Cote d’Ivoire: An African ‘success’ story
The trajectory of Cote d’Ivoire, seen in its heydays in the 1960’s and 1970’s as an African ‘success story’, nicely illustrates common forms of interaction between the political and economic realms in post-colonial Africa. Under the rule of Felix Houphouët-Boigny (1960-1993), the country adopted a pro-market economic model based on agricultural exports and a significant presence of foreign capital. Some of the ‘pathologies’ of other African countries, such as excessive interventionism in rural markets, the distribution of resources from rural to urban sectors, and a bloated (and inefficient) public sector were limited. This has been frequently attributed to the landowning roots of much of the political elite, as well as the continuation of close links to France. Similarly to most other African countries, national unity was maintained through a complex system of rent allocation skillfully controlled by the president at the centre.
Throughout this period, there was growth in the manufacturing sector, although it was mostly geared towards processing commodities or serving the domestic market, and never achieved international levels of competitiveness. Despite the adoption of a ‘liberal’ economic model, much of the growth was driven by foreign investors, and most Ivoirians preferred entry into the public sector rather than working in the private sector, resulting in the absence of an independent, indigenous entrepreneurial class.
The period of high prices for cocoa and coffee in the 1970’s, combined with the political requirements of regime survival, led to an intensification of the rent-distribution process at the heart of the political order, resulting in a ballooning external debt. Once commodity prices started falling, and in the absence of other sources of foreign exchange, the economy tailspinned. In this new scenario, the system of national integration could not be kept in place anymore, paving the way for the collapse of the first post-independence Ivoirian order and a series of coups d’état, as well as the First (2002-2007) and Second (2010-2011) Ivoirian Civil Wars.
The initial success and subsequent failure of the Ivoirian political economy shows that even in a somewhat improved form, some of the common features of African political economies, in combination, have not proved compatible with sustained economic development. This underscores African countries’ need for new development models that reconfigure the relationship between politics and economics.
 Although they were definitely present, making Cote d’Ivoire less a case of a fundamentally different development model, than of a ‘typical’ African development model in a more effective form. See Richard C. Crook (1989) – “Patrimonialism, Administrative Effectiveness and Economic Development in Cote d’Ivoire”, African Affairs, 88(351): 205-228.
 For an elaboration of this point, see Lippolis and Peel (2018) – “Political Strategies for Industrial Development” Background Paper for Programme on Rethinking African Paths to Industrial Development. Blavatnik School of Government and Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford