Ivory Coast and The Chocolate Factory

Allan Oulate

Cocoa produced in the Ivory Coast

How odd is it, that now, the teacher or rather the producer, has become the owner. In May this year the world learned that Ivory Coast, the largest producer of cocoa, which accounts for 22% of the country’s gross domestic product has just opened up their own chocolate factory. Ivory Coast currently processes around a third of its cocoa in local stations. Semi-finished products like cocoa butter and powder, still serve as the primary products made from cocoa within the country.

How has chocolate or a chocolate factory escaped the economic landscape in Ivory Coast? Why now? According to the International Cocoa Organisation, the majority of Ivory Coast’s shop shelves features a variety of imported chocolate. Perhaps Ivorians do not, or did not see chocolate as a strong part of their diet, either way, the establishment of this chocolate factory proves to be a step forward in Ivory Coast’s move from cash crop to industrial.

In 2014, a bittersweet video of Ivory Coast Cacao farmers who had never tasted chocolate circulated around the internert. The filmmakers spoke with farmer N’Da Alphonse, who told them “Frankly, I do not know what one makes from cocoa beans.” N’Da knew that cacao was being processed to make something outside of the country, but he had no idea that it was what was in front of him- chocolate.

The Guardian reports that the facility was launched with an investment of $5 million and production capacity of 10,000 tonnes per year will lead to the “Made in Ivory Coast” chocolate which will be produced on an industrial scale.

Newly re-elected president Alassane Ouattara toured the factory, which is located in Abidjan in May. Ouattara relayed to journalists “ We wanted to be able to make chocolate for Ivorians, for Africans and especially West Africans.” This facility will not only provide a strong product for Ivory Coast to market to international world, it will also help increase the number of local jobs for people in the neighboring communities.

Though this statement seems very positive, critics have pointed out one possible flaw in the plan- french ownership. On behalf of Cemoi, the French Chocolatier who owns the plant, Tristan Borne, managing director was quoted by Reuters as saying “ We’re targeting the local market, then progressively we will expand to the sub-region.”

Ivory Coast is on the forefront of another industrial revolution and citizens will have to wait and see how this new investment plays out in the country’s future.

To learn more about Ivory Coast and the Cemoi Chocolate factory, visit this article by The Guardian here