Côte d’Ivoire (also known as the Ivory Coast) is in western Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. Its neighbors are Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. The country consists of a coastal strip in the south, dense forests in the interior, and savannas in the north.
Côte d’Ivoire was originally made up of numerous isolated settlements; today it represents more than sixty distinct tribes, including the Baoule, Bete, Senoufou, Agni, Malinke, Dan, and Lobi. Côte d’Ivoire attracted both French and Portuguese merchants in the 15th century who were in search of ivory and slaves. French traders set up establishments early in the 19th century, and in 1842, the French obtained territorial concessions from local tribes, gradually extending their influence along the coast and inland. The area was organized as a territory in 1893, became an autonomous republic in the French Union after World War II, and achieved independence on Aug. 7, 1960. Côte d’Ivoire formed a customs union in 1959 with Dahomey (Benin), Niger, and Burkina Faso. The nation’s economy is one of the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa and one of the largest exporters of coffee.
Religion in Ivory Coast is very heterogeneous, with Islam (almost all Sunni Muslims, with some Ahmadi Muslims) and Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic with smaller numbers of Methodists and Protestants) being the major religions. Muslims dominate the north, while Christians dominate the south. In 2009, according to U.S. Department of State estimates, Christians and Muslims each made up 35 to 40% of the population, while an estimated 25% of the population practiced traditional religions. Ivory Coast’s capital, Yamoussoukro, is home to the largest church building in the world, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro.