24 interesting facts about Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)

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The most interesting facts about Ivory Coast – or Côte d’Ivoire – from the “Paris of West Africa” to the largest church in the world.

Interesting facts about Ivory Coast include its enormous church
Interesting facts about Ivory Coast include its enormous church (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Cote d’Ivoire
Population: 28,088,455
Area: 322,463 sq km
Capital city: Yamoussoukro (legislative), Abidjan (administrative)
Major languages: French
Major religions: Muslim 42.9%, Catholic 17.2%, Evangelical 11.8%
Time zone: UTC 0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Ivory Coast

1. Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa bordered by Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia and Guinea.
– Source: Britannica

2. Before colonialism, Ivory Coast was made up of numerous kingdoms including the Kong, Bouna, Bounkani, Senufo, Malinke and Baule among others.
– Source: Britannica

3. In 1842, Ivory Coast was colonised by France first as a protectorate, then as a formal colony in 1893, then it became part of the French Federation of West Africa in 1904.
– Source: BBC News

A map of Ivory Coast
A map of Ivory Coast (Shutterstock)

4. In 1960, Ivory Coast gained independence under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny. He held power until his death in 1993.
– Source: BBC News

5. Following independence, Ivory Coast enjoyed economic and political stability for several decades. Then in 1999, the President was overthrown in a military coup before the country slipped into civil war in 2002 following an armed rebellion. Despite UN and French troops getting involved, instability and violence has troubled the country since.
– Source: BBC News

6. Ivory Coast takes its name from the intensive ivory trade that took place in the region from the 15th to 17th centuries.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

A 1983 Ivory Coast depicting elephants and reading Côte d’Ivoire
A stamp from 1983 (Shutterstock)

7. Following independence, the country was widely recognised as the Republic of the Ivory Coast (or Ivory Coast). However, the country officially changed its name to Cote d’Ivoire in 1986.
– Source: US Department of State

8. Ivory Coast has two capital cities. Yamoussoukro has been the official capital since 1983, but Abidjan remains the administrative capital and the officially designated economic capital. Most countries maintain an embassy in Abidjan.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

9. With a population of 4,800,000, Abidjan is the world’s third-largest French-speaking city after Kinshasa in DR Congo and Paris in France.
– Source: Dialogue Journal

An aerial shot of Abidjan
The administrative capital Abidjan (Shutterstock)

10. During the 1980s and 1990s, Abidjan was known as the “the Paris of West Africa” and its business district as “the Manhattan of West Africa” due to the city’s impressive skyline and location beside a lagoon. It was also considered one of Africa’s principal cities in terms of fashion, culture and standard of living.
– Source: United Nations

11. Ivory Coast has one of the world’s lowest life expectancies. At just 57.4 years, it had the seven-lowest life expectancy at birth in 2018 (latest available data).
– Source: World Bank

12. Ivory Coast has a vertically striped orange, white and green flag. The three stripes represent the national motto, “Unity, discipline, labour” while orange represents dynamic national growth, white the peace, purity and unity of all citizens and green hope for the future.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of Ivory Coast
The flag of Ivory Coast (Shutterstock)

13. Ivory Coast has produced a number of eminent footballers known as the “golden generation”. These included Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou, but the most notable was Didier Drogba who played for Premier League-side Chelsea for nine years from 2004 to 2012 where he won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and the Champions League.
– Source: BBC Sport

14. Didier Drogba is also credited with playing a pivotal role in helping to end the Ivorian civil war by making an impassioned speech to the camera during an international match with Sudan in 2005 which resulted in a cease-fire. Following the World Cup Qualifier, Drogba addressed a camera crew and pleaded with aggressors in Ivory Coast to “please lay down your weapons and hold elections… we want to have fun, so stop firing your guns.”
– Source: BBC Sport

15. The national football team is known as Les Éléphants. They won the African Cup of Nations in 1992 and 2015 and have appeared in three World Cups.
– Source: Ivorian Football Federation, FIFA

16. Ivory Coast is home to the largest church in the world. Completed in 1990, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro has an exterior area of 30,000m2.
– Source: The Telegraph

The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro
The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro (Shutterstock)

17. Ivory Coast has only won two Olympic medals: a silver in the men’s 400m race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and a gold in Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
– Source: International Olympic Committee

18. Ivory Coast is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of which is the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, which it shares with Guinea. The reserve is rich in flora and fauna.
– Source: UNESCO

19. The reserve is home to the Nimba Range, a chain of mountains that culminate at Mount Nimba. At 1,752m (5,748ft) it is the highest mountain in both Ivory Coast and Guinea.
– Source: UNESCO

Mount Nimba in Ivory Coast and Guinea
The Nimba Mountains (CC3.0:Guy Debonnet)

20. Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans, exporting over $3.8 billion worth of beans in 2019.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book, OEC

21. However, Ivory Coast has suffered severely from illegal deforestation and a decline in wildlife largely caused by the chocolate industry which has encouraged the clearing of rainforests for cocoa plantation. Rainforest cover in the country has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960.
– Source: The Guardian

22. The UNESCO-listed Comoé National Park is one of the largest protected areas in West Africa. It has an area of 1,495 sq km and is known for its plant diversity.
– Source: UNESCO

A river in Comoé National Park
Comoé National Park (Shutterstock)

23. The UNESCO-listed historic town of Grand-Bassam was the French colonial capital until a yellow-fever epidemic broke out in 1896, causing the French to relocate the capital. The town was a popular resort until a 2016 terrorist attack killed 16 people, many of them foreigners.
– Source: Lonely Planet

24. The UNESCO-listed Taï National Park in Ivory Coast is a reserve of dense rainforest rich in flora and fauna. The park is well-known for its chimpanzees, who famously use tools in their daily activities, but the park is particularly notable for its endangered mammal species which include the pygmy hippopotamus, 11 types of primates, 250 species of birds and 1300 species of plants, more than 50 of which are endemic to the region.
– Source: UNESCO, Lonely Planet

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