Côte d’Ivoire was once known as a stable and prosperous nation among those in West Africa. Regional, ethnic, religious, and political groups were in relatively good terms, and its location was ideal for a thriving economy. However, all good things sometimes come to an end. Soon after the death of President Houphouet-Boigny, the first elected president of newly independent Côte d’Ivoire, the country entered a long period of political turmoil, economic regression, and cultural disputes.
Today, Côte d’Ivoire may finally be emerging from this unfortunate era of state failure thanks to the strong leadership of President Ouattara and support from the international community. On September 2011, the Brookings’ Africa Growth Initiative hosted an event with President Ouattara where he addressed Côte d’Ivoire’s situation and his administration’s future plans, followed by questions and an open discussion on how to more effectively manage the many problems facing Côte d’Ivoire. Here are some critical issues discussed:
- Reconciliation and constitutional revisions to address tension and encourage the return of refugees*
- Accelerating the demobilization of combatants*
- The importance of regional integration and trade
- The African Union’s limited and ineffective role and the need for regional groups with more authority
- President Ouattara’s hopes of becoming more involved with the ECOWAS during his presidency*
- Resolving land policy, in terms of its relation with citizenship and regional conflict*
- Foreign aid and how international and bilateral aid groups may or may not be useful as the country recovers*
“As a post-conflict country, there are a number of opportunities that [Côte d’Ivoire] could take advantage of financially despite the stigma of such classification.” This statement was noted during the briefing just two years ago and, since then, Côte d’Ivoire has taken advantage of numerous opportunities in order to address the country’s most pressing concerns. Five out of the seven issues I listed above are marked with an asterisk because they have been either partially or fully resolved. The attached hyperlinks are evidence for how each was accomplished.
What remains to be improved cannot rest solely in the hands of the President, his administration, or the citizens. A full recovery can be realized with the support of programs like the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the United States and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Although Côte d’Ivoire has not yet received aid from the MCC, President Obama restored the country’s AGOA eligibility in early 2011. Côte d’Ivoire has clearly taken significant steps towards recovery and many international groups are providing additional aid because of this. Both the African Development Bank Group and the IMF emphasize the importance of improving the private sector to accelerate economic growth and state recovery. Despite their longtime standing as a weak state, I am confident in Côte d’Ivoire’s ability for a brighter, more prosperous future, and their return as the admired nation they once were.