Ivory Coast Table of Contents
Koulango village Engraving from Louis Gustave Binger, Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée, 1892.
As France consolidated its holdings in Côte d'Ivoire, it began to take steps to make the colony self-supporting. In 1900 the French initiated a policy that made each colony responsible for securing the resources--both money and personnel--needed for its administration and defense; France would offer assistance only when needed.
The public works programs undertaken by the Ivoirian colonial government and the exploitation of natural resources required massive commitments of labor. The French therefore imposed a system of forced labor under which each male adult Ivoirian was required to work for ten days each year without compensation as part of his obligation to the state. The system was subject to extreme misuse and was the most hated aspect of French colonial rule. Because the population of Côte d'Ivoire was insufficient to meet the labor demand on French plantations and forests, which were among the greatest users of labor in the AOF, the French recruited large numbers of workers from Upper Volta to work in Côte d'Ivoire. This source of labor was so important to the economic life of Côte d'Ivoire that in 1932 the AOF annexed a large part of Upper Volta to Côte d'Ivoire and administered it as a single colony.
In addition to the political and economic changes produced by colonial rule, the French also introduced social institutions that brought about fundamental changes to Ivoirian culture. Catholic missionaries established a network of churches and primary schools, which in time provided the literate Ivoirians needed by government and commerce. Some of the wealthier and more ambitious Ivoirians continued their educations at the few secondary schools and at French universities, adopting European culture and values and becoming members of a new African elite. The members of this elite were accepted as cultural and social equals by their white counterparts and were exempt from military and labor service.
Except in remote rural areas, the colonial government gradually destroyed the traditional elite by reducing the local rulers to junior civil servants and by indiscriminately appointing as rulers people with no legitimate claims to such titles. In areas where traditional leaders retained their position and power, they often developed strong rivalries with educated Ivoirians who tried to usurp that leadership on the grounds that their education and modern outlook better suited them for the position.
Data as of November 1988