Our work in Abidjan :
The Foundation started working in Cote d’Ivoire in 1989. It reopened its office in Abidjan after the end of the violent conflict in 2011.
The Foundation’s director for West Africa, Jo Holden, manages the office from Dakar, Senegal. Six local staff members work at the Abidjan office. After years of crisis, Côte d’Ivoire has transformed into one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies in recent years. Since the end of the civil war, the country’s economy has been achieving annual growth rates of between seven and ten percent since 2014. Income from traditional export products such as cocoa, palm oil and rubber was boosted by revenue from oil and gas extraction since 2005; local manufacturing industry, which is comparatively diversified, has also expanded its output in recent years. The Abidjan metropolitan area is awash with new building projects. The economic boom is clearly visible. These developments are helping the country regain the macro-economic importance it used to enjoy in the 1970s. Back then, Côte d’Ivoire was West Africa’s wealthiest nation, thanks to export earnings based on its tropical agricultural wealth, its relatively open economy and the orientation of its foreign policy towards France, the former colonial power.
The Foundation for Freedom’s work in Côte d’Ivoire focuses mainly on the youth and their engagement in politics and civil society. Many programmes are directed at liberal youth’s and women’s movements. The Foundation also works actively on identifying liberal organisations and individuals willing to take responsibility and contribute to development. They include young entrepreneurs as well as political and business leaders who work on political initiatives or business ideas, thereby supporting the country’s progress.
In Côte d'Ivoire, the Foundation focuses on civic education, the market economy and respect for human rights:
1. Civic education and promoting the rule of law
The Foundation supports its liberal partners in Côte d’Ivoire in aid of political and economic reforms. Strengthening the rule of law is an important element of this work. Selected liberal minded politicians and future leaders participate in training courses in the region as well as programmes of visits to Germany. Through theses activities, partners are able to build networks with liberal peers in Africa, Europe and worldwide. The Foundation also places great importance on supporting liberal youth and women’s organisations.
2. Market economy, entrepreneurship and doing business
Almost 60 percent of Côte d’Ivoire’s population are under 35 years of age. Despite positive macro-economic data and the growing economy, migration levels are high: jobs and prospects for young people in particular are one of the country’s most pressing priorities. This is not something the public sector can do on its own, nor should it. The Foundation therefore works closely with business associations, young entrepreneurs and start-ups. It supports incubators for youths who are starting their own businesses. The Foundation provides training and networking opportunities, as well as serving as a platform for business contacts. Through its partner network, the Foundation also supports efforts to implement economic reforms and achieve long-term improvements in the country’s business climate.
3. Human and civic rights
The Foundation’s human rights activities in Côte d’Ivoire are aimed at improving prospects for an open society, strengthening social cohesion and improving living conditions. The aim is not only to promote the awareness of human rights as a core liberal value, but also to build respect for civil liberties and greater tolerance. To this end, the Foundation works with the Ivorian human rights commission and with with a large number of civil society partners. Joint training programmes are hosted for lawyers and judges, but also for journalists and human rights activists. The Foundation has also been cooperating with its partner, the liberal think tank AIA (Audace Institut Afrique) on the “Communau’TERRE” land rights projects since 2016. This project is supported by special funds from Germany’s ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ). In pilot villages in the so-called “cocoa belt” in the north-west of Côte d’Ivoire, the think tank is creating local land registers in cooperation with the people living in the area.
Land right problems were one of the key factors driving the country’s ongoing crises and conflicts. The objective of this this initiative is to settle unclear land occupation and ownership rights. The newly recognised and documented ownership rights create obligations based on individual responsibility. They also promote economic independence as the rights holders are aware of their rights and can defend them. In cooperation with the newly founded land agency, the digital land surveying method developed in the context of the initiative will be deployed in villages throughout the country. The method considers usage and property rights.
The Foundation works with liberal politicians across the party lines. In the area of business and economic development, the Foundation cooperates with Ivorian business associations, particularly FIPME (Féderation Ivoirienne des Petits et Moyennes Entreprises), the agency for small and medium-sized enterprises. The liberal think tank AIA (Audace Institut Afrique), with which the Foundation presents the Economic Freedom Index for Côte d’Ivoire, is a further important partner. Numerous incubators for start-ups, founders and young entrepreneurs are also partners of the Foundation, which offers them training and networking opportunities as well as business contacts in Germany.
In the area of human rights, the Foundation works with the national human rights commission, CNDHCI and the RAIDH (Regroupement des Acteurs Ivoiriens des Droits Humains). There is also a varying group of local and international cooperation partners such as the Strasbourg-based “Fondation René Cassin” and the International Organisation for Migration. Finally, the Foundation also works with numerous smaller civic society organisations which support human and civic rights throughout the country. The Foundation is also implementing the land rights project with the AIA think tank.