Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
You may have heard of the 'gold coast,' but how about the Ivory Coast? Gold isn't the only valuable thing to historically come out of Africa, after all. Colonial powers referred to a stretch of the West African coastline as the Ivory Coast due to the massive amounts of ivory that made it from Central Africa to the ports of the shore. Eventually, the Ivory Coast became a colony of France, and today is its own nation. In the U.S. call it the Ivory Coast, but they go by the French version: Cote d'Ivoire. Located on the Gulf of Guinea, in between the nations of Liberia, Mali, and Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire may not rely on ivory trade any more, but to the people who live here this coast will always be better than gold.
Ethnicity in Cote d'Ivoire
So who are the people of Cote d'Ivoire? Like many African nations, Cote d'Ivoire was formed by colonial powers, and so many ethnic groups were brought together as a nation without there necessarily being a shared history between them. In fact, there are over 60 formally recognized ethnic groups in Cote d'Ivoire, each with its own language and customs. Generally, however, these can be categorized into 7 major groups of ethnicities that share similar ethno-linguistic traits.
The largest of the groups of ethnicities in Cote d'Ivoire are the Akan. Akan groups make up about 32% of the total population. The Akan ethnic groups are found throughout Cote d'Ivoire, as well as the neighboring nation of Ghana. The Akan languages belong to the Tano language family, and are spoken by roughly 20 million people across these nations. For centuries, the Akan dominated the trade routes along the coast of West Africa, bringing them into contact with Central African and European merchants alike. Today, the various Akan groups largely share a common identity, seeing themselves basically as one people with some regional ethnic distinctions. Many Akan traditions, especially their art, have become widely adopted throughout Cote d'Ivoire as sort of a national standard.
The Akan groups make up most of Cote d'Ivoire, but they are by no means alone. The second largest of the overarching groups is the Gur, sometimes called Voltaique. The Gur ethnic groups are mostly found in the northern part of Cote d'Ivoire, as well as in neighboring Mali and Ghana. While the largest of the Gur ethnic groups (the Mossi and Senufo) predominantly practice Sunni Islam, the other Gur groups tend to favor local religions. Altogether, the Gur people make up about 15% of Cote d'Ivoire's total population.
After the Gur, the next largest group are the Northern Mande, who also live (no surprise) predominantly in the north. A little over 12% of the nation belong to one of these groups. Following close behind them are the Krou, who make up around 10% of the population. However, one of the Krou groups, the Bete, is actually one of the larger single ethnic groups in the nation. The rest of the population generally belongs to one of the other three major groupings of ethnicities: the Peripheral Mande, Senoufou, and Lobi.
So, that's Cote d'Ivoire. It's a very diverse place, which in many areas can lead to fair amount of ethnic tension. Cote d'Ivoire has not experienced the major genocidal programs of other African nations, but has dealt with its own degree of ethnic tension. Many inequalities within Cote d'Ivoire do fall along ethnic lines, but this isn't always intentional. Government services are lacking within many regions of Cote d'Ivoire after a rough political history (one of the nation's former presidents is standing trial for crimes against humanity) and so ethnic groups in underdeveloped regions tend to have fewer opportunities and less stability. So, there are ethnic divisions in Cote d'Ivoire, a fact which becomes clear during presidential elections when each ethnic group nominates their own candidate. While national unity is relatively low, unity within greater ethnic categories is pretty high, reflecting divisions that have existed along the Ivory Coast since the region first earned that name.
The nation of Cote d'Ivoire (called the Ivory Coast in English) is a diverse place located on the Atlantic coast of West Africa that became home to ports that shipped out ivory around the world. Though it became a French colony, it's home to over 60 ethnic groups, although these can be grouped into 7 larger ethnic categories, based on similar ethno-linguistic traits. The largest group are the Akan peoples, who make up around 32% of the total population. After that are the Gur (second largest at 15 % of the population and also called the 'Voltaique'), Northern Mande (12% of the population in the northern region), Krou (10% of the population), Peripheral Mande, Senoufou, and Lobi groups (the lowest three populations). People within each of these groups generally have a fair amount of cultural unity and shared identity, but this unity doesn't always stretch to a national level. The Ivory Coast has been a complex place for a long time, and that heritage is still reflected in the nation today.
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