The first President
of Côte d’Ivoire, Felix Hophouet-Boigny, was also the first African ever to
become a minister in a European government. It is one of many fascinating facts
about one of Africa’s most interesting countries and it helps to explain not
only the course of Côte d’Ivoire’s recent history, but also the significant
opportunity it now represents for outside investors.
Formerly a confederation of several ancient African kingdoms,
Côte d’Ivoire became a French colony in the nineteenth century but, unlike many
African countries, it remained close to its former colonial power when it
achieved independence in 1960. Whereas many of Africa’s newly independent
states expelled citizens of the former colonial powers, Côte d’Ivoire not only
encouraged them to stay but also set about attracting more foreign teachers,
managers and executives to help boost the economy. The number of French
citizens in Côte d’Ivoire doubled in the space of just twenty years.
Côte d’Ivoire’s economy grew rapidly and, fuelled by exports
of coffee, cocoa, pineapples and palm oil, it soon recorded annual growth rates
of around 10 per cent. Foreign commentators began to talk of an “Ivorian
miracle” but, in the teeth of a global recession and with mounting external
debts, the country’s economic achievements were soon dissipated.
After the death of Hophouet-Boigny and the end of his system
of one-party rule, which had kept the lid on many of the country’s internal tensions,
Côte d’Ivoire descended into a spiral of bitter political and religious
conflict, which resulted in two civil wars (2002 – 2007 and 2010 – 2011).
In spite of these tumultuous events, which severely damaged
several of the country’s main industries, the underlying potential of the
Ivorian economy remains strong. With a period of stability, the gradual
development of a multi-party democracy and the strengthening of credible
political institutions, Côte d’Ivoire has reached the point where its citizens
can afford to do more than just dream of better times and a return to the
prosperity of the immediate post-independence period.
The country is now the fastest growing economy in Africa
with consistent annual growth of over 9 per cent. It attracts regular praise
from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A 2018 report by
the IMF was fulsome in its praise:
“Strong economic performance since 2012 reflected the recovery following the political normalization, improved business environment, sound program of reforms, and supportive fiscal policy,” it said.
Opportunities for external investors in sectors ranging from
coffee and cocoa production to tourism, financial services and real estate are
significant. There is an atmosphere of prosperity and opportunity in the
administrative capital, Abidjan, the exciting, modern city that will host this
year’s eLearning Africa from 23 – 25 October. Skyscrapers, a yacht club,
international hotels, coffee shops and ‘chocolatiers’ are the new face of
Abidjan and it is tempting to think that, amidst all the signs of economic
growth and rising living standards for many of its citizens, Côte d’Ivoire may
be able at last to put the past behind it.
However, significant challenges still remain. Many are
connected to education. Enrolment rates in primary schools are low and adult
illiteracy is high, particularly among women. During the political crisis a
decade ago, the higher education sector was hit hard and numbers enrolling in
universities declined sharply.
Poverty is still a major problem. “While growth has been
impressive, averaging about 9 per cent annually, the decline in poverty has
been modest and underemployment remains high,” says the IMF.
Now the Government has placed education firmly at the heart
of its strategy for continuing economic development. The education sector has
been expanding rapidly since 2011. The Government introduced a ten-year plan
for education and training in 2017 and it makes clear that education is a
central element in making a reality of its ambitious plan to provide the
country with a solid industrial base by 2020.
“In effect,” it says, “no country can meet the challenge of competition
in a globalised economic system without being able to draw on high quality,
productive human resources.”
eLearning Africa in Côte d’Ivoire will be struck by a country that is energised
and on the move. They will also have the chance to visit some of West Africa’s
most impressive attractions – whether the Mount Nimba range, which is home to
wildlife, including viviparous toads, horseshoe bats and the West African lion,
the great Mosque in Marcory or the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in
Yamoussoukro, one of the largest Christian places of worship in the world.
For more information about booking to attend eLearning Africa in Côte d’Ivoire or for details of sponsorship or exhibition packages, please contact [email protected]