Developing Countries

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This video program features two case studies on Africa South of the Sahara: Cote d'Ivoire: Cocoa and Change and Gabon: Sustainable Resources?

Both Cote d'Ivoire and Gabon are former colonies of France and have rich, culturally diverse populations. Each has pursued economic development with varied success.

The first case study, Cote d'Ivoire: Cocoa and Change, shows that Cote d' Ivoire, previously known as Ivory Coast, is the largest cocoa producer in the world. The country experienced strong economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s based upon the export of this commodity. Plantation agriculture requires a hot, humid rain forest environment for cultivation and demands significant labor for crop production. Migration to fill the demand for labor has resulted in an influx of people from different ethnic groups, as shown in the village of Nipy, located in the southwestern part of this West African country.

Agricultural wealth influenced the growth and activities of Abidjan, the principal city and port of Cote d'Ivoire. The government administration centered in Abidjan manages economic stabilization programs that have encouraged growth and aided development through investment in the country's infrastructure. The creation of services and facilities in the new, more geographically centered capital of Yamoussoukro has had positive and negative aspects, mirroring the situation throughout the country. Major economic, environmental, and social problems have arisen, including an over dependence on a single export commodity, deforestation caused by an increase in cultivation, and an influx of migrant peoples.

The update to this case study includes discussion of changes in the Cote d'Ivoire government and commentary by Dr. Thomas Bassett concerning tensions over the reduced availability of land for cocoa cultivation, and who is or is not "Ivorian."

The second case study, Gabon: Sustainable Resources?, looks at another former colonial possession of France. Situated in Equatorial Africa, the country of Gabon is sparsely populated and its economy is based upon the export of primary resources, mostly derived from oil and wood products. While oil exports now dominate in terms of revenue, the exploitation of forested areas to produce wood products remains a concern.

Like Cote d'Ivoire, the fragile structure of the Gabonese economy is tied to external demand for its commodities. Because falling prices in international markets have decreased domestic tax revenues, government spending at home cannot adequately provide public services and utilities, as seen in the shanty town near Libreville, the country's capital and largest city. Most of the residents inhabiting these inadequate quarters and low-lying flood plains have migrated from rural areas. The financial crisis of 1986, caused by the fall of the price of oil and the devaluation of the Gabonese currency, has been difficult on the poor.

To improve life for the people, the government is attempting to restructure its policy and reduce dependence on oil as the basis for its economy. While oil will remain an important export for the next few years, diversification into agriculture and forestry will contribute to stabilization of the country's economy. Another sector that may allow sustainable development is ecotourism, capitalizing on a new national park system that protects Gabon's equatorial rainforest.

Updates to this video program include information on the new park system and its development, featuring commentary by Leslie White of the Wildlife Conservation Society, new video footage, and a general update of the situation in Gabon.

Find additional resources, including primary source materials, interactives, and downloadable print materials, at:

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