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July 6, 2009

Cote d’Ivoire, A Country Profile & Prayer Guide

Filed under: Cote d'Ivoire,Country Profiles and Prayer Guides — TimMc @ 12:05 pm


Côte d’Ivoire, formerly Ivory Coast, (the official name is the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire), is a republic with a strong executive power personified in its president. The country’s capital is Yamoussoukro, with a population of roughly 200,000 people. The country is divided into 19 regions and 58 departments. It shares borders with Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. It also boasts over 370 miles of coastland on the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean). The southern and western parts of the country are forested, with undulating ground rising to meet the savannah plains of the north and the mountains along the western border. The country abounds in some of the best natural attractions in West Africa, such as the large rainforest contained in Parc National de Taï.

You will quickly notice that Côte d’Ivoire is different from many other African countries because of its the extreme ethnic and linguistic diversity. There are over 60 people groups – which include the Akar, Kron, Nzima, Hone, Voltaic, and Malinke peoples. With very few exceptions every Ivoirian has a mother tongue which is that of the village, along with traditions, family, and social relations within their ethnic group. Ivoirians are friendly and eager to engage visitors to their country.

A few interesting facts about Cote d’Ivoire:

  • Approx. 18 million people reside in the country.
  • The official language is French and there is a 42% literacy rate.
  • It is one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa, coffee, and palm oil. The post-independence boom produced both massive immigration of job-seekers from surrounding lands and a high level of corruption. Currency devaluation in 1994 led to further growth. A political coup in December 1999 caused a sharp downturn in the economy as capital inflows dropped. Many businesses have since left the country. Civil servants have received no cost of living salary raise in over 18 years.
  • The country’s economy is largely market-based and relies heavily on agriculture.
  • There is complete religious freedom. The government remains sympathetic to missions. Traditional religions are generally stronger in the centre and west. Islam (Sunni) is strong in the northwest and Abidjan. Both Islam and Christianity are highly syncretized with African traditional beliefs, making these three religions impossible to precisely enumerate.

Specific ways to pray for Cote d’Ivoire:

  • Praise God that denominations are beginning to work together more. This has largely come as a response to the nation’s troubles – such as the interdenominational prayer concerts in several cities. Events like the March for Jesus and the visits of OM/YWAM ships have brought together thousands from many denominations.
  • Spiritism is still strong in Côte d’Ivoire. There are 4000 evangelical churches, but 5000 sacred fetish groves. Many Christians are still affected by the power of spiritism and fetishes; compromising both their witness and their own life in Christ. Pray for those who have not left behind their spiritist past that they may be completely delivered by the power of Jesus. Pray that believers will be able to withstand temptation to revert to old practices.
  • Pray for unity and cooperation among evangelicals. For the country to be effectively evangelized and the church to mature, denominational differences and competition must be set aside in favor of partnerships and teamwork.
  • The level of Bible knowledge and discipleship is low, partly a result of rapid church growth. Many churches accept the ‘prosperity’ gospel, and open air campaigns sometimes focus more upon miracles and healings rather than the One who is their source. However, this trend has been counterbalanced by the growth of Bible Institutes, Study Centers, and Correspondence Courses in which thousands of students are now enrolled. Pray that students at the new CMA theological school may grow in the mastery of the Word. Pray for the AoG’s new training institute, opening soon in Abidjan. Pray also for the Navigators and other ministries that focus on the much needed area of discipleship.
  • People groups that still need pioneer mission work and don’t have a major church plant include:
  • Pray for the strongly Muslim peoples of the northwest: Malinke, Fulbe and Jula-speaking peoples, where only a handful have been won through the ministry of SIM, WEC, and CBI. The Malinke/Fulbe group make up nearly 2 million people and are 99.9% non-Christian. More than 85 churches with 4000 members exist in Malinke territory, but they are composed almost exclusively of people who come from outside the region. Among the Mahou the Norwegian Lutherans have seen several congregations planted.
  • The large influx of foreigners presents unusual opportunities for evangelizing those who are separated from the strong ties of their tribal cultures. While their presence in Côte d’Ivoire is the source of much strife, it is also a timely evangelistic opportunity. Nearly 30% of the population is foreign, and the majority of foreigners are Muslim.
  • Islam spread and grew rapidly during the 20th Century – from 5% in 1900 to near 40% today. Interest by Christian Ivoirians in ministry to Muslims is growing, but the level of participation remains very low compared to actual needs. Tribal groups in the north and pockets of tribes all over the country are becoming Muslim. Urban concentrations of Muslims are high, and so are conversion rates among new immigrants to the cities. Pray that Christians may be zealous to win non-Muslims while they can, and also show more concern for the Muslims themselves. Pray for the healing of the north-south ethnic divide created by the politicians which is making outreach to Muslims even harder than before. Pray that Christians may learn how to show real love to their Islamic neighbors.
  • AIDS is now a major problem in the country, with 14-16% of Abidjan’s population already infected with the HIV virus. Few churches or ministries have faced up to this challenge. The country will soon need to care for an estimated 500,000 AIDS orphans.
  • Young people are responsive, and wherever churches minister specifically to them, there has been fruit. Liberty to teach Scripture in public schools is an exciting but under-used opportunity through lack of qualified personnel. SU is making a vital contribution in school evangelism and discipleship. The IFES Francophone Africa HQ is in Abidjan, and there is a strong GBU/IFES group in the university. CCC is also well established with full-time Ivoirian staff reaching students.
  • Literature. Pray for the bookstores and depots of various missions, including The Bible Society, Maison de la Bible, CLC, CDM, and others. Pray for the inter-mission/church Evangelical Publication Center (CPE) and other publishers, that they might find the means to print books locally at a suitable quality. Currently, many books are printed in Asia or elsewhere. Well-intentioned efforts by outside ministries to sell their literature at subsidized prices keep African authors from publishing more relevant Christian works because they cannot compete with these lower-priced books. Also needing prayer: lack of qualified staff (especially French-speaking), financial pressures and lack of good distribution outlets and marketing strategies.
  • Bible translation is one of the most pressing and demanding ministries for Christian workers. A considerable number of national and expatriate workers are involved in 21 translation and 20 literacy programs linked with UBS and various church/mission groups. SIL’s contribution in a number of projects is especially significant – many being among the superficially-Christianized people of the south. Pray for newly-translated Scriptures to take root in the hearts of the people, especially since some have a negative view of their own language and want to learn to read only in French. Pray for a wider distribution of the Bibles and New Testaments already translated.
  • A Christian radio station in Abidjan is an answer to prayer. Radio Frequence Vie became operational in 1998, after waiting 6 years to receive its license from the government and broadcasts in French and Jula. SIM’s plan is to eventually turn it over completely to the national churches but they still do not have the financial means for this. Pray, too, for government permission for Frequence Vie to broadcast in other languages and set up relay stations throughout the country.
  • TWR has a recording studio for producing daily messages that are eventually broadcast from its short-wave station in Johannesburg. Pray for the Bambara, Baoulé, Jula and Songhai as they tune in to TWR’s messages in their languages. TWR is also producing a programme on development that is being transmitted from 42 stations across West Africa.
  • AEA’s film studio, based in Abidjan, has started full production and will be used to produce culturally relevant programs on video for transmission by national television stations across West Africa.
  • The JESUS film is in use in the Baoulé, Bété, Guére, Gouro, Senufo-Cebaara, and Yakuba languages. Dubbing projects are planned for Agni, Attie, Kulango, and Lobi. Jula is a key language, but the project has been blocked for several years for one reason or another – pray for a breakthrough.
  • GRN recordings have been prepared in 49 languages.
  • Ivoirian Christian music has grown rapidly and seen the production of many quality tapes and videos. Pray that the messages of the songs remain biblically sound.

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