Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), officially the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of the bulge of West Africa. It is one of the most culturally and geographically diverse countries in the region with spectacular beaches, tropical forests, and rich flora and fauna. Here are some interesting facts about Ivory Coast.
Facts about Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)
1. Ivory Coast is the 68th largest country in the world.
Ivory Coast has an area of 322,463 km² (124,504 sq mi), which makes it slightly larger than the US state of New Mexico, or Poland.
2. Ivory Coast shares a land border with five countries.
Ivory Coast is bordered to the north by Mali (599 km/372 mi) and Burkina Faso (545 km/339 mi), to the east by Ghana (720 km/447 mi), to the southwest by Liberia (778 km/483 mi), and to the northwest by Guinea (816 km/507 mi).
3. Ivory Coast has a coastline of 515 km (320 mi).
All of Côte d’Ivoire’s 515 km (320 mi) long coastline lies along the Gulf of Guinea in the south of the country.
4. The highest peak in Ivory Coast is Mount Nimba.
Located on the border of Ivory Coast and Guinea in the west of the country, Mount Nimba (Mount Richard-Molard) is the tallest mountain in Ivory Coast. Rising to an elevation of 1,752 m (5,748 ft), the mountain is covered by dense forest harboring a rich variety of flora and fauna, including chimpanzees.
5. The name “Ivory Coast” comes from the nation’s historic ivory trade.
Perhaps one of the most well-known facts about Côte d’Ivoire is that the name “Ivory Coast” derives from the intensive ivory trade that took place in the region from the 15th to 17th centuries.
6. Little is known about Ivory Coast’s first inhabitants. but weapon and tool fragments confirm the presence of early settlements.
Little is known about the original inhabitants of Côte d’Ivoire. Weapon and tool fragments confirm the presence of early settlements, but since Ivory Coast falls into a region that has been fiercely contested by various empires and invaders, historians haven’t been able to determine who were the original inhabitants.
7. Prior to colonization, Ivory Coast was made up of numerous kingdoms..
Numerous kingdoms including the Bouna, Bounkani, Kong, Indénié, Sanwi, Senufo, Malinke, and Baule among others.
8. A person from Côte d’Ivoire is called an “Ivorian” (or “Ivoirian”).
That’s right. The correct demonym for Ivory Coast is “Ivorian” (or “Ivoirian”).
9. Ivory Coast is a former French colony.
Until the mid-19th century, European contact with Ivory Coast was confined to the coast, where French and Portuguese traders sought ivory and slaves for the flourishing Transatlantic slave trade.
From the 1830s, the French signed treaties with several other native tribes living along the coast that permitted France to build forts and trading posts. During the Scramble for Africa, France claimed Côte d’Ivoire as a colony in 1893.
French colonists soon began exploiting Ivory Coast’s land and resources by harshly forcing the Ivorians and people from their neighboring colonies to work on the plantations. As a result, the country became a major exporter of coffee, cocoa, timber, and palm oil crops.
10. Ivory Coast gained independence in 1960.
In the 1950s, the pan-African momentum for breaking free from the shackles of colonialism was rapidly catching on in Ivory Coast. It gained autonomous status within the French Community in 1958, and on 7 August 1960, Ivory Coast finally gained full independence from France.
11. Ivory Coast officially changed its name to Cote d’Ivoire in 1986.
After independence, the country was widely recognized as the Republic of the Ivory Coast (or Ivory Coast). However, the country officially changed its name to Cote d’Ivoire in 1986.
12. Ivory Coast is governed as a unitary presidential constitutional republic.
The President of Ivory Coast serves as both the head of government and head of state. The executive branch of government also includes a cabinet of ministers appointed by the president.
13. For more than three decades after independence in 1960, Ivory Coast was under the leadership of Félix Houphouët-Boigny.
One of the lesser-known facts about Ivory Coast is that the country was governed by Félix Houphouët-Boigny from 1960 until his death in 1993. Houphouët-Boigny had been a cabinet minister in two French governments and was elected president of the newly independent Côte d’Ivoire.
Houphouët-Boigny ran an autocratic, one-party state but had a remarkable ability to reconcile opponents. With shrewd politics, he emphasized dialogue and compromise among Ivory Coast’s various ethnic groups and introduced a system of ethnic quotas within government institutions. As a result, Ivory Coast maintained a relatively stable political profile by African standards.
Houphet-Boigny promoted a private economy and took advantage of Ivory Coast’s agricultural wealth. European investors and immigrant workers from neighboring countries flowed into Cote d’Ivoire. From the 1960s to the early 1980s, Côte d’Ivoire enjoyed a period of strong economic growth, emerging as one of the wealthiest nations in West Africa.
This period of economic success and political stability in an otherwise turbulent region came to be known as the “Ivorian Miracle”. Houphet-Boigny claimed the credit for Ivory Coast’s success and was affectionately called Papa Houphouët or Le Vieux (“The Old One”).
14. Ivory Coast doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Daylight saving has never been observed in Ivory Coast.
15. The currency of Ivory Coast is the West African CFA franc (XOA).
The West African CFA franc has been the currency of Ivory Coast since 1945 when it was still a French colony.
16. Ivory Coast is home to a smorgasbord of ethnic groups.
One of the fascinating Ivory Coast facts is how ethnically diverse the nation’s population is. There are over 60 different ethnic groups in Ivory Coast.
About 30% of Ivorians identify as Akan. The Akan community has several subgroups out of which the Baoulé is the largest. The remainder of the Ivorians are composed of the Krou, Southern Mande, Northern Mande, Voltaique (or Gur), and Senoufo ethnic groups.
Of the more than five million non-Ivorian Africans living in Ivory Coast, roughly 35-50% are from Burkina Faso; the rest are from Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, Liberia, and Mauritania. The Lebanese and the French make up the biggest non-African expatriate community in Côte d’Ivoire
17. French is the official language of Côte d’Ivoire.
Given that Ivory Coast is a former French colony, it comes as no surprise that French is the official language of Burkina Faso. French is used in print, in the media, in the judicial system, and in public services. It serves as a lingua franca among the various ethnic groups.
18. A wide assortment of regional languages are spoken in Ivory Coast.
Over 70 different languages are spoken in Ivory Coast. Baoulé, Sénoufo, Yacouba, Agni, Attié , Guéré, Bété, Dioula, Abé, Mahou, Wobé, Lobi, and Guro are some of the other languages spoken in Ivory Coast.
19. Islam is the most prevalent religion in Ivory Coast.
About two-fifths of Ivory Coast’s population adheres to Islam out of which most are Sunni Muslims. Approximately one-third of the Ivorian population is Christian, mostly Roman Catholic or Evangelical. The remainder of the Ivorian population is either irreligious or belongs to other religions.
20. Yamoussoukro is the legislative capital of Ivory Coast.
Located in the center of the country, Yamoussoukro is the de jure capital of Ivory Coast. The city’s role as the Côte d’Ivoire’s national capital began when former President Félix Houphouët-Boigny decided to shift the capital from Abidjan to his birthplace of Yamoussoukro in 1983.
21. Abidjan is the largest city and de facto capital of Ivory Coast.
Located along the Ébrié Lagoon in the southeast of the country, Abidjan is Ivory Coast’s largest city. Although Yamoussoukro is the Ivory Coast’s political capital, many important central government institutions, and foreign embassies are located in Abidjan. It remains Ivory Coast’s administrative and economic capital.
22. The first two capitals of Ivory Coast were Grand-Bassam and Bingerville.
The historic town of Grand-Bassam served as the first capital of Côte d’Ivoire from the start of the French colonial rule until a yellow-fever epidemic broke out in 1896, after which the capital was transferred to Bingerville. Bingerville remained the capital of Ivory Coast until 1934 when the capital was moved to Abidjan.
23. Ivory Coast was the first sub-Saharan African country to win an Academy Award.
One of the most surprising facts about Ivory Coast is that it is the first sub-Saharan nation to win an Oscar. Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, the anti-war satire Black and White in Color won Ivory Coast’s first Academy Award in 1976.
24. The national flag of Ivory Coast is virtually identical to the national flag of Ireland.
At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the Ivorian national flag for the Irish one. The Ivorian national flag is a vertical tricolor of orange (hoist side), white, and green whereas the Irish national flag is a vertical tricolor of green (hoist side), white, and orange. Thus, the Ivorian flag is the reverse of the Irish flag.
25. Ivory Coast is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ivory Coast are the Historic Town of Grand-Bassam, Comoé National Park, Taï National Park, and Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve.
26. Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans.
Ivory Coast alone produces around 40% of cocoa beans grown throughout the world.
27. Ivory Coast is home to the largest church in the world.
One of the coolest facts about Ivory Coast is that it is home to the largest church in the world. The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Notre Dame de la Paix) in Yamoussoukro is modeled on the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and even eclipses the size of its inspiration (in terms of exterior area). St. Peter’s can also accommodate more worshippers.
Completed in 1990 at a cost of $300 million USD, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace has an exterior area of 30,000 m² (322,917 sq ft) and its dome rises to 158 m (518 ft). The basilica has the capacity to hold 18,000 worshippers, while the esplanade can accommodate a crowd of 300,000.
28. Football is the most popular sport in Ivory Coast.
Like in most African countries, football is indisputably the most popular sport in Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast national football team is nicknamed “Les Eléphants” (The Elephants).
The Ivorian national football team has won the Africa Cup of Nations twice—in 1992 and 2015 and has qualified for the FIFA World Cup on three occasions. Some of the most notable Ivorian footballers are Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, Kolo Touré, Salomon Kalou, and Laurent Pokou.
29. Rainforest cover in Ivory Coast has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960.
Ivory Coast has suffered extensively from illegal deforestation and a decline in wildlife largely caused by the chocolate industry which has fueled the clearing of rainforests in favor of cocoa plantations.
30. Ivory Coast has only won three Olympic medals.
Although Ivory Coast has competed in the Summer Olympics since 1964, Ivory Coast has only won two Olympic medals: a silver (Gabriel Tiacoh) in the men’s 400m race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and a gold (Cheick Sallah Cisse) and a bronze (Ruth Gbagbi) in Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
31.Since the 2000s, Ivory Coast has experienced two civil wars.
The conflicts in Ivory Coast were a by-product of deep-rooted fractures revolving around ethnicity, nationality, and religion. Politicians in competing ethnic factions exploited these differences to consolidate their monopoly on power, and in the process, pushed the country toward civil wars.
Tragically, the First Ivorian Civil War (2002–2007) and the Second Ivorian Civil War (2010–2011) split the country between its dry Muslim north and its fertile Christian south. Both civil wars brought instability, economic hardships, and violence that has troubled the country since.