State Recovery is a Marathon, not a Sprint

In relation to last week’s discussion on Côte d’Ivoire’s path to recovery, I will continue to present examples of areas where the country has improved, needs improvement, and how to continue improving.

An article titled “A Tale of Two Countries: Is Côte d’Ivoire on the Path to Recovery?” written October 2013 provides an overview of events from the November 2010 presidential election until today, and how a country so deeply divided has been able to take positive steps forward. The author highlights these encouraging signs:

Of course there is still much more to be done, especially by President Ouattara as he seeks votes for the upcoming 2015 campaign. Here are some suggestions of areas where the president should focus his efforts:

  • Reconcile Ivoirians across the political, ethnic, and religious spectrum
  • Incorporate and meaningfully engage the FPI in the political process
  • Distribute equal justice for the grave human rights violations, both by Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters, that occurred between the post-electoral period and today

Now, in terms of how Côte d’Ivoire can continue recuperating from state failure, the following are two possible responses:

Traditional or Status Quo (Kraxberger 51)

  1. Maintaining existing territories
  2. Foreign aid in the form of money, tangible goods, and technical assistance
  3. Peacekeeping missions authorized by the UN or regional bodies
  4. Relatively short time horizons, usually around 2-5 years

Alternative (Kraxberger 62)

  1. Longer time horizons for state building projects
  2. Greater flexibility to redraw the territories of states
  3. Take into account the concept of regional contagion
  4. Reconsideration of state sovereignty or trusteeship models
  5. Allow dysfunctional regions to become “stateless zones”

“Especially in weak states (not failed states) that are already on a path to recovery, foreign aid can play a very helpful role in accelerating stabilization,” (Kraxberger 55). Because Côte d’Ivoire has shown positive signs, I believe a combination of increased foreign aid and a longer presence of development projects will be most beneficial. Although Côte d’Ivoire has received foreign aid in the past, I question whether some external powers are more valuable than others. In my next post, I will identify specific entities that established projects in Côte d’Ivoire and analyze their ability to remove this country’s image as a weak state.

The Politics of Agriculture

Although once considered one of French West Africa’s most prosperous nations as it ranked third largest coffee producer and number one cocoa producer, Côte d’Ivoire faced issues with these export commodities contributing to its state decay.

In the 1980s, Côte d’Ivoire’s economy suffered from a fall in cocoa and coffee prices and a local drought during the 1983-1984 season caused severe cuts in the agricultural and hydroelectric output. Throughout this time, the industry GDP dropped 33%, services GDP down 9%, and agriculture GDP falling 12.2% (Mongabay.com).

Côte d’Ivoire is a West African country located along the Gulf of Guinea, bordering Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Its relatively small size (a little larger than New Mexico; about equal to Germany) has not stopped Ivoirians from largely affecting agricultural and economic sectors around the world. The country contains about 515 km of coastline, including the city and port of Abidjan.

Prior to gaining independence from France in 1960, Abidjan was the capital of Côte d’Ivoire. Soon after 1960, the capital changed to Yamoussoukro but Abidjan retained much authority, becoming the major shipping and financial center of French-speaking West Africa. Today, Abidjan is the largest city of Côte d’Ivoire and contains the second largest port in all of Africa (“Abidjan”).

So what does this have to do with agriculture, politics, or the rest of the world?

Following the 2010 presidential election, internationally-recognized President Alassane Ouattara banned cocoa exports from January until April. Supposedly, major cocoa companies indirectly supported the illegitimate regime of former-President Gbagbo with the means to purchase weapons and ammunition that had suppressed his opponents and launched a new civil war. By temporarily halting exports, Ouattara hoped to starve Gbagbo of the finances needed to maintain security forces and hold onto power, and eventually remove him from office. Although they had no way to officially enforce the ban, Ouattara expected to reach the public’s conscience by dissuading them from exporting in order to “starve Gbagbo of cocoa revenues.”

Societal consequence?

  • African nations divide on how best to proceed:
    • Nigeria: military intervention
    • South Africa and Uganda: closer inspection of 2010 election
    • ECOWAS asked the US, UK, and France to intervene but all deferred to the UN
    • Widespread confusion as exporters and others in the Port of Abidjan decided whether or not to comply with the ban
    • Many questioned future business relations with Côte d’Ivoire, especially Burkina Faso and Mali (landlocked neighbors whose business, transportation, and trade rely on the Port of Abidjan)

Agricultural and economic consequence?

  • The price of cocoa jumped 15% in 6 weeks
  • Impact of ban would’ve been more severe if not for the 2010 bumper harvest (surplus of cocoa on the global market), according to the ICCO
  • Cocoa traders, chocolate makers, and consumers are forced to wait on effects to cocoa’s supply and price

Much of the information presented here was gathered from these articles relating to the ban; its impact on the international cocoa trade; and what happened after the ban was lifted.