Largest city (pop., 1999 est.: 3,199,000) and chief port of Côte d'Ivoire. Abidjan was a rail terminus from 1904; after its lagoon was opened to the sea to create a port (1950), the city became the financial centre of French West Africa. Though it was once the country's capital and remains its seat of government, the official capital was moved to Yamoussoukro in 1983. Abidjan has a museum of traditional Ivorian art, a national library, and several research institutes.
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According to an Ebrié legend, the name Abidjan (formerly Abijean) came from a misunderstanding. An old man, returning from his field with an armful of branches that he probably intended to use to repair the roof of his house, happened to encounter a lost European explorer who asked him the name of the nearest village. Unable to speak the white man's language, the old man believed he had been asked what he was doing there. Fleeing in terror from this unexpected encounter, the old man shouted: "tchan me bidjan" which in the Ebrié language means "I've just been cutting branches!" The white man took this to be the answer to his question and conscientiously noted the name "Abidjan".
Abidjan was the third city to be the capital of Côte d'Ivoire, after Grand-Bassam and Bingerville. Bingerville is now considered to form a suburb of the current capital. Its populace, the Tchaman, were renamed ébrié, derived from the "quolibet" given to the lagoon pirates by the inhabitants of Grand-Bassam. As such, in their language, ébrié means "salty/dirty skin".
Under the direction of engineer, Houidaille, Bingerville was created in 1899. Following an epidemic of Yellow Fever, the colonies of Grand-Bassam decided to relocate here because of its healthy atmosphere. This was also when the Colonial government started its relocation to the remote village of Adjamé, which would come to be named Bingerville after the first governor of the colonies, Louis-Gustave Binger.
The future Abidjan, nearby, also situated by the Lagune n'doupé (Lagoon of Warm Waters, the future ébrié Lagoon) offered more space and greater possibilities for commercial expansion. The Petit-Bassam Wharf, the current Port Bouët, south of the metropolitan area, grew rapidly in competition with the Grand-Bissam Wharf, until then the principal economic gateway for the colony. In 1904, when Bingerville had not yet been completed, Abidjan became the principal economic pillar of the Côte d'Ivoire colonies, a primary relay point for distribution of European goods further inland, notably by an increasingly important Lebanese community.
On 10 August 1933, a decree was passed, moving the capital from Bingerville to Abidjan (or Abidjean), displacing many tchaman villages, which moved mostly to Adjame, the 'confluence" or "centre" for tchaman, located north of the Plateau and which again became the chief tchaman community. It is here that the community lost the "Sacred Drum" (A very characteristic drum which is currently in the possession of the Musée de l'Homme - the Museum of Man) as currency of blackmail, to force Tchaman participation in the construction of the Abidjan-Niger Railway system.
South of the Plateau District, currently the central district of the abidjan metropolitan area, the village of Dugbeyo was moved to the other side of the Lagoon, in Anoumabo, "the forest of the dogfish", which would later become the district of Treichville in 1934, renamed in honour of Marcel Treich-Laplène (1860-1890), the first explorer of Côte d'Ivoire and its first colonial administrator, considered its founder. Where Dugbeyo once stood, today the Avenue Treich-Laplène serves as the main bus and ferry terminal, and is also the location of Avenue Charles de Gaulle, commonly called Commercial street.
The city is designed along the usual colonial guidelines, on the basis of rather Utopian town-planning. The colonists inhabit The Plateau ("m'brato" in the Tchaman language) while the colonized people live in the north. The two zones were separated by the Gallieni Military Barracks, where the current Law Courts are located.
In 1931, the Plateau and Treichville (which became Commikro, "the city of clerks") were roughly connected by a floating bridge at the place du pont Houphouët Boigny. In this year, the first of the street addresses of Abidjan were set up. These remained in place until in 1964, at the whim of mayor Conan Kanga, they were (badly) supplemented with the American system in 1993.
In 1951, the colonial authorities decided to build the Vidri Canal from the sea to the lagoon so that ships could access the port at Abidjan, causing a drop in temperature of the hot waters of the Lagoon n'doucé.
After independence, in 1960, the old colonial cities became administrative and business centres, as well as the Presidential seat. The southern areas of Treichville, towards the international airport and the beaches, became the district for Europeans, and the middle class Abidjanians.
The Cocody district (famous for the movie Le Gentleman de Cocody by Jean Marais) which according to colonial urban planning was to be a vast indigenous district, instead became a smart district which contained the Presidential Residence, the French Embassy, the Ivory Hotel and since 2006, the largest US Embassy in Africa.
Abidjan now entered a long phase of economic boom and huge growth which would last until the 1980's, making it the "Paris of Africa". With elegant casinos and world-class hotels, the city billed itself as the safest and most desirable tourist destination in West Africa. Its skyscraper studded skyline and fashionable shopping district became emblems of the stability and prosperity touted by the Houphouët-Boigny government and its capital-friendly pro-western policies.
Large working class zones of migrants developed between these poles, marked by precarious living conditions, feeding off the misery caused by rural migration and exploitation of sub-regional migration. It is here that the anti-French riots of November 2004 were concentrated. With decline in the 1990s blamed on negligent civil servants, political infighting following Houphouët-Boigny death, and high levels of corruption, and in spite of undeniable modernization since 1980, there has been a general degradation of Abidjan's infrastructure and a growth of pollution. The 2006 poisoning of over 10,000 by foreign toxic waste dumped in the city's refuse tips is but one, extreme, example. Since 1999 the city has suffered further from the chaos and economic dislocation caused by civil war in the north, political tumult, and flight of capital.
In 1983, the town of Yamoussoukro became the new capital of Côte d'Ivoire under president Felix Houphouët-Boigny, who wanted to transform his native village into the Brasilia of the African Savannah. The new capital, an important crossroads as well as an active commercial pillar, remains eclipsed by Abidjan.
The figures as of 2006 estimate the abidjanaise population at 3,796,677. In 2006 the metropolitan area of Abidjan had 5,060,858 inhabitants. This increase in the population can be attributed to the displacement caused by the war (since September 2002). This city has many inhabitants who come to live downtown because they seek employment and safer lodgings.
|1000||48 000||500 000||1 200 000||3 125 890||3 660 682|
|Numbers since 1920 : Population without duplication|
By 1950, Abidjan had just exceeded a population of 50,000 (at the end of 1948). Reaching a population of a million by the end of the year 1975,the city grew at a rate of 10 to 12 % a year: a doubling every 6 or 7 years. But this growth underwent a sharp decline due to the crises of the 80s and 90s. In the last 20 years of the 20th century the growth rate dropped to 6%. Growth by birth rate was supplemented by migration, with the influx being substantial and the outflow only partly compensating the arrivals. Positive migration, prior to the census of 1988, contributed a growth of about 80,000 with 50,000 people from within Côte d'Ivoire, and about 30,000 from abroad per year. From within Côte d'Ivoire, the migration pattern was dominated by Akan (South-east, 48%), then Mande (North-west, 24%) and Krou (South-west, 20%). From abroad, the migration was Burkinabes (30%), Malians (22%), Ghanaians (19%), Natives of Niger (11%), of the Guineans (9%). It should be noted that of the Non-African migration, Moroccan migration exceeded that of Europeans, with the French being largest of these. All in all, Non-African migration represents hardly 3% of the total population of Abidjan, which is still the highest in the area.
The urban distribution appears disorganized. Indeed, Abidjan, an immense city home to approximately 2,500,000 people, has seen its population doubling every seven years since 1945. Where does such growth come from? From the future opportunities it represents for the rural people. And so, this city which accounts for 45% of the habitants of Côte d'Ivoire and contributes to 20% of the country's population endures a population invasion from rural peasant folk hoping for a better life. However if a major rise has been noticed for nearly half a century, the fact remains that now this growth does not come closer than 4.5% per annum (compared to 10% from 1960 to 1990), with only about 1/3 contribution of rural migration (2/3 from 1960 to 1990). However, in spite of this fall, the city is still gigantic compared to the second most important city of the country, Bouaké (1,500,000 inhabitants) or even to the capital Yamoussoukro (100,000 inhabitants).
Before 2002, there existed a City of Abidjan (Ville d'Abidjan). The city of Abidjan was subdivided into ten communes, each with their municipal council and their mayor. Above the 10 communes was the central city hall, with a city-wide mayor (maire d'Abidjan), often colloquially called "super-maire".
The city of Abidjan was inside the département of Abidjan. This département was made up of the city of Abidjan, plus three subprefectures outside of the city of Abidjan. The département of Abidjan was itself inside the Lagunes région.
The district of Abidjan is made up of the following subdivisions:
Each of these communes is governed by its own Municipal Corporation, headed by a Mayor.
Abobo, Adjamé, Attécoubé, Cocody, Plateau and Yopougon are located North of the Ébrié Lagoon (called Abidjan North) on the continental side of Abidjan.
Treichville, Koumassi, Marcory and Port-Bouët form part of Abidjan South.
Blokosso and Locodjro are villages included within the city and which maintain their cultural identity in the urban environment.
It should be noted that the distinction between Abidjan Ville and areas outside of Abidjan Ville is purely statistical, much like the distinction between Inner London and Outer London. The administration of the district is unified, covering both Abdijan Ville and areas outside of Abidjan Ville.
Executive power is in the hands of the District Governor (Gouverneur du District), appointed by the president of Côte d'Ivoire. The governor serves a 5-year term. The governor of the district of Abidjan is the de facto mayor of Abidjan, and is often presented as such in international context.
Legislative power is in the hands of the District Council (Conseil du District). The District Council is made up of 78 members, who serve a 5-year term. One-third of the members are chosen by the municipal councils of the communes making up the district of Abidjan. Two-third of the members are directly elected every five years by the Ivorian citizens living in the District of Abidjan.
Major industries include food processing, coffee, cocoa, lumber, automobile manufacturing, and the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, and soap. There is also a large oil refinery. Abidjan is also a large commercial sea port, forming a gateway for the industrial world to and from Western Africa
Trains on the line to Ouagadougou run from several stations in the city, the most important being in Treichville. Ferries link Treichville, Abobo-Doumé and the Plateau. The Port Bouet Airport is located approximately 10 mi/16 km from downtown Abidjan.
The SOTRA (Society of Transportation, Abidjan) and the SOTU (Society of Urban Transportation) ensure regular urban transportation by means of Bus, Taxi baggage and Ligne Express train.
The last of the projects in Abidjan is the electric train which the Ivory Coast Railroad Company (Cicf) promised. The development of infrastructure including a suburban train system in Abidjan is evaluated at nearly 100 billion Fcfa, and should connect the North-West to the East and the North of the town of Abidjan. This project extends from the current railway operated by Sitarail (a subsidiary of the Bolloré group). Infrastructure works were estimated to cost 40 billions Francs,CFA financed by the State of Côte d'Ivoire, and the backers (World Bank and AFD). In addition, a BOT type concession contract for 20 to 30 years would be alloted to a private contractor for the operation of the network. This operator will undertake the acquisition and transportation of material, restoration of workshops, and installation of the operating system. The contract has been evaluated at 60 billion Francs CFA.
The airport has a runway, Instrument Landing System 3B equipment, 25 check-in counters, and nine boarding access points. AERIA, Abidjan Airport Management Company, operates and manages the airport area and relevant indirect services. There is a military apron at the airport. Private aircraft usually park in the commercial area, away from the terminal. Fencing and lighting are adequate at this facility.
The two halves of the city (northern Abidjan and southern Abidjan) are connected by the Houphouët-Boigny and de Gaulle bridges. These bridges are located between Treichville and the Plateau, their capacity is definitely insufficient, especially during peak hours. This report has encouraged the government to study a project for the construction of a third bridge which should be located between Cocody and Marcory. Unfortunately, the political disturbances that the country has suffered since December 1999 have put this project out of the lime light. However the project had begun, with inhabitants relocated, buildings were also destroyed in Marcory opposite the Mille Maquis (the famous restaurant La Bâche bleue was also relocated).
Abidjan is considered a crossroads of Western Africa art and music. It hosts various arts festivals, while many musical groups, such as Magic System are from the city.
As the economic capital and largest city in Côte d’Ivoire, violence due to ongoing conflict remains a concern in Abidjan. Although the security situation has stabilized significantly since November 2004 and citizens have resumed regular daily activities, sporadic violence still occurs. Pro-government militia groups have previously been concentrated in the Adjamé district. There have been isolated incidents of violence between the militia and local residents.
Even before the September 2002 mutiny, the crime rate has continually increased as a result of poor economic conditions, an influx of weapons and refugees from neighboring Liberia, and urban migration. Burglaries commonly occur at residences, restaurants, and small businesses. Petty theft is prevalent throughout Abidjan and armed gangs are a growing problem. Tourists are frequently robbed on the Houphouet-Boigny and Charles de Gaulle bridges.
This is an incomplete list.