GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE SOCIETY
The Republic of the Ivory Coast, formerly the Ivory Coast territory of the African Federation, observed its second anniversary of independence on August 7, 1962. Since World War II, the outstanding political figure of the country has been Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Until 1950 he led his people in opposition to the French and subsequently in cooperation that culminated, in 1958, in the birth of the French Community of autonomous republics. Finally, in reaction to African political events beyond his control, he led them to reluctant independence outside the Community in 1960. In independence, as in the 1950's, the Ivory Coast was close to France, economically and politically, and government policy was one of cautious adaptation to the twentieth century in close cooperation, known as interdependence, with the mother country.
The Ivory Coast lies at the western edge of the Gulf of Guinea between the 5th and 10th parallels north of the equator, surrounded by Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Upper Volta and Ghana. With an area of approximately 124,000 square miles, it is almost twice the size of New England.
Although European merchants plied the Gulf of Guinea as early as the fifteenth century, serious French penetration of the Ivory Coast did not begin until about the middle of the nineteenth century. The country became one of the territories of the federation of French West Africa (Afrique Occidentale Française--AOF) shortly after the turn of the century, but its boundaries were quite different from those of today. Most of Upper Volta was part of the Ivory Coast for a number of years following World War I. After World War II, when the rise of political parties and the development of substantial export crops began to make the boundaries between territories of the federation a matter of real importance, Upper Volta was detached from the Ivory Coast, and the present northeastern boundary was finally fixed. Because the seat of the federation's government was Dakar, all else in French West Africa was overshadowed by contrast. Governmental, educational and economic forces were concentrated in Dakar long before Abidjan was more than a few huts, lost in a forest at the water's edge.