Women at a parents' evening at a primary school in Côte d'Ivoire

Social situation Big differences between the North and the South

Côte d’Ivoire may be one of West Africa's biggest economies, but the majority of its people have no share in the country's economic success.

Almost 40 per cent of the roughly 26 million inhabitants are living below the national poverty line; a fifth of the population is undernourished. Average life expectancy is just 58 years. Poverty is much higher in rural regions than in the towns and cities, and far higher in the north of the country with its weaker economy and institutions than in the south.

The vast majority of the people work in the informal sector, meaning that they usually have no social protection whatsoever. The government has started to establish a publicly subsidised health insurance scheme for all citizens.

Deficits in education and health

Progress has been made on improving education and health. However, the government is still investing too little in providing basic services for the people. The illiteracy rate is 53 per cent (60 per cent for women). While official enrolment ratios have increased considerably after school fees were abolished (100 per cent in 2019), one in five children does not complete primary school. Child labour is widespread, especially in the country's cocoa plantations.

Barely half of the Ivorian population has reliable access to safe drinking water, and the situation with regard to basic sanitation is even worse. In 2019, the government announced a social policy initiative which will include providing better health care for particularly poor families, building social housing, and improving access to water and electricity.

Population growth

Efforts to combat poverty are being hampered by the high birth rate. The Ivorian population is currently growing at a rate of 2.5 per cent a year; more than 40 per cent of Ivorians are younger than 15 years old. The population is now seven times what it was when the country gained independence in 1960.

Côte d'Ivoire is one of the most urbanised countries in West Africa. More than half of the people live in cities.

Women's rights

Women's rights are enshrined in Côte d'Ivoire's constitution. However, there are still legal provisions in place that discriminate against women, especially with regard to family law and inheritance and land rights. Although female genital mutilation is prohibited by law, it is still widely practised, especially in the northern part of the country. Rape is an offence under the criminal code, but it is hardly ever prosecuted, and there is no reliable official data on the frequency of its occurrence.

In order to improve women's political participation, a law was adopted in March 2019 decreeing that, in future, 30 per cent of candidates for parliamentary, regional and municipal elections must be female. Currently, the proportion of women in the national assembly is 13 per cent.