.
The nation’s railway system is 1,260 km long and links the country to Bukina Faso.
The Ivory Coast road network spreads over 85 000 km, 75 000 of which is unpaved. It provides national and international traffic with neighbouring countries.
Ivory Coast has greatly contributed to developing maritime transport by building two ports: port of Abidjan, sometimes referred to as the “lung of Ivorian economy”, and the San-Pedro port.
There are three international airports located in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro, and Bouaké.


Radio is the most popular media.
There are 2 state-owned TV stations: there are not private terrestrial TV stations, but satellite TV subscription service is available; there are 2 state-owned radio stations and some private radio stations; transmissions of several international broadcasters are available
There are just over 5 million internet users in 2016. Facebook is the most popular social network.


The education system of Cote d’Ivoire is founded on the model inherited from France since independence was proclaimed. It establishes free and compulsory school with the aim of encouraging school children. This system includes a preschool level spanning three sections (the first section, the middle section and the upper section) and the usual cycles of primary and secondary.
Before 1992, higher education was almost exclusively in charge of the State, with 24% enrolment rates. Over the last few years, many universities and many private technical training schools have been opened. In 2004-2005, there were 149 institutions of higher education and scientific research and 146,490 students, of which 35% were women.

Life expectancy:

  • Total 58 years
  • Men: 57
  • Women: 59

Child mortality: 58 of 1000

Prevalence of HIV / AIDS: 3.46%


The cuisine of the Ivory Coast varies in different areas and, therefore, the core products; to the north is mainly based on cereals, such as millet and sorghum, similar to neighbouring countries, Mali and Burkina Faso; in the south, the cuisine is based mainly on tubers, such as cassava and yams, and fruits like banana and plantain.
The basis of the cuisine of southern Ivory Coast is the dish “foutou”: mashed cassava, yams or bananas, accompanied by various sauces.
The plantain is usually consumed fried.
Of course, like all coastal countries, Ivory Coast, also has a long seafood tradition.
The Ivory Coast is the country of origin of the “maquis”, street restaurants and meeting place for inhabitants of the cities of West Africa.


Each of the ethnic groups in Ivory Coast has its own music genres, most showing strong vocal polyphony. Talking drums are also common, especially among the Appolo.
Popular music genres from Ivory Coast include zoblazo, zouglou, and Coupé-Décalé. A few Ivorian artists who have known international success are Magic Système, Alpha Blondy, Meiway, Dobet Gnahore, Tiken Dja Fakoly, and Christina Goh of Ivorian descent.