Geography Now! Ivory Coast (Côte D'ivoire)

There's a really strange fact about Michael Jackson in this video. You'll have to find out by watching this video.

Ha! You can't click away. I got you curious!

[Maniacal laugh]


[Barby is speaking French, but some people (including us, the English subtitle makers) can't understand what he's saying]

Whew! Three months of Duolingo. Ha! I love this app.

[Political Geography]

Now if you don't know anything about Ivory Coast, basically, it's like Ghana's French-speaking rival in the land of chocolate.

So anyway, the Ivory Coast is located in West Africa bordered by five other countries and the Gulf of Guinea to the south.

The country is divided into twelve districts, plus two district levels autonomous cities.

Each of these cities is kind of considered like a capital, making Ivory Coast a dual capital country.

The first one being Abidjan, the largest city along the coast known as the

economic capital, and Yamoussoukro the political capital with all the government buildings,

which was deliberately built to centralize the location of political power.

The weird thing is, although the cities have mayors, since 2011,

The twelve non-autonomous districts still have yet to appoint governors,

(So technically, by legal definition, the districts are more like theoretical entities rather than actual functioning ones.

And if you really think about it, that kind of means they don't actually exist.) It's like:

"Hey, let's split this pie." "Sure!" "Now in my head, I split it into two pieces, you have to guess where I cut it..."

(Confused silence)

After Abidjan, known as the Paris of Africa, the second largest city would be Bouaké and Daloa,

which also have the largest and only two international airports being Abidjan/Félix Houphouët-Boigny International

and Bouake International. The borders with Liberia mostly run along the Cavally and

Cestos rivers; Leraba with Burkina Faso and a portion of the Black Volta with Ghana. Keep in mind that much like Ghana historically before

European colonialism, the Ivory Coast was split into various kingdoms and tribal territory clusters.

Which if we really want to get technical looks like this (talking about map)

But if we really want to summarize the parent groups it looks a little bit something like this with four-ish main branches:

the Kwa, the Kru, the Gur, and the Mande.

The Kwa branch's Akan peoples are kind of like the cousins of the Ashanti people that we mentioned in the Ghana episode.

And they make up the largest group in the Ivory Coast.

The most notable try being the Baoulê founded by Queen Puku.

Oh and at one point in the late 60s, the Sanwi people tried to break away become independent.

And I'm not even joking, they declared Michael Jackson to be their king in 1992.

So if there's one thing you need to take away from this episode it's that: Michael Jackson literally was a king in Africa.

Anyway, surprisingly the country doesn't really have any offshore islands or islets

The only real islands can be found around Abidjan Lagoon. The cool thing though is that most of

Ivory Coast's 'Coasts'...

(That sounds a little weird) has wonderful open unspoiled beaches.

The bad news is almost all of it is inaccessible due to the choppy river estuaries and lack of natural ports,

hindering the development of beach towns. That means that other than Abidjan, there are virtually no coastal roads.

Otherwise some top notable sites of the Ivory Coast might include places like

Any of the National Parks like the largest one Comoé

St.Paul's Cathedral, The Civilian Museum, The Crocodile House, The Jardin Botanique de Bingerville, Paradisia Abidjan,

Sassandra has a ton of historical buildings and monuments. The beaches of Grand-Bassam, the waterfalls at Man, the Pyramid Building and finally

The Basilique Notre-Dam de la Paix or the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace the largest Basilica in the world

larger than St. Peter's in the Vatican. Sweet! I think that just about covers all of it. And speaking of sweet,

let's get chocolatey.

[Physical Geography]

The Ivory Coast got its name from the historically major export of Ivory back centuries ago before it became super illegal. But in all honesty,

It should be called the Cocoa Coast. He he, that sounds better, Cocoa Coast or en Français Côte d'Cocao.

Even that sounds cool!


The Ivory Coast lies on the Sub-Saharan Africa and much like all the other West African countries,

the land is mostly flat with undulating Plains in the South with lush tropical forest

whereas the northern regions are drier and semi-arid savannas and grasslands.

Basically: By the coast, humid most. Northward bound, drier ground. Keep in mind that rule doesn't apply everywhere.

Namibia be like: By the coast, Dry. Northward, Dryer!

As mentioned before, the highest point in the West is mountain Nimba, which is basically the African version of South America's mount Roraima

which is like the peak shared by three countries. The country is fed by three main rivers and their estuaries, the Sassandra

The Komoé and the longest river the Bandama which flows into the largest lake in the central part of the country, Lake Kossou,

which was artificially created after the Kossou Dam was built on the river in 1973.

Because water is pretty much everywhere, this allows Ivory Coast to flourish in flora and fauna with over 1200 animal species and 4700 plants.

Everything from Jackals, Monkeys , Chameleons , Panthers , Pygmy hippopotamus and the national animal the African elephant can be found.

Despite the abundance of water, only about 10 percent of the land is arable as about a third of the country is forested.

Nonetheless, 75% of the workforce Uses that arable land to grow

everything from coffee, oil palms, rubber, and their pride enjoy the national crop

that they are the number one producer in the world: cocoa. Since they export so much about 25% of all exports in total,

chances are, without even knowing it, you may have already in some kind of chocolate confection made from cocoa grown here.

It's such a common commodity that half the time

farmers don't even know what it's used for. They've never had chocolate.

They just grow it because they know it's an in-demand product.

vPro metropolis did a great video showing a cocoa farmer who tried chocolate for the first time.

Check it out. It's a great video. It's a cool report.

But going back to food, dishes in the Ivory Coast pretty much follow the same West African format.

You know lots of Cassavas, Plantains, Slow simmered stews and sauces with peanuts grilled or dried fish and chicken.

However two things they definitely specialize in and love are, Attieke cassava mash with Kedjenou stew

and the famous Ivorian land snails which can grow huge and are typically grilled or eaten with sauce. The interesting thing is that

even after two civil wars in the 21st century, the Ivory Coast still moves forward as the largest economy in the

West African Economic Monetary Union. which is basically the french-speaking countries of ECOWAS.

Guinea-Bissau: Hey!

Oh whatever, all your people are like quadrilingual!

I'm pretty sure you speak enough French to get by.

By the way ECOWAS has a really cool looking headquarters building in Togo.

Anyway, yeah.

The Ivory Coast actually didn't fall in the same pattern of many other African states in which a government uprising led to a dictator that ruined everything.

One man actually kind of got things moving along, and we'll talk more about him in


Okay first of all, Ivorian, that's what you call these people: Ivorians

not Ivory Coastians!

Just getting that little PSA out there. Anyway!

The country has about 25 million people and has about 60 different tribes. These tribes are divided into

five principal ethnic groups: The largest one being the Akan people at about 42%,

The Gurs at about 18%, the Northern Mandes at about 16%

Krous at about 11% and Southern Mandes at 10%. Whereas the rest are made up of other people groups mostly other

Africans from abroad and non Africans like Lebanese and French people. They use the West African CFA franc as their currency

They use a type C plug outlet

And they drive on the right side of the road. Now the Ivorian people are quite diverse

However as a former French colony, the French language kind of unites them all. Nonetheless out of the 65 ish languages spoken throughout the country,

The Kwa language have the most speakers and the second probably belongs to the Dyula language in the West which is related to the

Mande and Mandinka languages that we already discussed in The Gambia and Guinea episodes.

Which is sometimes written in the cool-looking and N'ko script created by this guy in 1949 making one of the few indigenous African writing systems.

See small stuff like that. That's why I love this show!

I have the best job ever! Religion plays an interesting role as about a third of the population

identifies as Christian or Catholic. About 39% are Muslim while 1/4 are animists. All three of these groups live alongside each other relatively peaceful.

In a nutshell during the tribal Kingdom eras, Muslim traders came in from the north around the first millennia. Around the 15th century,

Portuguese and French people stopped by and started trading. The French got a little overprotective

because they didn't want the English to dominate the Gulf of Guinea.

Then there was that short lived Wassoulou Empire that tried to revolt. This guy became the father of Independence

and in 1960 they broke free from the French. From there, he became the leader for about 33 years

However things were actually in contrast to other African states, pretty good.

I mean sure he had some controversies

but overall, the country became the most prosperous in West Africa. People were living better, the economy was booming.

I mean technically he was a dictator

But he kind of didn't suck. Then the 90s came and his successor totally sucked.

Long story short, 1999 coup d'etat, then this guy stepped in. Then this guy was elected. Things got worse,

2002 civil war, things got worse. 2010 elections, This guy was voted in.

Then there was a short second civil war but then things kind of calmed down and the economy is back and booming again.

It's weird. It's like the whole time all these wars were happening,

they were still maintaining composure and doing international business.

And that's kind of the theme of the Ivory Coast. A little war can't hurt them. After president Ouattara took over, he actually did kind of a good job

doubling the infrastructure budget from 15% to over 30% and the economy grew at its peak at around 9% regularly.

They were like: Look people, we don't have time for this, which one do you like? Guns or money?


Nehh... money

Otherwise the Ivory Coast is laden with amazing colorful tribes, traditions and customs.

Some of the most notable tribes being the Bilfo tribe with their Adobe clay houses

The Dan tribe with their spinning warrior and stilt dances.

The acrobatics of the Korhogo tribe, the terracotta funerals by the Akan people, the Senufo people with their rich Korhogo cloth,

The Yacouba girl juggling dance,

The Baoulé tribe loves brass art. Many tribes come together for the huge Fête du masques or the mask festival which is the biggest one in the country.

There's also the Fête du dipri in Gomon where people run around naked at midnight.

You're never short of music and art. In fact the Ivorian movie,

Black and White in Color became the first winner of an Oscar by a Black Republic.

Abidjan is also kind of seen as like the fashion capital of

Sub-saharan Africa both in western and native designs. Due to their close ties to France, the latest get ups can be found on runways and

boutiques all across the city. Some notable people have ivorian descent from the Ivory Coast might include people like:

Their only gold medal winner Cheick Sallah Cisse,

Alpha Blondy, actor Bambadjan Bamba, Constance Amiot, Sidiki Bakaba

Ahmadou Kourouma, Bernard B Dadié, Vetcho Lolas, the pride and glory of the Ivory Coast, Didier Drogba.

In the end, the Ivory Coast knows how to manage themselves and dust off pretty well with a touch of class.

Let's see how classy they are with others.


No surprise, the Ivory Coast is a West African Powerhouse that has high position of authority of influence in the region.

First of all, the country generally gets along with the other Francophone neighbors around them.

Espacially landlocked Burkina Faso and Mali as they kind of act as like the Gateway to the ocean for them and their trade needs.

Ghana is like their closest frenemy.

They share some of the same tribes and people groups. Business is always moving back and forth between them

but when it comes to regional dominance, the Ivory Coast will never hesitate to push Ghana out of the spotlight.

There was even that time in the 90s when a riot broke out over a soccer match between the two. When it comes to their best friends

however, surprisingly many might say France. The Ivory Coast has always had like a

privileged role as like the jewel of France's African relations. Their founding father insisted relations be maintained.

Presidents have visited each other, their militaries have cooperated in conflicts.

Numerous citizens on both sides have immigrated to each other's countries,

and they love sharing everything from cuisine to the latest fall fashion line.

In conclusion, the Ivory Coast kind of fell into a reputation crisis

in which they were like: Look guys, we were doing so well for decades.

We are not going to end up like all the other African countries that let war destroy them.

Now shut up and start making money!

Stay tuned, Jamaica is coming up next!