Paul Foot - The Telegraph online - Stacey Dooley TV -
President Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, one of the poorest countries on earth, recently built an air-conditioned Catholic cathedral which is bigger even than St Peter’s in Rome. The stained glass (nine acres of it) came from France and the marble was the most expensive in the world – from Italy. The cathedral cost 200 million dollars, more than any major investment ever made in that desperately poor country – where, incidentally, only a tenth of the population is Roman Catholic. ‘The market’ operates in the Ivory Coast – yet who can say that the Catholic cathedral there is any less monstrous than Ceausescu’s palace in Romania, where state capitalism was the ruling system? Paul Foot, The Case For Socialism chapter IV
13 Curious Things you never knew about Ivory Coast, home to the world’s biggest church:
It is 57 years to the day that Ivory Coast (or Côte d’Ivoire, as it likes to be called) gained independence from the French, led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, affectionately known as The Old One. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up some interesting tidbits about the nation on Africa’s western flank.
It boasts the largest church in the world: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro surpasses even St Peter’s Basilica, with an exterior area of 30,000 square metres. Finished in 1990, its design is said to have been inspired by its Vatican City sibling, with a hefty dose of Renaissance and Baroque style. It can hold about 18,000 worshippers, though is very rarely full.
Its most famous son is … Didier Drogba, of course. Perhaps best remembered for his domineering time at Chelsea, the striker was born in Abidjan and represented his country 104 times, scoring 65 goals. He captained the national team for eight years from 2006 and retired as the nation’s all-time top goalscorer. Today he plies his trade in the US for Phoenix Rising.
The national team has a peculiar nickname: Les Éléphants won the 1992 African Cup of Nations and again in 2015, both by beating Ghana on penalties. Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and Salomon Kalou have also represented the team.
But football isn’t its only sport: The only Olympic gold ever won by the Ivory Coast was in Taekwondo at Rio 2016 by Cheick Sallah Cisse. A second in the sport – bronze in the same Games – and a silver at the LA Games in 1984 in the Men’s 400 Metres complete its modest tally.
Its tourism scene was booming: Popular with holidaymakers for its golden beaches, fading French colonial heritage and traditional Senufo cultural experiences, Ivory Coast has seen its annual visitor numbers rise steadily in recent years – 250,000 in 2010 up to 1.44m in 2015. It was not deemed a welcoming state in the Eighties, then again between 2002 and 2011 when the country suffered two civil wars, but a period of stability helped broaden its appeal around the world. A terrorist attack last year threatened to derail its growth, however, though the Foreign Office currently only advises against travel to a slither of land to the west of the nation bordering Liberia.
It’s getting safer: In June the Foreign Office downgraded the terror threat in the country but maintained that ‘terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks’. The main threat comes from Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
It’s home to this lush mountain: Mount Nimba rises above the surrounding savannah where Ivory Coast meets Guinea and Liberia. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the mountain is covered by dense forest harbouring a rich variety of flora and fauna, including chimpanzees.
That’s not all though: Ivory Coast boasts three more Unesco World Heritage Sites in the shape of the historic town of Grand-Bassam, once a colonial trading post, Comoe National Park, one of the largest protected areas in West Africa, and Tai National Park, home to 11 species of monkeys.
Life is expectancy is low: While Africa is the only continent that contains nations where the average life expectancy is below 60 – and there are 21 of them – the fifth lowest is in the Ivory Coast, at 53.3 years. The lowest is nearby Sierra Leone at 50.1 years.
It is the world’s largest cocoa producer: In 2013 it shifted 1.448 million metric tonnes of cocoa beans (31.6 per cent of the world’s total), nearly double its nearest rival, Ghana.
It has two capitals: Yamoussoukro is the nation’s political capital while Abidjan is its economic capital and the largest city.
France left its mark: Abidjan is the city with the third biggest French speaking population anywhere in the world. It is also the fourth most populous city in Africa, with about 4.7million people living there.
It has its own St Paul’s: This is St Paul's Cathedral in Abidjan, built at a cost of $12million. The Telegraph online article 7 August 2017 Hugh Morris
Child labour is a global issue … There’s a heavy price to pay for our insatiable appetite for chocolate. In recent years tens of thousands of children have been found working in Africa’s western cocoa plantations. Stacey’s heading deep into the heart of Ivory Coast; almost 40% of the world’s cocoa – the key ingredient in chocolate – comes from here. Stacey Dooley Investigates: Kids With Machetes, W 2019