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Introducing Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire was once the economic miracle of Africa and a role model for stability on the continent. Never completely breaking from their colonial masters, the post-independence leaders wooed French capital to build a modern infrastructure and considerable prosperity. The long-serving and charismatic first president, Houphouët-Boigny, promoted the notion of a happy amalgam of pragmatic Western capitalism with benign African values. The society he presided over, however, was far from liberal and the dream ended with his death. A consequent string of coups and popular insurgencies shook the country, and northern-led rebellion in 2002 violently split it in half. Most of the huge French-expat community jumped ship, and the economy has since crumbled. However, the country abounds in some of the best natural attractions in West Africa, such as Parc National de Taï’s vast patch of rainforest and the string of beaches along the Atlantic coast. It’s also a land rich in tradition due to a diverse tribal mix that includes Dan, Lobi, Baoulé and Senoufo peoples.

But it’s really the modernity that sets Côte d’Ivoire apart from other West African nations. Abidjan is decidedly dog-eared these days, but its shimmering skyscrapers will still astound. Yamoussoukro in the Centre is famous for its basilica, an astonishing replica of Rome’s St Peter’s, which epitomises the Houphouët-Boigny era and, in a way, Africa’s current place in today’s world, since the Big Man philosophy shows few signs of fading.