I am often asked how I view Côte d’Ivoire’s economic future. One thing is certain: the country will become urbanized. More than half the population already lives in the city and this proportion is expected to reach two thirds by 2050, particularly with the expansion of Abidjan, which will be home to over 10 million people.
The Msimbazi River makes a volatile neighbor. With depressing regularity, the river breaks its banks and inundates houses built on its low-lying floodplains. During the 2014 rains, 600 houses were flooded in the riverine Kigogo Ward alone; thirteen of which were completely destroyed. Yet, as the floodwaters recede, people return.
“What is wrong with these people?” people often say. “They should not be there; they know it’s not safe!” Citizens, journalists, and policymakers, express disbelief that people relocated to safer parts of the city return to their former, flood-prone neighborhoods. So why do they do it?
Kayole-Soweto, an informal settlement on the eastern periphery of Nairobi, is home to approximately 90,000 residents. And during a recent discussion I had with the Settlement Executive Committee (SEC) there, a female representative told me about her community and home: “This place has changed so much that we need a new name! Our community is improving because our houses have more value, we feel safer and businesses are growing.”
The story of a country’s economic development is often told through the lens of new roads, factories, power lines, and ports. However, it can also be told through the voices of everyday heroes, individuals who have taken action to improve their lives, and those around them. In this blog series, the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Ivorian newspaper Fraternité Matin and blogger Edith Brou, tells the stories of those individuals who, with a boost from a Bank project, have set economic development in motion in their communities.
Just a few months ago, the residents of the Dioulakro neighborhood located on the outskirts of Yamoussoukro (commonly referred to as Yakro by Ivorians) had to struggle every day to get drinking water. Ms. Bahlala still recalls the long hours that she spent in front of the neighborhood well to which people had flocked by daybreak. “I would be up by 4 am. Standing in line to collect water took up a large part of my daily routine, but it was a matter of survival for my family, and many others. I have painful memories of that time, because without water, there is no life.”
The first time I visited Chokwe district in the province of Gaza, which is located some 230 km from the capital city of Maputo, tales of agriculture riches popped into my head. For years, the official narrative has labelled Chokwe district the nation’s food basket. “Well, at least for the southern part of the country,” I thought out loud, somewhat unconvinced while driving there. That was before I laid eyes on the gigantic, and arguably the largest, gravity-irrigated system ever built in the country, covering 37,000 hectares of fertile land downstream the majestic Limpopo River. There, I witnessed the harvesting of tomatoes, and other vegetables, and the overall upbeat mood among farmers, traders, and residents of the rich valley.
The results suggest strangely mixed conclusions. In certain ways, poverty trends in Nigeria over the past decade were better than has been widely reported, where a story of increasing poverty has been the consensus. And yet poverty is stubbornly high, disappointingly so given growth rates.
Three facts stand out.