By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editors Ms. Joy Cho, Song Na-ra
“Côte d'Ivoire was the first African country to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea (south) on July 23, 1961, and since that date, the two countries have continued to maintain relations of sincere friendship and frank cooperation.” So said Ambassador Sylvestre Kouassi Bile of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire in Seoul in an exclusive interview with The Korea Post media at his office in Seoul on Aug. 3, 2020.
Then he disclosed Korea’s spectacular development in the time span of half a century is for Côte d'Ivoire a model to emulate.”
The following are details of the interview with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English, 2 Korean-language media publications since 1985.
The strategic location of Côte d’Ivoire in the heart of West Africa is an asset to the country which constitutes the gateway to this region.
After gaining independence on August 7, 1960 under the first President Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY, this country of a population of 26,4 million inhabitants, on an area of 322,463 km2, has traveled many roads since then.
Elected on November 27, 1960, President Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY led the country until his passing on December 7, 1993 at 88. His successor, President Henri Konan BEDIE, Speaker of the National Assembly, completed President HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY's last term before being elected in October 1995. He lost power further to a military coup, on December 24, 1999. At the end of a one-year military transition, led by General Robert GUEI, Laurent GBAGBO was elected as President of the Republic in October 2000. In September 2002, the country entered the most serious political crisis in its history. The 2010 presidential election, supposed to put a definitive end to this crisis, led to post-electoral violence which officially resulted in 3,000 deaths, according to the United Nations, which was responsible for supervising the election.
On the international scene, Côte d'Ivoire has remained faithful to the diplomatic line advocated by President FELIX HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY, based on peace and openness. Since then, Côte d'Ivoire has remained “everyone’s friend and nobody’s enemy.” The country is a member of all sub regional, regional and international organizations.
The Ivorian economy, mainly based on the production of coffee and cocoa, experienced an exceptional boom during the first two decades of its independence, making it a flagship country in West Africa. This economic feat has even been described as an "Ivorian miracle".
But in 1990, in addition to the economic crisis of the late 1970s, the country was also going through periods of social and political turbulence. These problems were exacerbated by the death of Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY in 1993, which finally led to the above mentioned political crisis.
Since 2011, Côte d'Ivoire has experienced a remarkable economic recovery, strengthening its position as a sub-regional economic powerhouse. The country contributes more than a third of the Gross Domestic Product – GDP- (estimated at USD 58.8 billion in 2019) of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and 60% of its agricultural exports. Côte d'Ivoire, which has been experiencing sustained economic growth since 2012, averaging around 8% per year, has begun a structural change, as evidenced by the emergence of local processing of raw materials and the diversification of exports. Private consumption and public and private investment are the main contributors to growth.
Côte d'Ivoire's economic performance can be briefly presented as follows:
- the world's largest cocoa producer;
- the world's largest producer of cashews;
- the world's leading producer of cola nuts;
- Africa's leading producer of rubber trees;
- Africa's leading tuna port
Economic and trade cooperation:
Côte d'Ivoire is the hub of commercial activities in West Africa. The share of foreign trade in the country's GDP is 59%, according to World Bank data in 2018. The country mainly exports food products, including cocoa, coconuts, bananas and fish, refined petroleum, gold and rubber. The main import products are crude oil, rice, frozen fish, pharmaceuticals, vehicles and machinery.
In 2008, Côte d'Ivoire signed a stepping stone Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), which continues to assist the country during its reconstruction phase. This agreement, which entered into provisional force on September 3, 2016, is primarily aimed at maintaining the existing preferential trade system between the EU and Côte d'Ivoire. Côte d'Ivoire is also a signatory to the African Free Trade Agreement.
The country's main export partner is the Netherlands, which imports 11.4% of its products, followed by the United States of America (9.1%), Vietnam (6.8%), Germany (6.4%) and France (5.4%). Côte d'Ivoire's three main suppliers are China (15%), Nigeria (12.3%) and France (10.3%). South Korea comes ninth with 2.7%, behind India (4.5%), the Netherlands (3.6%), the United States (3.4%), Spain (3%) and Germany (3%).
After the collapse of imports and exports due to the armed conflict in 2011, the situation has improved since 2013 with the return of the country to peace and stability. Côte d'Ivoire has a structurally positive trade balance and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. The country recorded a large trade surplus in 2017 ($3.36 billion) due to dynamic exports and declining imports. In 2018, Côte d'Ivoire exported $12.33 billion worth of goods while importing $10.96 billion. The country exported $918 million worth of services, while its imports of services amounted to $3.08 billion, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Bilateral cooperation between Côte d'Ivoire and South Korea:
Côte d'Ivoire was the first African country to establish diplomatic relations with South Korea on July 23, 1961. Since that date, the two countries have continued to maintain relations of sincere friendship and frank cooperation. Korea’s spectacular development in the time span of half a century is for Côte d'Ivoire a model to emulate.
The two countries will soon sign an Agreement in the field of investment promotion and protection and a Convention for the avoidance of double taxation, in order to pave the way for a stronger and more exclusive partnership, which will consolidate bilateral relations and confirm Ivorian-Korean friendship.
Tourist assets of Côte d'Ivoire:
Côte d'Ivoire has many assets that make possible different kinds of tourism including seaside tourism, ecotourism, cultural tourism and business tourism.
With more than 500 km of coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, beautiful sandy beaches and beautiful lagoons, Côte d'Ivoire is a destination that is well suited to seaside tourism. Tourists can sunbathe and swim on Ivorian beaches or practice aquatic activities such as surfing, sailing, kitesurfing or fishing. Cities such as Grand-Bassam, Sassandra, San Pedro or Grand-Bébéry with its famous bay of sirens, located in the Gulf of Guinea, are the favorite places of people who come for seaside tourism.
Ecotourism With its national parks and its multiple natural reserves, Côte d'Ivoire is the ideal destination for anyone who wants to do ecotourism. With its beaches, lakes, forests, steppes and savannah, Côte d'Ivoire benefits from very different landscapes in which live a varied fauna (elephants, hippopotamus ...) that can possibly be discovered through a safari for example.
More than sixty ethnic groups live in Côte d'Ivoire, each with its own beliefs, traditions and culture. It is possible to meet them, as the Ivorian villages are naturally welcoming and hospitable.
Côte d'Ivoire is also full of monuments that should be visited as part of cultural tourism. The many mosques in the north of the country, as well as the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, famous for its dome larger than that of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, are among the buildings to see during a stay in Côte d'Ivoire.
The historic city of Grand-Bassam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the ZAOULI dance, registered in the same heritage, are worth a visit.
With its modern infrastructures (hotels, airports, road networks...), Côte d'Ivoire is a country adapted to business tourism, where it is possible to organize international congresses and conferences, especially in large cities such as Abidjan and Yamoussoukro.
In conclusion, it should be noted that in sixty years of independence, the course of Côte d'Ivoire has not been that of a long quiet river. The strategic choices made by President Félix HOUPHOUËT-BOIGNY, both politically and economically, have enabled the country to develop peacefully for nearly three decades.
His passing was followed by a cycle of socio-political turbulence in the country that lasted almost twenty years.
After these moments of difficulty, as many other societies have experienced, the country has resumed, for nearly ten years, its assured march towards economic and social prosperity.