The Consequences of Customized Democracy: Forecasting the Political and Economic Future of Africa's Cote d'Ivoire

By Jasso, Sean D. | Journal of Global Business Issues, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

The Consequences of Customized Democracy: Forecasting the Political and Economic Future of Africa's Cote d'Ivoire


Jasso, Sean D., Journal of Global Business Issues


ABSTRACT

This paper asks the question where did Cote d'Ivoire's opportunity to democratize fall short? The consequences of customized democracy point to a boom-to-bust economy, recent civil war, ethnic and geographic cleavage, and declining investor confidence in the world's leading cocoa exporter. However, careful analysis of the political and economic history as well as traditional democratic theory, yield a more favorable outlook than indicators propose. All stakeholders of Africa are watching Cote d'Ivoire's October 2007 elections not only symbolizing an advancement in their democracy, but also as a possible model for other African nations whose call to modernize and democratize have been too long in waiting.

Key Words: Africa, African Politics, Cote d'Ivoire, Democracy, Democratization, Customized Democracy, Political Economy

INTRODUCTION

This paper explores the unbalanced political and economic history of Cote d'Ivoire and its impact on business, government, and society. Achieving independence from France in i960, the past 47 years has seen robust economic growth, powerful and sustainable leadership for over three decades by the namesake of Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Boigny), only to see the last five years bring the country to civil war and to a virtual collapsed state. The central question of the paper is where did Cote d'lvoire's opportunity to democratize fall short? In conjunction with this question, I assess Claude Ake's assertion about the recipe for democratization of Africa urged by the West where liberal democracy, that is, the 'Western' brand of democracy, may not always be the best formula for democratization in Africa.

The organization of the paper looks at three major areas: first, I provide a political and economic overview of Cote d'Ivoire to offer a context for understanding democracy in such a volatile nation. In part two, I explore the institutional nature of democracy itself and target the central question of this paper as to where Cote d'Ivoire missed the opportunity to democratize. In part three, I look ahead and attempt to forecast what the future of Cote d'Ivoire will be in 2013, the twentieth anniversary of the end of Boigny's leadership as well as what can be marked as the beginning of the nation's political and economic decline. The overarching goal is to present the student and manager of global business with insight into the political and economic history of a small African nation that through its single commodity (cocoa - as we explore below) maintains a wide and important grasp on world trade and regional peace.

PART ONE: A POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC OVERVIEW OF COTE DTVOIRE

Politics

Cote d'Ivoire is located in West Africa on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Its neighbors include Liberia to the west, Ghana to the east, and Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso along its northern border. The country is among the larger African nations with a population near 20 million and an estimated GDP of $28 billion and a GDP per capita above $1600. The nation has suffered from a negative growth rate since the civil war began in 2002. The formal governmental institutions of Cote d'Ivoire consist of a republic supported by a constitution and an electoral system that consistently holds both national presidential as well as regional district elections. Yet, at the foundation of this democratic government is one of the major problems attributed to much of the political turmoil - a single-party, unicameral legislature. The demographic synopsis is a nation rich with ethnic diversity, yet profoundly strict on the Ivorian nationality. The nation has a mixed religious base of approximately 40% Muslim (primarily in the north), 30% Christian (primarily in the coastal south), and 30% indigenous faiths (CIA).

Achieving independence from France in 1960, Félix Houphouët-Boigny becomes the first Ivorian president using his charisma, entrepreneurship, and politically moderate leadership to build Cote d'Ivoire into one of the most prosperous West African nations. …

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