SEATTLE — Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s top exporter of raw cashew nuts and cocoa. As a net exporter of oil with a large manufacturing sector, it is the biggest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. After four years of healthy GDP growth, the lower-middle income country has experienced a decline in its poverty rate.
Despite its economic growth, though, an estimated 46 percent of Ivorians still live in poverty, and in 2014, Cote d’Ivoire was ranked 172 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. So, despite recent economic development and a projected continuation of growth, why is Cote d’Ivoire poor?
In order to answer the question of why is Cote d’Ivoire poor, the eruption of the country’s civil war in 2002 must be taken into account. One of the main results of the civil war was a prolonged period of socio-political instability. During the conflict, there were severe disruptions of health services, especially in the northern regions of Côte d’Ivoire. Many health professionals left the country, leaving behind a significant shortage of properly trained medical staff.
As in many other countries in the region, malaria and tuberculosis are two of the most prevalent diseases. In 2012, there were two million reported cases of malaria and 23,000 reported cases of tuberculosis. There is also a high incidence rate of HIV which affects approximately 390,000 Ivorians over the age of 15 or nearly 3 percent of the country’s adult population. In 2012, HIV was the leading cause of death, killing more than 32,000 people.
The rate of new infections, however, has decreased with the use of drugs that prevent mother-to-child transmission and a greater national awareness of how HIV is spread. Though more than 100,000 people are now receiving antiretroviral treatment, this means only 55 percent of adults and 16 percent of children are receiving the treatment they require.
Cote d’Ivoire’s elections in 2010 also resulted in violence and political turmoil which forced 700,000 people from their homes. The following economic instability had negative impacts on the whole country. Particularly in the western regions, widespread violence led to the destruction of both public and private assets.
Many farmers were unable to sell their produce during this period of violence. Fluctuating global prices of commodities like coffee and cocoa as well as low rates of return on produce have also been some of the main causes of continuing rural poverty in Cote d’Ivoire.
Because many Ivorians struggle to feed their families, the country’s Global Acute Malnutrition rate among babies and young children is 7.1 percent. In 2012, approximately 28 percent of children suffered from stunting. Primary school enrollment also remains low, hovering around 50 percent.
These difficulties go some of the way to answering the question why is Cote d’Ivoire poor? Inspired by the last few years of positive growth and political stability, though, the Ivorian government has adopted a National Development Plan meant to transform Cote d’Ivoire into a middle-income country by 2020. In April 2016, members of the consultative group formed to fund the new plan pledged to provide assistance in the amount of $15.4 billion through grants and loans.
According to the World Bank, the most important challenges Cote d’Ivoire will face include the successful diversification of its economy and the substantial reductions in poverty and inequality. By investing in education and the training of skilled workers, Cote d’Ivoire may continue on its path of strong economic growth while also decreasing its poverty rate in the years to come.
– Amanda Quinn