Ivory Coast Table of Contents
World War II had a profound effect on the future of all French West Africa. The fall of France and the establishment of the German-allied Vichy government in France forced the French colonies to declare loyalty either to the Vichy regime or to the Free French under General Charles de Gaulle. Although all the AOF governors remained loyal to the Vichy government, Ivoirians largely favored the Free French.
The Vichy government, espousing Nazi racial theories, subjected French West Africa to economic exploitation and overt racism. French planters intensified their labor recruitment practices and military conscription. Farmers were forced to meet production quotas to supply the armed forces at the expense of the local residents, whose standard of living had already been greatly lowered by the cutoff of imports from Europe.
The onset of World War II and the rapid surrender of France, the self-described purveyor of a so-called higher civilization, sharply revised political thinking in Côte d'Ivoire. Ivoirians resented Vichy policies and began to express feelings of Ivoirian nationalism. Ivoirian intellectuals were attracted by some of the Marxist ideas introduced by anti-Nazi movements and by some French teachers and labor organizers. In 1943 branches of an organization known as Communist Study Groups were established in the principal cities of West Africa, including Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire. Many African intellectuals in these groups later became prominent as postwar national leaders.
Data as of November 1988