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Growth Expectations Stir Unrest In Ivory Coast

Walter Russell Mead

All is not well in Ivory Coast: shaken by a mutiny and then a strike by 180,000 civil servants that closed schools, the West African nation is looking for a way back. As the New York Times notes, the unrest is happening because of, not in spite of, the country’s impressive growth:

Ivory Coast, a former French colony, emerged from a nearly decade-long civil conflict to average about 9 percent annual economic growth since 2012. [….]

But the fruits of that growth have not reached large parts of the population, and with over three years left in his term, Mr. Ouattara is facing arguably the biggest challenge of his presidency. […]

The demonstrations stem from the belief that “every Ivorian thinks the time is ripe to have his share of the ‘emergence,’ the term used by authorities, in relation to Ouattara’s vision for Ivory Coast in 2020,” said André Silver Konan, an Ivorian journalist and political analyst. Despite the country’s impressive economic growth, 46 percent of the population still lived in poverty in 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The turmoil in Ivory Coast offers a useful lesson. Naive Whig determinists, which is to say the overwhelming majority of the poorly educated technocrats who constitute the bulk of the western world’s development professionals and journalists, like to think that “growth” leads inevitably to domestic political stability and to international peace. Events in Ivory Coast, where 9% growth rates have touched off a wave of protest, remind us that rising expectations produce more revolutions than poverty.

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