The unrest that characterised the past decade greatly limited Côte d’Ivoire’s ability to play a diplomatic role, but the country’s continued economic recovery and return to greater political stability has allowed the West African country to rekindle old relationships and develop new, amicable relations with regional and international partners alike.
Like many francophone African countries, Côte d’Ivoire’s relations with France have fluctuated significantly over recent decades. During the lengthy administration of the first Ivorian president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Côte d’Ivoire sought to maintain close economic, political, diplomatic and cultural links to France, a bilateral relationship that was replicated more broadly by the presence of a large French expatriate community in Côte d’Ivoire.
Following Houphouet-Boigny’s death, however, the relationship became somewhat coloured by the roll-out of Ivoirité-related policies while the involvement of France in attempting to help maintain peace during the height of the civil war — including the presence of a “stabilisation force” of several thousand soldiers and the destruction of the Ivorian air force at the hands of French soldiers — led to severe popular discontent against France.
However, since the cessation of hostilities in 2011, France and Côte d’Ivoire have gone through a renaissance in relations under the administration of President Alassane Dramane Ouattara. France was the second-largest trading partner to Côte d’Ivoire, with trade volumes between the two reaching €1.7bn in 2013. France was also a leading source of foreign direct investment, representing 26.3% of total foreign direct investment in 2012 (see Economy).
Despite a period of strained relations during the decade of conflict, Côte d’Ivoire also enjoys cordial ties with other Western nations, including the US, with which it has a security agreement that has supported the professional development of Ivorian army officers. Côte d’Ivoire also benefits from preferential trade access to the US market under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as well as part of the Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) with ECOWAS, of which Côte d’Ivoire is a member.
Opportunities To The East
As is the case with many African markets, Côte d’Ivoire is actively seeking to promote its relations with Asian powerhouses such as China, Japan, India and Singapore.
The country is particularly interested in establishing strong economic ties with China, which has become a major player in financing and constructing infrastructure and development projects. In 2013, the Chinese government announced its commitment to loan $10bn over six years to finance large-scale infrastructure programmes, including the expansion of the port of Abidjan.
The funding is intended to boost the country’s post-crisis recovery process and interest rates were set below market rates in exchange for favourable terms on natural resource purchases. Later that year, a Chinese economic delegation visited in order to promote Ivorian-Chinese cooperation, particularly in industry, commerce, investment promotion and agriculture. These initiatives followed the signature of five cooperative, financial and technical assistance agreements signed in June 2012 between the two countries, worth over CFA10bn (€15m).
Coordination in agriculture in particular is seen as a strategic move due to China’s appetite for Ivorian products such as rubber and cotton, while the Chinese government has donated an estimated CFA1.5bn (€2.3m) in fertilisers, shellers, mowers, threshers and tillers to facilitate rice production.
In June 2013, President Ouattara also attended the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, meeting with the Japanese head of state, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Earlier this year, the Japanese prime minister also came to visit his Ivorian counterpart in Abidjan and pledged to increase Japan’s support for national reconciliation as well as infrastructural, industrial and human resource development. Prime Minister Abe also announced a commitment to provide $83.4m for projects in ECOWAS.
A warm relationship between Morocco’s King Mohamed VI and President Ouattara has facilitated the establishment of a broad array of agreements between Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire. Since 2010, the value of trade has increased from CFA39.6bn (€59.4m) to CFA47bn (€70.5m) in 2012, establishing Morocco as the 25th-largest economic partner to Côte d’Ivoire. In 2013 during the state visit of the Moroccan king, six agreements were signed, including a memorandum of understanding regarding cooperative efforts between the Ivorian and the Moroccan foreign affairs ministries.
In February 2014, King Mohamed and the Ivorian Prime Minister Kablan Daniel Duncan concluded the Ivorian-Moroccan Economic Forum that united 101 Moroccan and 450 Ivorian economic personalities. The forum resulted in the approval of 26 cooperative agreements across the fields of housing, ports, finance, infrastructure, fisheries, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and mining, to name a few.
Specific initiatives include a cooperative arrangement between Export Morocco and the Association For the Promotion of Exports of Côte d’Ivoire, a banking agreement to develop micro-finance lending, a cooperative protocol between the port of Abidjan and the ports of Agadir and Casablanca, and a joint protocol to promote investments.
Other agreements include a financing deal worth $50m between the Banque Populaire and the International Finance Corporation, as well as an agreement worth $60m between the Banque Populaire and the Japanese bank Sumitomi. During the ceremony, the Moroccan Attijariwafa Bank also announced the release of CFA120bn (€180m) to facilitate Côte d’Ivoire’s continued economic recovery.
Speaking to local media in 2014, the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salaheddine Mezouar, explained that the agreements were “a record in the annals of bilateral cooperation”.
Regional And International Cooperation
undefined Newfound stability has enabled Côte d’Ivoire to improve its relations with multilateral organisations. After failing to pay arrears on its debts, the World Bank ceased its cooperative initiatives in 2004 and did not return until four years later. However, the relationship has since warmed, and the World Bank actively supports government initiatives to combat poverty and promote economic development.
In June 2012, Côte d’Ivoire received a reduction in its debt from the World Bank and the IMF, worth CFA6.4trn (€9.6bn) and CFA4.1trn (€6.2bn), respectively, or around 64% of total debt. The country has also recently welcomed the African Development Bank back to Abidjan in 2013, where it re-established its headquarters after temporarily relocating to Tunis for the duration of the civil war.
Regional bloc ECOWAS has, like France, also played an important role in the country’s recent history. During the civil war, ECOWAS deployed peacekeeping forces to the country, as well as during the disputed 2010 election results, which temporarily led to Côte d’Ivoire’s suspension from the group. The suspension was lifted after peace was restored and in February 2012 the country was chosen to serve as ECOWAS chair, an indication of the positive developments taking place. Côte d’Ivoire’s increased profile within ECOWAS should also yield benefits for the country’s recovering economy. ECOWAS, which was founded in 1975 to further regional integration among the 16 member states, has in recent years made steady progress in improving its trade cooperation and infrastructure sharing, through a common external tariff (see Economy chapter) and the West African Power Pool (see Energy chapter) — both of which Côte d’Ivoire actively participates in.
The spillover of some of the fighting into border regions with Côte d’Ivoire’s neighbours strained ties with countries like Liberia and Ghana but in recent years, measures to improve relationships have made steady progress. During the post-electoral conflict, militants occasionally used both Ghana and Liberia as a staging area, while refugee and asylum claims from Ivorian during the fighting further complicated matters.
In 2012, Côte d’Ivoire closed the 400-mile border with Ghana, though subsequent negotiations and coordination between the authorities led to its reopening two weeks later and relations in the years since have improved significantly, particularly through efforts to expand transport corridors (see Transport chapter) and improve trading volumes. This can be seen in the efforts of the two countries to amicably resolve an on-going dispute over national boundaries, in an oil-rich area reputed to contain around 2bn barrels of oil and 1.2trn cu feet of natural gas in the Gulf of Guinea. In 2010, a commission was created between the two countries to determine the future of the territory, with a conclusion expected in 2015.
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