News / Africa

Sanctions Hurt Ivory Coast Economy

Security contain clients standing outside the headquarters of the Bicici bank as they came to withdraw money in Abidjan, March 3, 2011
Security contain clients standing outside the headquarters of the Bicici bank as they came to withdraw money in Abidjan, March 3, 2011

Economic sanctions against Ivory Coast are hurting business in the world's top cocoa producer.

Thousands of civil servants line up along Abidjan's Rue des Banques, waiting to be paid their February salaries. When foreign banks closed last month because of regional sanctions against incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, his government faced its biggest economic challenge yet: finding the cash to pay its workers, especially its soldiers.

Gbagbo's government quickly took charge of those banks and reopened them this week, just in time to pay civil servants 80 percent of their normal salaries.

"That will be a great success. I am sure they will be able to do it," said English teacher Ibrahim Kalo.  He says the regional central bank move to cut off the Gbagbo government was a challenge to all Ivorians - a challenge that has been met.

"I think this was an operation to diabolize [demonize] the government of Cote d'Ivoire,” Kalo added. “But I think they can pay us. That is why we are standing now in the queue. You can see from all the banks here long lines of people waiting for money, and they will be paid. You can be sure of that. There is no trouble."

Winceslas Appia, general manager of Abidjan's Bank for Agricultural Financing says there is enough cash to take care of everyone. So people should remain calm, he said. Appia said the banks have put in place measures to reinforce their staff so everyone will be served.

Withdrawals limited

Personal withdrawals are limited to about $425 a day. Gbagbo's Minister of Economy and Finance, Desire Dallo says those limits are meant to help the banking system stay solvent.

Dallo is asking people not to withdraw all their money because the banking system works only if there is a balance between deposits and loans. Dallo said it is obvious that people are afraid that banks will close again. But he said these are now state-run banks that will not fail, so account holders should not panic and withdraw all their money because that will not help.

Why sanctions?

Economic sanctions are meant to drive Gbagbo from power after he claimed re-election in last November's disputed presidential runoff. The constitutional council annulled nearly 10 percent of the ballots as fraudulent. Ivory Coast's electoral commission and the United Nations certified results that say former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara won that vote.

Ouattara's call for a ban on cocoa exports has brought most of that industry to a halt, denying the Gbagbo government an important source of tax revenue. Sanctions have led to a shortage of cooking gas and the collapse of money transfers and credit cards, making Ivory Coast a cash-only economy.

Economic impact

Senegalese businessman Mouctar Bah sells mobile phones in Abidjan's Treichville neighborhood.

Bah says Seneglese merchants were in Ivory Coast when it was good. Now nothing is working. There is not Western Union or banks to transfer money. Businessmen are not politicians, Bah says, so when things are not working, it is time to leave.

At a Total Petrol station on Boulevard du General DeGaulle, motorists are no longer allowed to buy fuel in jerry cans. It is part of a government campaign to prevent hoarding as Abidjan's refinery is reducing production because it is having trouble buying crude.


Ouattara supporters say sanctions against Gbagbo are working, though more slowly than they hoped.

"We will see that the effects will be quite remarkable,” said Jean-Marie Kacou Gervais, Ouattara's foreign minister. “We can't see it by now, but it's on. And I am sure he will not be able to stand the heat when the time comes."

Even those who do not recognize Gbagbo's authority agree that his is the de facto government in Ivory Coast so long as it pays its soldiers.

"He has the army and he also has got the finance to pay,” said Hamadoun Toure, the United Nations mission spokesman. “As long as he has the two powers, he will be in control of the situation."

Pro-Gbagbo parliamentarian Bamba Massany says Ivorians will not be cowed by the international community.

Massany said sanctions against the Gbagbo government are inhuman and nonsensical. Now is the time for people to help the government, as Massany said it is working to strengthen Ivory Coast's economic foundations.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs