The French

The French

Côte d'Ivoire's ties to France had grown stronger since independence in 1960. Although the number of French advisers continued to shrink, between 1960 and 1980 the total French population in Côte d'Ivoire nearly doubled, from about 30,000 to close to 60,000, forming the largest French expatriate community. By 1988, as Côte d'Ivoire's economy continued to contract, about half of the French either returned to France or moved elsewhere in Africa. In the mid-1980s, four out of five resident French had lived in Côte d'Ivoire for more than five years. French citizens filled technical and advisory positions in the government, albeit in diminishing numbers, but were also evident throughout the private sector. Until 1985 Côte d'Ivoire also had the highest number of teaching and nonteaching French coopérants in Africa, the highest number of students in French universities, the highest number of French multinationals in all of Africa, the largest percentage of French imports and exports in Africa, the highest number of nonroutine French diplomatic visitors of all African countries, and, with Senegal, was the recipient of the largest French aid package in Africa. Côte d'Ivoire also hosted the highest average number of visits by the French head of state per year.

On a formal level, a series of agreements and treaties have ensured the continuation and extension of French influence in diplomatic, military, legal, commercial, monetary, political, and cultural affairs, although most of these agreements were modified over the years to accommodate the sensitivities and growing political sophistication of Ivoirians. Perhaps most significant for the future were joint defense treaties and the permanent basing of the French marine battalion at Port Bouët. Although it had never interceded in Ivoirian politics, the battalion's presence provided an implicit warning against political or military action that might create instability and jeopardize French interests. The colonial heritage and contemporary realities suggested that France would remain Côte d'Ivoire's principal commercial partner, albeit in increasing competition with other states.

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