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Until the 1840s, the indigenous people of Cote d'Ivoire were protected from European colonialism by the inhospitable coastline. In this relative isolation, kingdoms such as the Krou, Senoufo, Lubi, Malinké and Akan flourished. When the French began a big push towards colonial exploitation, they met fierce resistance. However, an 1843--1844 treaty made Cote d'Ivoire a "protectorate" of France and in 1893, it became a French colony as part of the European scramble for Africa.

The country became independent on August 7, 1960 and was led by President Félix Houphouët-Boigny from 1960-1993. The president's dream was to have a mix of practical Western capitalism with benevolent African values. Never completely breaking from their French colonial rulers, the post-independence leaders pursued French investment to build a modern infrastructure and considerable prosperity. In it's early decades, Cote d'Ivoire was the economic miracle of Africa and a role model for stability on the continent. The country, through its production of coffee and cocoa, was an economic powerhouse during the 1960s and 1970s in West Africa. However, Cote d'Ivoire went through an economic crisis in the 1980s, eventually leading to the country's period of political and social turmoil. Following the death of President Houphouët-Boigny in 1993, Cote d'Ivoire experienced two coups (1999 and 2001) and a northern-led rebellion in 2002 which split the nation in half. However, recent political agreements between the government and the rebels have brought about a joint effort to unite the nation. Several thousand UN troops and several hundred French remain in Cote d'Ivoire to help the parties implement their commitments and to support the peace process.


Cote d'Ivoire is the world's largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans (42% of the world market), Africa's leading producer of coffee, and a significant producer and exporter of palm oil. Consequently, the economy is highly sensitive to fluctuations in international prices for these products, and, to a lesser extent, in climatic conditions. In recent years, Cote d'Ivoire has been subject to the greater competition and falling prices in the global marketplace coffee and cocoa. That, compounded with high internal corruption, makes life difficult for the grower and those exporting into foreign markets. Despite government attempts to diversify the economy, it is still heavily dependent on agriculture and related activities, engaging roughly 68% of the population. Since 2006, oil and gas production have become more important engines of economic activity than cocoa. While the southern part of the country has experienced much prosperity compared to other African nations over the years, the north is underdeveloped and many people there live in poverty. Recent political turmoil has continued to damage the economy, resulting in the loss of foreign investment and slow economic growth.

(Sources: Lonely Planet, CIA World Factbook, WorldVenture, Operation World and Cote d'Ivoire by Sheehan)
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