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West Africa Rising: Ivory Coast defaulting on loans, despite economic recovery

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West Africa Rising is a weekly look at business, investment, and development trends.

Four months after French tanks trundled through Abidjan, forcing an end to Ivory Coast's civil war, the reemerging African nation has regained enough better-than-expected economic growth to honor its overdue debt payments – it's just choosing not to.

Earlier this year, Ivory Coast was the site of a chaotic power struggle between rival presidents who both claimed victory in a decade-delayed vote – then both proceeded to shut down banks, blockade one another's government, and dispatch soldiers into the streets of Abidjan.

Now that that's over, the once-bright economy – the Jewel of Africa, it was called – is enjoying something of a recovery summer.

The nation's farmers are harvesting and shipping several hundred more tons of cocoa than expected. The world's top cocoa growing nation – though Ivory Coast looked likely, during its civil war, to lose that mantle to eastern neighbor Ghana – should produce as much as 1.5 million tons of the chocolate ingredient this season, more than a third of all the cocoa the world will eat next year, the International Cocoa Organization said Thursday.

Then there's Ivorian industry: The nation's factories are churning out roughly the same amount of goods they were manufacturing this time last year, as if nothing ever happened. Last month, the government announced it had collected a third more tax revenue since the end of the war than it expected. It will spend $20 million of that loot each year to start its new airline, backed by Air France.

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