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Ivory Coast Welcome
Living and Working in the Ivory Coast
A guide of information and advice to help you prepare your stay

Ivory Coast Welcome

Political status
Geographical situation
Other sectors
Weights, measure & voltage
Main towns
Time differences
ar rental
Hotels & restaurants
Your suitcase

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Political Status

The Ivory Coast is a multi-party republic with a presidential regime.
The president is elected for a five year term of office by general election and holds executive power.
The National Assembly is composed of 172 members, elected also for a five year term of office and led by a Prime Minister.
The constitution which dates from 31st October 1960 has been modified six times since.
The junta in power after the 31st October 1960 coup has made another constitutional revision, under President Robert Gueï, the leader of the junta.
After tumultuous elections, Mr Laurent Gbagbo (who was invested as president on 26th October 2000) formed a new government on 4th January 2001 with 28 members (19 from the FPI party). His Prime Minister is Mr Affi N'Guesson.

Historical Outline :
16th century : the first Portuguese trading stations were set up (mainly for slaves)
17th century : it became the headquarters of French trading stations
1915 : the railway lines were laid
1960 : independence under Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who had been a minister in the French government under the IVth Republic. The PDCI became the only political party.
7th December 1993 : death of Houphouët-Boigny
1995 : re-election of his successorr, Henry Konan Bédié
24th December 1999 : military coup d'etat, General Robert Gueï, the leader of the junta, is named president
10th Decembre 2000, the deputies to the National Assembly are elected in a country which is bitterly divided by ethnic violence, leaving numerous dead and wounded.
4th January 2001, President Laurent Gbagbo forms a new government.

Geographical situation

The territory of the Ivory Coast is mainly made up of plains and valleys with a mountain range in the north-west (the highest peak is the Mt Momi at 1,302 metres).
The total surface area is 322,463 sq. kms., the population count is 15,800,000, giving a population density of 46 inhabitants per square kilometer.
The Ivory Coast is surrounded by the Gulf of Guinea in the south (515 kms), Ghana in the east (668 kms), Burkina Faso (584 kms) and Mali (532 kms) in the north, Guinea (610 kms) and Liberia (716 kms) in the west.
The political capital is Yamoussoukro, the financial and business capital is Abidjan.


The Ivory Coast is going through a severe economic crisis.
The sales price of raw materials (cocoa, coffee, cotton) has dramatically dropped.
The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union have suspended aid after having discovered major embezzlements in 1999.
Since then the budgetary deficit and the internal debt have shot up and economic growth has stagnated.
Dialogue has been renewed with the IMF, who are however still worried about the rise in military expenditure and have decided to go through a period of observation before going ahead again with financial aid.

Improvement in the financial situation is closely linked to a normalization on the political front.

Economic statistics

2000 (p)

economic growth (%)


inflation (%)


public balance/GDP (%)


exports (billions $)


imports (billions $)


trade balance (billions $)


current balance/GDP (%)


external debt (billions $)


debt services/exports (%)


General Information

Global GNP 1999

10.32 billion $

GNP per inhabitant

700 dollars

Purchasing power parity(PPP)

1484 dollars

GNP growth 1990-1997

+0.9% per capita per annum

Households PPP +$30000pa

70 000 = 2.5%

Households PPP +$15000pa

180 000 = 7%

Households PPP -$5000 pa

1 270 000 = 50%

Aid 1998

690 million $

Foreign investment 1998

559 million $

Growth of investment 1990-97

+16.5% per annum

Revenue from tourism 1998

829 million $

GDP divided by sectors of activity :

Agriculture : 26%
Industry : 18.8%
Mining : 3.9%
Services : 51.3%

Imports CIF 1998 : 3,500 million dollars, that is +15.1% compared to 1995, with 4.2% coming from the United States, Japan : 2.9%, Africa : 13.2%, European Union : 46.9% of which France : 28.5%.

The communal external duty rates of the UEMOA (the West African economic and monetary union) are being applied since 1st January 2000. Imports are free in principle, except for certain products : living animals, pharmaceutical products, essential oils, audio-visual aids, arms and ammunition, petrol products and cotton (quantity restrictions).

Numerous foreign companies have been complaining over the last year about difficulties in getting paid, as well as about fraud and corruption of the customs.
In spite of recent progress, the justice services still don't always work very well, decisions are still too often taken arbitrarily.


Agriculture dominates the economy in the Ivory Coast.
It represents about 35% of the GDP and 65% of the external revenue, and employs 70% of the labour force.
The main part of the Ivoirian agricultural production is intended for export.
The main export income comes from cocoa, the third one from wood and the fifth biggest revenue comes from pineapples and bananas.

(millions of tons, head, and cubic meters for timber)









sugar cane




















Cocoa is the country's main produce, the Ivory Coast is the leading world producer and furnishes 40 to 50% of the planet's cocoa.
But in August 1999 the World Bank demanded that in return for the annulation of the Ivoirian debt, the official channels should be liberalized.
This resulted in an uncontrolled rise in production which caused the world market prices to plummet.
The associations of coffee and cocoa producers estimate the overall loss to be 4 billion francs.
On top of this, a European directive was adopted in March 2000 which authorises the replacement of cocoa butter by other fats in chocolate production, it is inevitable that demand will fall by 100,000 to 150,000 tons and the prices will drop again.

Other products are cultivated : maize, rice, manyoc, millet, sorgho, bananas, pineapples.
The country doesn't grow enough rice for its needs, but is auto-sufficient in maize, manyoc and igname.
There is not much live-stock.
Goats, sheep and cattle are raised in small quantities.
The Ivory Coast imports meat from the neighbouring northern countries.
There is some fishing, but not much either.

Forestry is an important revenue for the country - bringing in more than coffee since 1990.
13.3 million cubic meters were cut in 1998.


The Ivory Coast has an extremely good infrastructure and an educated elite.
Four sectors are particularly dynamic : agriculture, energy and mining, tourism and the export of industrial products.
Other sectors are developing : telecommunications, (like everywhere else in the world the mobile telephone is spreading rapidly), electrical equipment and foodstuff production.

There are some natural resources : petrol, manganese, iron, cobalt, bauxite, copper and gold (4 tons a year are mined), but not enough to increase the standard of living in the country.

The country banks on its manufacturing industries, their share in the GDP has gone up from 13% in 1993 to 20%, and the objective is to reach 30%.
At the moment this sector is limited to textiles and foodstuffs, but activities connected to energy are developing : processing oil imported from Nigeria, exploiting the country's hydro-electric resources, the construction of thermal power stations using the Ivoirian natural gas.

To encourage the petrol exploitation, some fiscal measures have been foreseen for petrol sites in marine zones which are more than 200 metres deep.
For example, contracts concerning shared production (law of 29th August 1996) in which regulations about the amortization of the petrol costs and payments to be made to the licence holders are provided for, include the repercussions caused by the depth of the sea where the oilfield lies.
The last major company to be privatized is the SIR (the Ivoirian refineries).

In order to diversify the agricultural production, food processing companies are being developed :
60,000 tons of cocoa beans are already processed locally, 15,000 tons of which are pressed for butter and cattle fodder.
Four sugar factories and the oil factories have been privatized.

Other sectors

3.213 billion Kwh of electricity was produced in 1997, 62.93% of which is hydraulic.

There are six dams producing electricty, the major ones being Soubre, Taaboo and Kossou.


14,920,080 inhabitants live in this country which covers 322,462 sq. kms.
Urban population : 48%
Working age population : 7.4 million (15-65 years old)
Of which 6 million are working (30% in industry and services)

0-14 year olds : 43.93%
15-64 year olds : 53.39%
65 year olds and over : 2.68%

life expectancy 46.14 years

Level of developement :
demographical growth 1997 - 2015 : +1.7%
energy consumption per capita TOE : 0.38
population without drinking water : 58%
population without sanitary installations : 61%
n° of doctors per 1000 inhabitants : 0.1
telephone lines per 1000 inhabitants : 9
mobile telephones per 1000 inhabitants : 3
private cars per 1000 inhabitants : 21
n° of computers per 1000 inhabitants : 3.3
adult illiteracy : 57%
secondary schooling/age group : 24.1%
graduates/age group : 5%

Ethnic composition :

There are more than three million immigrants from Burkina-Faso, Mali and Guinea living in the Ivory Coast.

More than 60 ethnic groups exist throughout the country.
The main group is the Agni-Ashanti, a farming people settled in the centre and the south of the country. Others are the Baoueles 23%, the Bétés 18%, Séoufous 15%, Malinkés 11%, Dan...

There are also the Mandés, a people to which the Dioulas and the Krou tribes belong.
The Senouf are settles in the north, and the Lobis in the north-east.

And from 130,000 to 330,000 non-Africans : mostly Lebanese and French.


French is the official language.
Among the many other languages spoken are Dioula and Baoulé.


The Ivory Coast is made up of animists, Christians and Muslims in the following proportions :
60% Muslims, 12% Christians (mainly Roman Catholic) and 28% traditional beliefs
(many of whom are animist).

In Yamoussoukro there is a splendid mosque in full sight of the Basilica of Notre Dame.

Unfortunately over the last year during the presidential legislative elections there have been violent ethnic confrontations between the Muslims from the north and the Christians from the south.

The Ivory Coast belongs to the Franc zone.
The parity is fixed and cannot be modified without the agreement of the other member states of the Franc zone.

The value of the CFA franc has been cut in half since it was devalorized in 1994.

100 CFA Francs are worth 1 French Franc.

1 F CFA = 1 centime = 0.01F = 0.00152 euro
1 dollar = 510 FCFA

Main towns

The capital is Yamoussoukro.
It is the political capital, the birth place of Félix Houphouët Boigny, the Father of Independence.
About 151,000 people live there.

Abidjan, which is the economic capital has a population of over 3 million. It is built on a peninsula on a lagoon which has direct access to the sea via a canal.
The business centre in Abidjan is called the Plateau, the main residential areas are Cocody and the Deux Plateaux.
The industrial zone is called Vridi.

Bouaké is known for its coffee, cocoa and cotton plantations.
There are 120,000 inhabitants.

To the east of Abidjan :
The Vridi beach, which you can get to by bus from the Plateau or from Treichville (a popular area of the town).

The old colonial capital of the Ivory Coast, abondonned following a cholera epidemic, is 40 kms east of Abidjan.
A 504 from the Treichville bus station will get you there.
Assinie is 80 kms away.
It is a beautiful beach where most of the white population spend their Sundays.
You can get there by bush-taxi from Grand Bassam.

Aboisso is a small town, or a big village.

To the west of Abidjan :

The tropical forest of Banco covers 3,000 hectares. It is 3 kms to the north of Adjamé, you can get there from Adjamé by taxi.

If you take a 504 from Adjamé to Dabu you can visit the Island of Tiagba.

Jacqeville is 60 kms out of Abidjan, between the lagoon and the ocean. You can get there by car, you have to cross on a ferry, or by bus (a regular service given by the A3 company, which goes several times a day from the Treichville bus station)

Grand-Lahou is 98 kms from Dabou. You can reach the old village by crossing the lagoon in a pirogue.

Divo is a stop-over on the road to Sassandra.
San Pedro is 80 kms to the west of Sassandra, it is a town of 130,000 inhabitants which has a wooden port, built with floating tree trunks, like in Canada.

The Centre :

Yamoussoukro is 270 kms from Abidjan. You can get there with a 504 from the Adjamé station, and there is also a bus service with the SOTRANSYA company, which organizes a departure every hour during daylight. T
he air strip in Yamoussoukro was built to receive the French president.
The biggest university in western Africa is in this town.

Bouaké is the second biggest town in the country, it is 106 kms away from Yamoussoukro.

To the west :

is the capital of the Yacouba region.

At about 43 kms to the north of this town there is
Biankouma which you can reach by 504 or mini-bus.


The Ivory Coast is divided into three main climatic zones determined by the size of their annual rainfall :
2 metres in the south, 1.50 metres in the centre and 1.20 metres in the north.
The climate is equatorial, with heavy rains in the west.
There are two dry seasons, from November to April and a shorter season in August and September.
There are tropical rains in the north in summer.

The climate changes a lot from north to south, going from an intertropical to a tropical zone.

In the south there are two rainy seasons, a short one from September to October and a longer one which lasts from 15th May to 15th August.

In the north there are tropical rains in the summer.

It is a country covered with tropical forests which produce precious woods, savannah regions and lots of rivers and streams.

Average temperatures max/min


Rainfall : Height in mm


Temperature of the sea : monthly average



Mosquitoes, which are highly active at night, are unfortunately around all year.

Never walk barefoot, and check out your shoes, sleeping bag and sheets (especially in desert areas) as there are scorpions and snakes.

Working in thecountry

Looking for a job in the Ivory Coast :
You could start looking for information by sending letters to French associations in the Ivory Coast, to Trade Commissions and to commercial services in French banks which have branches in the Ivory Coast.

The French Consulate has a service dealing with jobs and training and can introduce you to local companies wishing to acquire French personnel.

(See also the page in the Practical Guide for the Expatriate).

The French Chamber of Commerce can give you information about the job market and the most dynamic sectors of the local economy.
They also publish a bulletin which is reserved for French companies and local members.
You could put a job ad in this bulletin.

The Trade Commission in Abidjan or the CFCE in Paris can give you a list of French companies set up in the Ivory Coast.
While you are looking for information you can contact companies directly by sending an application and proposing your services.

Where to find job offers?
In the French press (Le Monde, Le France Soir, Figaro, Moniteur du Bâtiment, Le DNA,
la Voix du Nord, Le Républicain Lorrain, Expat magazine... ) for French companies sending people abroad.

In the international press, in nearly all the main daily papers there is a page or a section on job offers : (The European, The Guardian, Vacature, Coriere della sera, La Tribune de Genève, ...).

Head hunting companies in Europe and temporary work agencies have international job offers.

You can have easy access to several local data bases dealing with job offers via Internet.

When applying for a job :
Your CV must be very clearly set out and detailled. It should be accompanied by a handwritten covering letter.

Whatever post you are trying for, be well dressed for the interview. Interviewers pay a lot of attention to your appearance.

Be careful not to seem to be pretentious about your knowledge and don't exaggerate your professional competence.

Don't forget that the local market has a high rate of unemployment, be careful not to throw away an opportunity once you have already got as far as getting an interview.

Stress your real competence, your ease of adaption, your mobility, your ability to work in a team and your desire to bring in your experience.

Our advice :
It is advisable to go to Africa, particularly if it is your first time, as part of a French or an international company.

An expatriate contract gives you the best conditions : 2 months leave every 10 months, accomodation, usually a car depending on your post, the possibility to take your family with you, a salary paid in France and usually tax free...

Investing in the country
The Ivory Coast has a high risk potential.
Investors are nevertheless welcome, fiscal and economical advantages are offered to international companies willing to set up in the industrial zones around Abidjan.
The Ivoirian Embassy in Paris will help you to complete the various administrative steps and can give you a practical dossier.

French presence in the country:
Many French companies work in and with the Ivory Coast in spite of problems of payment and other risks.

Formalities to be completed

Visa/Passport :

French nationals need a visa, to apply for one you need to give a photo and pay 35 euros environ.
A visa is also obligatory for Belgians and Swiss who need to give two photos and 35 euros environ.
It takes 48 hours to receive your visa.

Check that your passport is still valid.

If you arrive by car the police can ask you for a custom's certificate.
If you don't have this you can get a tourist sticker which is for a non-renewable period of 15 days.
You also need to have a document showing that you have adequate financial means for your stay in the country.

If you arrive by plane you have to show that you have a return ticket.

Formalities to be completed if you are working in the country:
The first thing to do on arrival in the Ivory Coast is to get registered with the local authorities and with your Embassy, who need to know of your presence in the country in case of problems.

Health & Medicine

Hygiene in the country :
There is not a good medical structure, nor modern equipment in most of the Ivory Coast.
If you have a serious health problem it is preferable to be repatriated.

Vaccinations :
Yellow fever is obligatory.
This vaccine give you 100% protection for 10 years.
You can get this vaccination in any specialized centre.
You have to get it done in advance as it only starts its protection 10 days after the vaccination is done (unless it is a booster, which takes effect immediately).

Other vaccinations are not obligatory, but it is recommened to check up your basics (tetanos, polio and diptheria) and have shots against hepatitis A and B.

Follow a preventive treatment against malaria, and take all the necessary pills with you.

Don't forget to have your international vaccination certificates with you and you should also subscribe to an international insurance scheme.

Connections with France

There are daily flights going to the Ivory Coast with Air France or Air Afrique from Roissy.

There are also regular flights leaving from Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseilles and Nice.

Abidjan is the second biggest African port after Durban in South Africa and a transit platform in the region, especially with Mali and Burkina Faso.

Internal transport

An express train goes between Abidjan and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso (1500 kms).

There is a good internal rail network inside the country. 900,000 tons of merchandise are transported annually, 500,000 tons of it are exports to Burkina and Mali.

The road network is made up of 67,500 kms of road and there is a huge road traffic with buses leaving from the central bus stations.
The buses are very cheap and often the service is quicker than by train.

Minibuses are called 'mille-kilos' (1000 kilos) or '22-places' (22 seaters).

There are plenty of taxis available but it is advisable to check that the meter is working and that the tarifs marked are the right ones : tarif 1 is a day rate and tarif 2 is applied from midnight to 5am.

Time differences
The difference with France is +1 hour in winter and +2 hours in summer.


Telephone :

To phone France from Abidjan dial 00 33 + the number of your correspondent.

The phone the Ivory Coast from France, dial 00 225 followed by the number of your correspondent
(8 numbers).
NB : telephone numbers in the Ivory Coast changed on the 15th January 2000 -
there are now 8 numbers (instead of 6). You add 2 numbers before the old 6 numbers
e.g.if the old number started with 01xxxx, 02xxxx, 03xxxx you now add 03 in front = 0301xxxx,0302xxxx,0303xxxx
if the old number started with 04xxxx; 05xxxx, 06xxxx you now add 0504xxxx, 0505xxxx, 0506xxxx
For numbers 07/08/09 add 07
For numbers 20/21/22 add 20 etc

Press/Newspapers :

There are four dailies in the Ivoirian press and about fifteen weeklies.

- Ivoir'Soir : 50,000 copies sold over the whole country.

- Notre Temps : a weekly, 30,000 copies published.

- La Voie : both a daily and a weekly.


The international airport of Abidjan is 11 kms out of town and is called the Felix Houphouët-Boigny airport.
There are other airports at Bouake and Yamoussoukro.

Car rental

You can rent your Avis car in Abidjan :
at the international airport, tel 27 72 73 fax 32 66 75
or in town at the Novotel, rue du Commerce, tel 32 80 07 fax 32 66 75

All Avis cars are completely equipped, have done less than 15,000 kms and have an average age of 3 months.
The vehicles are carefully prepared and checked between each rental using a procedure containing 7 obligatory control points.
The cars are rented with a full tank.
Renting from Avis automatically means that the car passengers, renter and/or driver are covered by a third party insurance as well as an insurance covering repatriation and the immobilization of the vehicule in case of an accident.

You can reserve a car :
- from your travel agent
- from the international reservation centre at 0 820 05 05 05
- or from any Avis agency
Avis has an interactive network worldwide, a client can reserve a car instantly from anywhere in the world.

We recommend that you pay your rental using your accredited Avis card or with another credit card accepted by Avis : American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Diners.
Through a simple free membership system, Avis gives identity and/or payment cards, which are a real help for a rapid and efficient service.

REASSURING : No on-line payment, you can pay Avis directly at the agency when you return the car
RAPID : Avis has the quickest car rental reservation service on the web
ECONOMICAL : The cheapest rates on the market are available on the Avis microsite
COMPLETE : You can rent a car anywhere in the world.
The Avis network : 5000 agencies in 172 countries, is now on-line!
EFFICIENT : Find your town (you don't have to fill in the country), enter the date and click on estimate
PRACTICAL : You only have to fill in 4 boxes and you will receive an e-mail confirming the reservation.
You can even rent a vehicle at the last minute just round the corner or ... on the other side of the world.

Bear in mind that taxis are very cheap and plentiful while car rental is extremely expensive. You have to count at least the double that you would pay in Europe. It is very expensive to buy a car and to insure it, 52 cars are stolen every day in the Ivory Coast.

If you do however decide to rent a car, you should know that the police are very fussy about seat belts, fines are very heavy and you could even have a prison penalty.

Petrol in the Ivory Coast is the most expensive in all of West Africa.


In Abidjan there are numerous accomodation possibilities.
(See the list of hotel in 'Useful addresses in the country)
The choice goes from top luxury categories in the residential Cocody area to the simplest hotel on the Plateau.

Similarly there are restaurants for all kinds of budget.

Your suitcase

Light clothing, in cotton or linen.
If you plan to go to the game parks take neutral coloured clothing, walking shoes and a scarf to protect you from clouds of dust.

It is a good idea to have an anorak or a raincoat with you in the rainy season, but in fact it is so hot and the rainfall is so heavy that it is not always very useful.
A plastic mac is really the most practical.

Wear a suit and tie for business meetings.

Electical appliances should be 220 v. The plugs are the European kind.


See the list of schools in the 'Useful Addresses in the country'.

The Ivory Coast has a varied and good quality higher education system for basic training, as much in the technical field as in the commercial and administrative fields.

The national polytechnical institution Felix Houphouët Boigny, which is attached to both the Ministry of Higher Education and the ministry of Economy and Finance is an example of a school giving a wide variety of courses.
It contains a continuing education and management training school, advanced agronomical courses, advanced commercial and administrative courses, advanced industrial courses, advanced mining and geological courses and advanced building courses.
The INHP-FHB turns out 700 graduates each year.

Numerous private schools, both independent or attached to foreign institutes (French and Canadian) also give good training to future management staff.


It is nearly impossible to arrive in the Ivory Coast and start business without having a local circle of friends : everything will depend on who you know - justice, customs, administrative formalities ...

Don't worry if people arrive late for appointments.

Ask people for permission if you want to take photos of them.

Public holidays :

7th August : Independence Day
1st November : All Saints' Day
11th November : Armistice
25th December : Xmas
1st January : New Years' Day
Easter Monday
1st May : Labour Day
Ascencion Day
+ religious Muslim holiday, the dates vary depending on the lunar calendar :
Ramadan, Tabaski, Maouloud.

Credit cards are accepted in the banks but their general use is a bit limited.

The French franc is the currency the most appreciated in West Africa.

Banking establishments :

The group Banque Africaine de Développement (BAD) (African Bank of Development)
The Fonds Africain de Développement (FAD) (African Development Fund)
The Fonds Spécial du Nigeria (FSN) (Special Nigerian Fund)


All these guides are in French and can be purchased at the Librairie du commerce international,
10 avenue d'Iéna, 75016 Paris Tel : 01 40 73 34 60
You can receive them by post by writing to the following address:
BP 438-75233 Paris Cedex 05.
Fax : 01 43 36 47 98.

* Coll.Un Marché : Côte-d'Ivoire.
An overall view of the country's economy as well as practical advice to get there.
CFCE/PEE Abidjan. (PEE = Trade Commission)
41040-1995-197 pages-120F.

* Côte-d'Ivoire : an examination of the commercial policies.
OMC-71299-1995-2 volumes-250F.

* Côtes-d'Ivoire : positive economic results to reinforce.
Note PEE Abidjan.
E01756/95X-1995-20 pages-345F.

* The automobile market, spare parts and accessories.
Note PEE Abidjan.
S52233/95X-1995-18 pages-345F.


The cost of living :
With the different devaluations of the franc CFA and the rise in the cost of living the price of imported products are high.

In Abidjan certain quarters are reputed to be dangerous especially at night times.
There are artisan markets and antique shops where you can buy sculptures, musical instruments and material.
You can visit the lagoons by boat.
To the east and the west of the town there are beautiful beaches, but be careful the sea is dangerous with very strong currents and undertows (known as the 'barre') and sharks.

San Pedro has beautiful landscapes and paradisiacal beaches, you can do pirogue rides on the river from Sassandra and see the hippos.
It is also an old colonial town.

Bouaké there is a market selling spices, jewels and leather objects. The Comoé national park where you can see elephants, lions, monkeys and other animals can be visited from February to May.

Customs :
Practical modalities.
It is possible to group merchandise, so long as it is done by transit agencies.
The customs nomenclature which is used is that of Brussels.
Ivoirian customs rights are applied, as well as the fiscal right of entry (DF).
It can go up to 30% of the customs' value (CAF value).
Goods must be declared and go through customs whether they arrive by sea or by air.

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