The case of Abidjan, Ivory Coast

This report is part of a set of studies of slum conditions, policies and strategies, commissioned and compiled in preparation for the United Nations Global Report on Human Settlements 2003 – The Challenge of Slums. The case study cities were selected by an expert group assembled by UN-Habitat to design and prepare the first draft of the Global Report in January 2002. Care was taken to achieve a representative geographical distribution, a spread of city sizes and ‘levels of development’. The availability of information and researchers was also taken into account.

The authors all worked to a common terms of reference and template for structuring the studies that was developed by the expert group. The compilation and editing of the case studies was undertaken by the Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London (UCL).

It is intended that this CD-ROM containing 34 city case studies, already a valuable resource for capacity building, research and information exchange, should become a live website to which other city studies will be added. Thus, the invitation is hereby extended to urban researchers and city administrations to prepare such studies for cities not yet included.


The Ivory Coast’s plantation economy was characterised by continuous growth from soon after independ- ence until the 1980s. This growth, of which the pace, extent and continuity are exceptional in the West African sub-region, exercised an undeniable attraction on migrants from far and wide, favouring a rapid process of urbanisation and a doubling of the country’s population from 3.6 million in 1960 to 7.5 million in 1978. These trends remain significant. The population of Abidjan registered an average annual growth rate of 8.2 per cent between 1965 and 1978. The inland cities, for their part, found themselves with a rate of growth of approximately 7 per cent during the same period. The country’s level of urbanisation was also increasing, at 31.8 per cent in 1975, 42 per cent in 1992 and reached 47.7 per cent in 1997 and it will probably reach 55.7 per cent in 2015 (PNUD 1999, p 200). This makes it one of the highest levels of urbanisation in the West African region. The capital, Abidjan, subject to the same pace of accelerated urbanisation, has a cosmopolitan charac- ter, and welcomes migrants not only from regions throughout the country but also from its neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Ghana and the majority of West African countries. Abidjan accounts for 18 per cent of national employment, 52 per cent of secondary and tertiary urban employment and 50 per cent of the gross domestic profit in the country as a whole. Thus, it can be stated that “Abidjan has progressively become a major focus of attention throughout the whole of West Africa, more especially for the populations of the Sahel, affected by successive droughts” (Thierry, 1995, p 45). In 1978, only 35 per cent of the residents were natives of the city, of which a majority were children. In the 15 to 59 age group, only one individual in ten was born in Abidjan. Moreover, more than 38 per cent of the inhabitants of the Abidjan agglomeration are not originally from the Ivory Coast. Similarly, the number of inhabitants of the autochtho- nous ethnicity, the ‘Ebriés’, has experienced a notice- able decrease. Representing 37 per cent of the total population of the city in the 1936 census, it was only 6.8 per cent in 1955, 5.5 per cent in 1963 and 3.3 per cent in 1975 (Antoine et al, 1987).

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Publication Type report
Publisher UN HABITAT
Year 2003
Author(s) Kouamé Appessika
Editor(s) UN HABITAT
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