Ivory Coast Table of Contents

Côte d'Ivoire's first national census in 1975 counted 6.7 million inhabitants, allowing 1987 estimates of 10.6 million. The 1987 annual growth rate was 4.1 percent. Regional variations were marked, with annual growth of only 1 percent in the far north, but throughout the country, population growth rates, which included high net immigration rates, were increasing. In the late 1980s, population projections for the year 2000 exceeded 20 million people.

Country-wide, life expectancy rose from thirty-nine to fiftyone years between 1960 and 1988, and during the same period, the average annual birth rate also increased steadily to 45.9 per 1,000 population. Fertility rates were about average for West Africa at 6.6 births per adult female. Fertility rates were lowest in Abidjan and highest in rural areas, where infant mortality also remained relatively high.

Mortality rates overall declined sharply after 1960, when onethird of all infants died before the age of five. Infant mortality in the first year of life declined to 110 deaths per 1,000 births in the late 1980s. The crude death rate was just over 14 per 1,000 population.


Population density increased steadily from twenty-one inhabitants per square kilometer in 1975 to thirty-two in 1987. This national average masked uneven distribution, however, with much of the population concentrated in the south and fewer than ten inhabitants per square kilometer in parts of the north. The southwestern corner of the country presented a low-density exception to this pattern. Population distribution reflected Ivoirian history more than physical environment. Most areas of high density corresponded to the first centers of settlement by major ethnic groups, especially the Akan and Mandé, altered in the north by nineteenth-century conquests by Samori Touré. Colonial policy moved villages nearer transportation routes in order to control the population and to provide a ready labor supply. In the late 1980s, the population was still distributed along main roads as the result of resettlements, which had continued into the 1930s in the southwest.

Ivoirian settlement patterns in the late 1980s also revealed continued southward migration from the savanna to the forest, a process first set in motion by precolonial invasions from the north and continued by colonial policies emphasizing cash crop and plantation agriculture. This migration pattern was aided by postindependence urban and industrial development, which took place primarily in the southeast.


Urbanization was rapid after 1950, as the urban population grew by an average of 11.5 percent per year until 1965 and about 8 percent per year from 1966 to 1988. As a result, Côte d'Ivoire had a high urban-rural population ratio compared with the rest of subSaharan Africa. Roughly one-half of the 1987 population lived in urban areas, defined as localities of more than 10,000 inhabitants and those of more than 4,000 inhabitants where more than half of all households depended on nonagricultural incomes. In 1988 about 20 percent of the total population lived in the capital city of Abidjan.

Foreigners--mostly West Africans--made up from 27 percent to 50 percent of the population and were more highly urbanized than indigenous groups. Foreign migrants have sought jobs in Ivoirian industry, commerce, and plantation agriculture since the beginning of the twentieth century, especially after World War II. Most have found work in urban areas, but in 1980 the number of Ivoirians who migrated from rural to urban areas was almost equaled by the 75,000 migrant farm workers from neighboring states.

Because of moderately high fertility, falling mortality rates, and labor immigration, the Ivoirian population was fairly young by world standards. About 45 percent of the 1987 population was under the age of fifteen, and the dependency ratio--the number of elderly and young dependents in relation to 100 working-age adults--was 92 nationwide. There were 110 males per 100 females, reflecting the largely male immigrant work force.


For more recent population estimates, see Facts about Ivory Coast.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress