The Ivory Coast gets its independence from France.
IVORY COAST – August 7. A referendum in 1958 resulted in the Ivory Coast becoming an autonomous republic. In June of 1960, the pro-French Félix Houphouët-Boigny proclaimed the country’s independence, but maintaining close ties between Abidjan and Paris. The Ivory Coast became one of the most prosperous West African nations.
President Félix Houphouët-Boigny and First Lady Marie-Thérèse Houphouët-Boigny in the White House Entrance Hall with President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1962.
Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the son of a Baoulé chief, became Ivory Coast’s father of independence. In 1944, he formed the country’s first agricultural trade union for African cocoa farmers like himself. Angered that colonial policy favoured French plantation owners, the union members united to recruit migrant workers for their own farms. Houphouët-Boigny soon rose to prominence and within a year was elected to the French Parliament in Paris. A year later, the French abolished forced labour. Houphouët-Boigny established a strong relationship with the French government, expressing a belief that the Ivory Coast would benefit from the relationship, which it did for many years. France appointed him as a minister, the first African to become a minister in a European government.
A turning point in relations with France was reached with the 1956 Overseas Reform Act, which transferred a number of powers from Paris to elected territorial governments in French West Africa and also removed the remaining voting inequities. In 1958, Ivory Coast became an autonomous member of the French Community, which had replaced the French Union.
At independence 1960, the country was easily French West Africa’s most prosperous, contributing over 40% of the region’s total exports. When Houphouët-Boigny became the first president, his government gave farmers good prices for their products to further stimulate production, which was further boosted by a significant immigration of workers from surrounding countries. Coffee production increased significantly, catapulting Ivory Coast into third place in world output, behind Brazil and Colombia. By 1979, the country was the world’s leading producer of cocoa. It also became Africa’s leading exporter of pineapples and palm oil. French technicians contributed to the “Ivoirian miracle”. In other African nations, the people drove out the Europeans following independence, but in Ivory Coast, they poured in. The French community grew from only 30,000 prior to independence to 60,000 in 1980, most of them teachers, managers, and advisors. For 20 years, the economy maintained an annual growth rate of nearly 10%—the highest of Africa’s non-oil-exporting countries.