During the first 20 years of independence, the Ivory Coast had a very high rate of growth in the economy. In real terms, GDP increased by 11 percent in the years 1960-70 and by 6.7 percent in the years 1970-80. The country’s economy was heavily dependent on coffee, cocoa and timber exports, and therefore also very sensitive to price fluctuations in the world market. Falling world market prices in the early and late 1980s as well as the late 1990s had major negative consequences for the country’s economy.
In order to reduce the unilateral dependence on few export products, in 1991 an economic structural adjustment program was introduced and in 1994 a 50 percent devaluation. This, together with the privatization and deregulation of the banking system, had positive effects on the economy, but the political unrest and the civil war in the early 00s again led to a deterioration of the country’s economy. Some recovery of the economy occurred during the late 00s, but the country still suffers from political unrest and is considered to be severely affected by corruption.
According to countryaah, the agricultural sector is the Ivory Coast’s most important economic sector. The most important export products are cocoa, coffee, oil palm products and natural rubber. Ivory Coast is also a major producer of cotton, but unrest in the northern parts of the country has created major problems for growers. Cultivation of cocoa and coffee takes place mainly in the southern and southeastern parts. Ivory Coast has been since 1977/78, when it passed Ghana, the world’s largest producer of cocoa.
Since the 1960s, the production of oil palm products has been extensive, and the aim is to become world-leading in this regard as well. Increased domestic demand, conditional on population growth, led to investments in food production in the 1970s and 1980s. As for the most important food crops maize, cassava and jams, Ivory Coast is self-sufficient. Large investments have been made to increase rice and sugar production.
Forestry used to be an important source of export income, but its importance has diminished in recent years. The decrease is mainly due to excessive sutures and deficiencies in the replanting programs. Increased domestic demand has also led to reduced export volumes. However, hardwood is still being exported.
Abidjan is Africa’s largest fishing port in terms of catches of tuna. Fish is an important part of the population’s protein intake, but the importance of fish for the country’s economy has decreased. In 2007, the catch volume was 33,000 tonnes, which is one third of what it was in 1990. Most of the catch is landed by foreign ships.
The country is rich in gold, diamonds, iron ore, copper, bauxite and nickel, but the utilization rate is low. Only the gold deposits mined by a French mining company in the western parts of the country, and diamonds mined in the northern parts of the country, are used to a greater extent. Of these, diamond production has the greatest impact on the country’s economy, but due to extensive smuggling via neighboring countries Ghana and Mali, the size of production is difficult to assess. There are also plans to exploit the iron ore and nickel deposits.
Ivory Coast’s energy needs are covered by 65-70 percent of wood burning, oil accounts for about 25 percent and electricity accounts for 5 percent. The country had a fairly large expansion of water genin during the 1980s, but several dry periods caused the development to stop.
In 1977 and 1980 oil discoveries were made off the Ivory Coast, south of Grand Bassam. During the 1980s, small amounts of oil were produced, but production ceased after a few years, mainly because the oil was difficult to recover. Renewed exploitation in 1994 led to new discoveries, and since then production has resumed. Oil and natural gas production has risen sharply since the beginning of the 1990s, and the country is now self-sufficient in oil and natural gas. Ivory Coast also has smaller exports to some neighboring countries.
To compensate for imports from especially Senegal, the Ivory Coast has since the country became independent in 1960 has had a very dynamic industrial sector.
In the main, the industrial sector consists of the process industry for agricultural products, e.g. for palm oil manufacturing and textile industry. During periods of political turmoil, parts of the industry have been hit hard and many textile factories have been closed due to commodity shortages. The Ivory Coast also has a large oil refinery in Abidjan. The refinery has the capacity both to meet domestic demand and to supply neighboring countries.
The Ivory Coast has always had a positive trade balance during peacetime. However, falling and fluctuating prices for the most important export crops have, during periods, decreased surplus. Exports are dominated by agricultural products and timber. Imports are dominated by crude oil and refined petroleum products. The most important trading partner is France. Other important trading partners on the import side are Nigeria and China. The main exporting countries are the Netherlands, the United States and France.