Cote d’Ivore: The Chocolate Country

It is human nature to ponder over philosophical questions.

What is the meaning of life?

Why is Ivory Coast named so?

Can we really know everything?

When French and Portuguese merchant-explorers landed on the West African coast in the 15th and 16th century, they divided the land into four coasts. These stretches of land and their names reflected the resources available from each coast.

The area that encompasses the modern-day Ivory coast had an abundance of ivory, one of the most sought-after resources. Thus, the name Ivory Coast. The state changed its name from Ivory Coast to Cote d'Ivoire in 1986.


Fun fact: it is illegal to refer to the country as Ivory Coast while in the country. It should always be referred to as Cote d’Ivore. In 1985, the ruling government requested the world to refer to their country using their French name always.


This country boasts a diverse culture, thanks to its 60 indigenous ethnic groups, and no longer relies on ivory trade.

Ivorian culture remains split between French influence and a maze of ethnic-based cultures. This makes the concept of a national identity quite complex. This is because nationality often collides with centuries of evolving ethnicity.

Additionally, it has suffered its fair share of problems with Ebola, military juntas, and coups. One would expect all these to cripple the country.

But Ivory Coast and her people are the mythical phoenix. Always rising from the ashes.


“Made in Ivory Coast”

It is no secret that Ivory Coast has struggled with cases of civil war over the years.

So, how does such a country rise on its feet despite its challenges and keep its economy on an upward trajectory?

Cocoa.

Ivory Coast produces more cocoa than any other place in the world. If you indulge in a warm cup of chocolate every now and then, this may just be made from cocoa beans originating from Côte d’Ivoire.

As of 2012, Ivory Coast supplied 38% of the cocoa produced in the world. And because of this, cocoa is very important to the average Ivorian.

If you ask around, the general consensus is that cocoa runs the country. After all, the foundation of most public amenities is cocoa.

Ivorians know loads about cocoa. However, in the same breath, most of them did not know about chocolate.

Even though Ivory Coast has been the world’s largest producer of cocoa, the country did not have the capacity to process cocoa beans into chocolate for a long time.

Value addition processes have transformed the end product of cocoa from a luxury product that was out of reach of so many Ivorians. Chocolate is no longer a preserve of westerners. And locals can now enjoy quality chocolate that is produced on their soil.


Made in Ivory Coast chocolates.
Made in Ivory Coast chocolates.

Source: Post Magazine


Emerging Chocolatiers

There is an increasing number of Ivorians that are resigning their jobs for chocolate production. What is interesting about this new crop of chocolatiers is they are shunning the production of French chocolate.

They want a product that resonates with home: Ivorian chocolate.

The government is in agreement. Ivory Coast is currently growing, harvesting, exporting, and processing cocoa within its borders.

The result has been a boom in the cocoa industry. Ivory Coast's economy has been growing by 9% per year thanks to the increase of local chocolatiers. This growth has seen a boost in consumption and the creation of new jobs.


Alex Emmanuel, a pioneering chocolatier from Ivory Coast.
Alex Emmanuel, a pioneering chocolatier from Ivory Coast.

Source: Post Magazine


Bitter Sweets

It would be unfair – almost an insult to those affected – to talk about chocolate in Ivory Coast without mentioning its downside. As sweet as chocolate is, it has a dark side that involves child labor and trafficking. Minors in the country present a cheap – sometimes free – source of labor.

Most of the children slaving on cocoa farms are aged between 12 and 16 years old. These children experience what the International Labor Organization terms as “the worst forms of child labor.”

As of 2020, the country has made moderate advancements to eradicate child labor.



Children working on a cocoa farm.
Children working on a cocoa farm.

Source: Raconteur Media

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