OIM Cote IvoireCôte d'Ivoire

Migration in Côte d’Ivoire: 2009 national Profile


Download the document here

Number of pages : 121
Format : Softcover
ISBN: 978-92-9068-559-3
Language of Publication: French
Year of Publication: 2009

Côte d’Ivoire has been one of the leading immigration countries of WestAfrica since independence. However, the political crisis which hit the country in 2002 slowed down immigration but stepped up emigration.

Indeed, according to the United Nations Population Division (UNPD), the net migration rate (for 1,000 people) has always been positive since the 1950s(between 5 and 12, despite a 2.2 decline from 1995 to 2000) up to the 2000-2005 period (-3.7). It is estimated to be negative for the 2005-2010 period (-1.4),but the projections for the years ahead show virtually nil balances (between 0.1 and 0.2) (UNPD, 2008

Immigration in Côte d’Ivoire

According to UNPD data, the total number of immigrants in Côte d’Ivoire in 2005 was 2,231,277, i.e. 12.3 per cent of the total population (projections for 2010 expect 2,406,713 immigrants, i.e. 11.2% of the total population). Since the country’s independence, the annual growth rate of immigrant stocks has varied between 1.8 per cent and 4.4 per cent, but due to the politico-military crisis, it declined to 0.3 per cent during the 2000-2005 period (same value projected for the 2005-2010 period) (UNPD, 2009)..

The slowdown in the immigration growth rate is due to the fact that since the outbreak of the Ivorian crisis in 2002, following an attempted coup in September 2002, many foreigners living in Côte d’Ivoire returned voluntarily, either on the initiative of the migrants themselves or on the initiative of these migrants’ states of origin. Between May and July 2003, some 7,500 voluntary repatriations were organized by IOM. These operations mostly concerned Burkinabe nationals (80% of total repatriations), Malians, Guineans and Senegalese (IOM, 2003). Some of these nationals (Burkinabe, Malians) were said to have returned to Côte d’Ivoire but it is difficult to estimate their number. Moreover, close to 8,000 French nationals (including those with dual citizenship) were reported to have left Côte d’Ivoire after the events of November 2004 (renewed hostilities following the rejection of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process), according to consular data reported by Merabet (2006).

The high gross activity rate among immigrants (almost 60%) seems to show that immigration in Côte d’Ivoire is essentially work-related (INS, 2002d). According to AGEPE, only 4,833 working visas were issued – 4,564 to men and 269 to women – during the 2000-2006 period (AGEPE, 2006). These figures 24 Migration en Côte d’Ivoire : Profil National 2009 confirm the impression that the majority of migrants work in the informal sector for which the AGEPE receives no declaration. These international migrants and their descendants (of full age) born in Côte d’Ivoire, are essentially engaged in farming, trade and non-social services. In 1998, half of the largest foreign communities worked in the agricultural sector (INS, 2002d).

Family reunification is also one of the key reasons for immigration in Côte d’Ivoire since it concerns about 24 per cent of immigrants on Ivorian territory (INS, 2006).

Ivorian emigration

Based on the 2000 census round data, the Development Research Centre of the University of Sussex estimates a stock of 176,692 Ivorian emigrants, distributed according to countries of destination: France, 26 per cent; Burkina Faso, 20 per cent; Benin, 7 per cent; Germany, 6 per cent; Guinea, 5 per cent; Ghana, 5 per cent; Italy, 5 per cent; and United States, 4 per cent (DRC, 2007). 

Ivorian emigrants are essentially permanent since more than 40, 000 of them (i.e. over 65%) have a length of residence of over five years (OECD, 2008).

The key sectors employing Ivorian emigrants in OECD countries are: the manufacturing sector (26%), distribution (13%), service activities for communities (11%) and health (9%) (OECD, 2008).

According to Docquier and Marfouk, the highly skilled workers’ emigration rate was 5.7 per cent in 2000. Almost half of the total number of Ivorian emigrants (47.6%) had a poor level of education (up to 8 years), while one-third of emigrants (30.7%) had a higher education level (Docquier and Marfouk, 2005).

Despite the relatively low magnitude of Ivorian emigration (less than 1% of the active population), Côte d’Ivoire also suffers from brain drain which affects medical personnel: estimates by Clemens and Petterson, based on the 1995-2005 census operations, show that 284 doctors emigrated abroad. This means that 14 per cent of Ivorian doctors emigrated (slightly below the African average, said to be 19%) (Clemens and Petterson, 2007).

The Ivorians’ long term emigration to Europe is recent. As a result, structured social networks meant to receive migrants are not very developed. The absence of such networks could explain why irregular emigration is still a marginal phenomenon. People working illegally are often found in sectors that do not require high-level skills. These sectors are hardly different from those occupied legally by the Ivorian unskilled labour force abroad. They include, among others: distribution activities (salespersons in commercial shopping centres), hotel industry and catering, aid-providing services, babysitting, cleaning and agriculture (OECD, 2008).

The Ivorian crisis caused numerous refugees around the world. Their number was estimated at 21,941 in 2008 (HCR, 2008b). Of this figure, 65.7 per cent live in African countries and 25.3 per cent in Europe. Besides, Ivorians’ asylum claims increased until 2003 (reaching a peak of 10,480) and started to decline with effect from 2004 when peace was restored (HCR, 2008). The European Union is the region where most Ivoirians apply for asylum (44%), followed by the ECOWAS region (28%) (HCR, 2008a).

Factors driving migration

During the 1998-2006 period, the main reasons for migration to Côte d’Ivoire were economic rather than family-related: immigrants travelled, first and foremost, to work and to look for a job. In 1998, about one out of two migrants was driven by the search for better living conditions in Côte d’Ivoire, while family-related reasons (marriage and family reunification) represented slightly over one-third of the cases (INS 1998, 2002b, 2006).

However, even though the weight of economic reasons is still predominant, it declined with time due to the country’s political instability and economic recession. The instability experienced in Côte d’Ivoire since the 1999 coup d’état contributed to the emergence of forced migration in the hinterlands, and increased the flow of Ivorian emigration towards Europe and some neighbouring African countries.

A major part of the Ivorian Diaspora is concentrated in France because of historic and linguistic ties between Côte d’Ivoire and France. The United States and Italy occupy second place on the list of host countries because of job opportunities existing in these two countries.The network effect or bandwagon effect of migration partly explains the consistency of migration flows over time and the concentration of migrants in particular countries (Epstein, 2002; Konan, 2008; Kouakou, 2008).

Policy framework and migration management challenges

Côte d’Ivoire has no migration policy explicitly formulated and fitting into a global framework. However, recent migration policy elements can be found in different statements by the country’s authorities, enactments on the entry, identification and stay of foreigners in Côte d’Ivoire and the creation of public structures in charge of managing an aspect of the migration phenomenon. The Ivorian migration phenomenon also fits into the regional (ECOWAS) and international cooperation framework. Indeed, Ivorian migration policy lays emphasis on the regional management of migration issues, since the national framework is inappropriate to tackle all issues related to the movement of persons.

Although Côte d’Ivoire faces increasing emigration due to the deteriorating living conditions of its population, it has not established mechanisms to regulate departures or returns, or the participation of the diaspora in Ivorian society, in order either to halt the phenomenon or benefit from it.

With respect to legislation, the first text organizing foreigners’ entry and stay in Côte d’Ivoire since independence is the law n°90-437 of 29 May 1990, which makes a distinction between nationals and foreigners and introduces the residency permit for foreigners. However, while this law initiates an official migration policy, its aim is to mobilize resources meant to finance part of the public deficit. The aspects linked to the control, identification and management of migration flows, as well as the creation of an immigration service, have been completely ignored by the text. Some of these lapses have been corrected by subsequent texts, even though a coherent policy has not yet been defined.

The Ivorian institutional migration management machinery has been built around several ministries, each with specific remits: the Ministry of State, the Ministry of Planning and Development, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Family, Women and Social Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Solidarity and War Victims, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of African Integration. Due to a lack of coordination, ministries may often interfere with each other in areas of overlapping competences. The Ministry of Interior, through the National Identification Agency, is meant to coordinate governmental action relative to migration, but to date, this coordination has not yet taken shape because of the crisis with which the country has been confronted. The same applies to the Department of Ivorians Abroad (DIE) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which hopes to carry out a comprehensive data collection exercise concerning Ivorians living abroad.

The country’s development plans do not specifically take migration into consideration. For example, the national development strategy based on the MDG and PRSP does not expressly integrate migration as a development axis. However, some of its aspects (social cohesion between nationals and foreigners, management of vulnerable groups, etc.) appear in strategic axis 1 relative to the consolidation of peace, the security of persons and goods and the promotion of good governance (PRSP, 2008). It turns out that non-government actors, particularly international organizations, are more engaged in actions linking migration to development on Ivorian territory than the government is. The importance of migration in development was essentially dealt with by relaxing the entry and stay of migrants from the ECOWAS region.

Data gaps

To ensure better understanding of migration issues, reliable data covering all migration aspects are needed. However, such data do not always exist and when they do, they are either of poor quality or inaccessible, confidential or scattered and therefore not easy to compile. Besides, it is difficult to compare the data from one period to another because the same definitions and concepts were not used during their collection.

Since the census scheduled for 2008 could not be carried out because of the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, the latest figures provided by national sources are those from the 1998 RGPH.