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Port Cities in World History


Producing an Imperial Bridgehead: The Making of Abidjan in Ivory Coast, 1908–1955

Abou B. Bamba


     With a population of almost 5 million, Abidjan is currently the largest city in Ivory Coast. The economic capital of the country and the seat of all embassies and legations, the city also hosts the regional headquarters of numerous international organizations. Although the recent decades of socio-political crises that engulfed the West African country since the mid-1990s have negatively affected Abidjan and certainly tarnished its image as the showcase of the "Ivorian economic miracle," the city still ranks among the 10 African cities with the highest quality of life.1 The continuing importance of Abidjan in the Ivorian and West African urban landscapes needs explanation. To be sure, present-day social scientists have explored various aspects of the urbanization of the port city, expanding on the pioneering works of an earlier cohort of observers who monitored the late colonial and early postcolonial growth of the city.2 Yet the concerns of the new generation of scholars have tended to center on the contemporary challenges that the city faces as either the de facto administrative capital of the country, or as a social magnet unable to procure just and sustainable environments for those who live within its walls.3

     Unlike these studies that emphasize the geographical present of city-making, this article delves into the earlier stages in the urbanization of Abidjan. With a renewed focus on the built environment, it calls for a critical return onto the political economy of urban production in colonial Africa. Building on the works and observations of earlier authors, I argue that the construction of a deep-sea harbor near the city contributed remarkably to the rise of Abidjan.4 Although it started some time in the early 1900s, the completion of the maritime complex came only in mid-century when the Fonds d'Investissement pour le Développement Economique et Social (FIDES), the Caisse Centrale de la France d'Outre Mer (CCFOM), and the Marshall Plan's fund for the modernization of Europe's dependent territories were all mobilized to boost late colonial development throughout the French empire.5 At that juncture, taking advantage of the existence of a submarine canyon off the coast of Abidjan, French engineers cut a canal through the strip of land that separated the sea and the lagoon at Vridi—a technical prowess that eventually linked the ship-friendly Ebrié Lagoon surrounding Abidjan to the larger Atlantic-centered world economy.6 By the late 1950s, the city which was a non-place at the beginning of the century had emerged as a most modern agglomeration in French Africa. Although still a fledging urban center, it had increased its population manifolds and was already on its way to displacing the primacy of Dakar (Senegal)—seat of the federal government of French West Africa.7

     The port city's meteoric rise is only comprehensible within the context of the spatial politics that shaped French imperialism in the Ivorian colony and beyond. In fact, Abidjan, which some promoters started to brand as the "Pearl of the Lagoons" in the wake of the Second World War, was the last born in a long line of projected ideal peripheral cities which the French imperial state tried to set up in colonial Ivory Coast.8 Both the perfection of colonial urban formations and a refraction of the globalization of colonial capitalism, Abidjan participated in the reproduction of colonial domination as its design gave priority to a French conceived space over both the perceived and lived spaces of the indigenous people of the colony.9 The story of Ivory Coast's last colonial capital underscores the logics of the international political economy of urban formation that relied heavily on the creation of ports and transportation networks to facilitate imperial exploitation. In highlighting such logic and its effects, the article mobilizes historical newspapers, archival materials, and urban geographers' expositions to map out the "structural place" that Abidjan ultimately occupied within the "hierarchical global division of labor" in the city system during the first half of the twentieth century.10

The Political Economy of Colonial Urban Formations

     Thanks to the temerity of Africanist scholars, we now know that city-making on the African continent antedated the arrival of European colonists in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.11 In the territory that would eventually become Ivory Coast, for instance, thriving urban centers such as Kong, Bouna, and Bondoukou (all located in the north) had long mediated commercial and cross-cultural interactions between the societies of the Niger valley and the numerous polities of the forest regions to the south. In fact, long before the French conquest of Ivory Coast and the subsequent establishment of Abidjan as its leading city, the activities of trading families and their networks helped market localities at the edge of the forest and in the savanna to prosper and become bustling cities. The arrival of Islam in the tenth century further consolidated this already elaborate pattern of pre-colonial urbanization.12 But the linkage of these societies to colonial capitalism signaled a precipitous process of decline for many of the pre-colonial cities. So much so that, on the eve of the Second World War and soon thereafter, the southeastern regions and the zones along the railway had become the most urbanized areas of Ivory Coast, with Abidjan already showing inauspicious signs of excessive, if systemically dependent, urban development relative to the rest of the colony.13

     The reason for this systemic dependence of Abidjan's urban growth concerned the deleterious effects of the so-called pacte colonial which France's imperial economists implemented in the colonies. A "forced alliance" rather than an agreement between equals, as a contemporary imperial legal scholar recognized, the pacte required that all raw materials from the colonies be sent exclusively to the metropole. In return, the colonial possessions were to buy all their finished goods from the metropolitan manufacturers. Such mercantilist arrangement was all the more possible since no industries were allowed to open in the colonies. To expedite the working of the asymmetrical relations, dependent cities were erected so as to attend to the functions of trade and services. These arrangements made the pattern of peripheral urbanization in the French overseas territories unavoidable.14

     Urban industrial centers were not off the map altogether in colonial Ivory Coast, but the few industrial ventures that were allowed to operate in the colony before the Second World War generally opted to establish themselves on the banks of the Ebrié Lagoon in an effort to be closer to the new commercial center and transportation hub of the colony.15 While this conjuncture changed in the wake of the postwar catch-up modernization drive, much of the drive was geared toward the creation of light industries. Therefore, it was commercial activities and the service sector which dominated the urban economy of the city during the closing years of colonialism.16 Similar developments in colonial urbanism were at work in other African colonies. In fact, with its new forms of "social control and exploitation that lay at the heart of colonialism," the various European empires initiated more efficient ways of "sucking up Africa's wealth." Ultimately, it was through the provision of "sites for the processing, transport, and administration" of colonial commerce that "urban growth largely took place."17

     The political economy of the pacte colonial framed such urban process. For instance, although Senegal had become a leading producer of peanuts in the early twentieth century, much of its production was reportedly sent to North Africa and to France to "be shelled and processed there." Clearly, the extroverted nature of the extractive economy made industrial urban growth unlikely for Dakar or Saint Louis, both of which remained entrepôts of sorts in the world system of cities.18 Even in the mining regions of central and southern Africa, the situation was not dramatically different, except maybe for South Africa.19 Given the perception that Africa held untapped resources awaiting development, the first task of the colonists was to concentrate on the creation or expansion of port cities which invariably "functioned as gateways to the interior." To tap the resources "locked" in the hinterlands, elaborate networks of railroads were projected in the hope of making them available to colonial capitalism.20

     Contemporary newspapers, magazines, and journals followed closely the discussions around these imperial projects. A close analysis of their coverage offers a privileged vantage point to track the logics that attended to the boom in infrastructural development in colonial areas. In the early twentieth century, a report on French West Africa which appeared in Railway Age Gazette made it clear that the railways in Ivory Coast "will have in the future a great effect on the commercial development" of the colony.21 Another report in the San Francisco Chronicle extolled the extension plans for the rail which would interlace the world, with colonial Africa at its center.22 In a similar tone, a New York Times column marveled at the "wonderful possibilities" that emerged with a particularly brazen French project: a "railroad plan, with African connections" opened up for "tourists and traders." The plan anticipated linking Paris to Dakar via the strait of Gibraltar.23 There were other wild dreams of networking colonial Africa through the railway, including the trans-Saharan and the Cairo-Cape Town lines which purported to connect Northern Africa to the Gulf of Guinea and the southern tip of the continent respectively. Although many of the projects never materialized, the few that were completed did foster new urban hierarchies on the continent.24

     In outlining these broad historical frames, one should definitely be mindful of Laurent Fourchard's caution that too strong a focus on "large-scale, anonymous structures and processes" in African urban studies has resulted in "neglect[ing] the life experiences of ordinary residents that are at the core of social history."25 Yet, despite the need and value of emphasizing "local human agency" in the historical understanding of African cities, it is important to keep in mind that "Far from being somewhat autonomous entities with their own life, cities—especially colonial cities—should be viewed as integral cogs in a broader, predominantly capitalist system generating inequality, poverty, and often dependency."26 Taking such historical frame at heart, it makes sense to start the exploration of the production of colonial Abidjan with the structural context of colonialism's asymmetrical power relations and the political economy that informed it. These key parameters foreground the desperate search among French empire-builders to erect coastal cities and beach heads that would serve as entry points into the colony of Ivory Coast.

In Search of the Ideal Peripheral Central City

     Right from the inception of French colonization in the late nineteenth century, the settlement at Grand Bassam had served as both political and economic center for the Ivorian territory. In the early 1890s, the governor's mansion and other administrative offices were built. Seeking to entrench French presence even further, Governor Louis-Gustave Binger issued in September 1893 an edict that outlined the conditions under which French citizens and other foreigners could be freely granted lands.27 The administrative incentive did not fail to attract many French merchants and would-be colonists. But the arrival of these European settlers also meant an inflow of Africans who were to serve as cooks, servants, errand boys, and handymen. Their migration into the area was to leave an imprint on the urban design of the city. For, in terms of human ecology, the presence of both Europeans and Africans in Grand Bassam resulted in the adoption of the schizophrenic urban design so typical of French colonialism and its fantastic demand for hygiene.28

Figure 1
  Figure 1: Race and Urban Segregation in Early Colonial Grand Bassam. To ensure that they were fully protected against disease, the colonial urban planners designed the White settlement in such a way that the entry of the Africans in the European town could be monitored. Cartography by Author.  

     Thus echoing a segregationist land-use practice in Euro-American urbanism in the late nineteenth century, the colonial authorities set the "European town" (ville européenne) apart from the "Native quarter" (village indigène) in an elusive attempt to keep the Africans and their perceived "dirty" ways at bay (Fig. 1). Despite these urbanistic measures that smacked of racial segregation, an epidemic of yellow fever broke out in 1899–1903 and forced the colonial administrators to relocate the capital of colonial Ivory Coast to Bingerville—a locality further west.29

     Compared to Grand Bassam, the location of the new capital seemed more salubrious, at least in the eyes of the colonial authorities.30 Perched on a coastal plateau with an altitude reaching some 80 to 100 meters above the lagoon, Bingerville's attraction was reinforced by the site's friendlier land cover, which included not only forest zones but also savannah pockets that, at times, ended with scenic views. Furthermore, refreshing night time breezes contributed to the area's reputation as a healthier resort for the Europeans.31 After securing the construction of government offices and services, Bingerville was selected to host the administrative capital of the colony in 1909. The Governor and his staff relocated in 1910, much to the chagrin of Grand Bassam's leading commercial interests.32

     Yet, just like Grand Bassam, the raising of Bingerville to the status of capital was to be short-lived. In fact, even as officials and merchants debated the suitability of the transfer of the capital to the west of Grand Bassam, many had bet on the location only as a provisional solution. Rather, the most influential eyes had been on Abidjan—the projected site of the colony's deep-water port and future bridgehead that was to link the Atlantic to the hinterland of France's West African possessions. Its altitude might have been lower relative to Bingerville, yet, with confidence, Abidjan towered above the lagoon. Consequently its climate appeared still healthier and therefore more attractive to many of the French colons.33 The single most important asset that gave Abidjan a distinctive edge over both Bingerville and Grand Bassam, however, was the railroad and its terminus at the junction of the anticipated Vridi Canal. If anything, the prospect of joining the northern part of the colony to the south made the Ebrié peninsula the ideal site for the construction of the Ivorian primate city. Thus Abidjan was raised to the status of capital in 1920 and its first urban plan was adopted less than a decade later.34

Figure 2
  Figure 2: The Three Historical Capitals of Colonial Ivory Coast. At the beginning of French rule in 1893, Grand Bassam was chosen of capital. It was succeeded by Bingerville in 1909. Abidjan became the capital of the territory in 1920. Cartography by Author.  

     Between the incorporation of the colony into the French empire and the beginning of the Great Depression, Ivory Coast witnessed the raising of three cities (Fig. 2) to the rank of capital. Such rapid succession of central cities led many contemporaries to accuse French administrators of indecision. Yet the phenomenon of wandering capitals was not specific to Ivory Coast. As Yves Marguerat has demonstrated, most of the African territories under varying colonial rulers witnessed similar turnover among their capital cities.35 Whatever the conditions under which they were chosen as primate cities, these capitals invariably served as the major nodes of an urban network that only confirmed the peripherality of urbanization in the colonies. Linked to the capitalist world-system by the pacte colonial, the capitals functioned as points of collection of the tropical raw materials to be sent to the industries of the metropole. Thus, while it is correct that the first colonial cities in Ivory Coast started as military garrisons, such geopolitical origins should not be overemphasized. The search for ports and rail stations either initiated or reinforced the expansion of the major urban formations. This was all the more so since the architects of French colonial expansion viewed infrastructural development as a significant ally in the everyday operation of the empire.36

     The French investment in infrastructural development produced a peripheral form of urbanization that mirrored the spatial logics of colonialism. Perhaps no other instance crystallized this process in Ivory Coast better than the simultaneous production of colonial Abidjan and the withering of the pre-colonial cities of northern Ivory Coast.37 Abidjan's economy relied almost exclusively on the service sector since few industries established themselves on banks of the Ebrié Lagoon during the interwar period.38 Still, the raising of Abidjan to the status of capital meant an increase of investment for the city—and this made a difference. In fact, even in the context of a world depression, more than 25 percent of the overall public expenditure of the colony in 1931 was devoted to the public works (grands travaux) of Abidjan. The following year, these financial efforts rose to 64 percent—an all-time record for Ivory Coast.39 Understandably, the construction of the administrative offices as well as housing to accommodate the metropolitan civil servants absorbed the bulk of the interwar public expenditure.40 With such sustained effort to turn Abidjan into an operational capital city, the hierarchy of urban formations in the territory was dramatically altered.

From Railroad Town on the Lagoon to Global Port City

     Historically, the decision to build a railroad line to link the Ivorian coast to the hinterland emerged during the last years of the conquest—a time of general railroad frenzy, as we have seen, among European imperialists striving to "open up" the entire African continent for their commercial interest. In the nascent colony of Ivory Coast, two main plans circulated as far as the route of the projected railroad line was concerned. On the one hand, commercial interests based in Grand Bassam wanted the rail connection up to the Niger Valley to be placed along the Comoé River, which would give a central position to their chosen city in the colonial economy. On the other hand, partisans of the transfer of the capital to Abidjan were promoting the valley of the Bandama River as the ideal route since it would link up the railroad to Port Bouët at Vridi, which was being considered for the construction of the colony's deep-sea harbor. In subsequent feasibility studies, the Bandama Valley plan prevailed and construction works started in 1904 at Abidjan.41 Despite the hostility of many native ethnic groups, the laying of the rail tracks progressed steadily. In 1906, it reached Agboville. Four years later, Dimbokro had its station soon to be followed by Bouaké in 1912, but construction slowed down at the beginning of the First World War. In the interwar period, the railroad reached the northern frontier town of Ferkéssédougou; and by 1955, Ouagadougou was linked to Abidjan, which gave a sea access to the landlocked territory of Upper Volta.42

     Ideas regarding the construction of a reliable port in Ivory Coast went back to the early days of the French takeover of the Ivorian territory. In their desire to tap the natural resources, the authorities had deemed it necessary to build a maritime bridgehead. To this effect, a rather picturesque wharf was erected in Grand Bassam as early as 1893. The efficiency of this makeshift facility left much to be desired. Given this situation, a team of metropolitan French engineers headed by Commandant Houdaille was commissioned to study the feasibility of a deep-sea harbor in connection with the drawing of the rail line. In the midst of debates fueled by the public disclosure of proposals and counterproposals, Houdaille chose the bay of Abidjan as the site of the future port, arguing that the "construction of the port of Abidjan, [if] conducted with prudence, shall be a fruitful operation—not only for trade but also for the finances of the Colony."43 Complementing the development of the railroad, the construction of the port began in 1903. These grands travaux included not only the building of new docks and the dredging of the lagoon, but also the digging of a canal at Vridi, for which hundreds of local Africans were drafted into labor gangs. By early 1906, a first waterway was connecting the Ebrié Lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean.

     Despite the success of the initial digging, the channel soon filled up with sandy sediments from the sea. Deploying this first failure as an excuse, proponents of alternative plans pressed for the abandonment of Port Bouët as the site for the harbor. Many colonial interests recommended the mouth of the Comoé River as a much more suitable site. In order to test this recommendation, metropolitan authorities sent two new missions to Ivory Coast in 1912 to evaluate the possibilities offered by the Comoé. While the ensuing report recommended the new site, the beginning of the First World War brought a halt to the project. The Comoé alternative was briefly resuscitated in the 1920s, but a new outbreak of yellow fever in 1922 dashed any hope that Grand Bassam would regain its older status as capital of the colony.44 Furthermore, with the implementation of Albert Sarrault's policy of mise en valeur (resource exploitation) and the subsequent export-led commercial boom of the postwar period, the partisans of Abidjan succeeded in repositioning Port Bouët as the only solution to the problem of creating a bridgehead between Ivory Coast and the world beyond the seas. This was all the more important since the location of Abidjan as the rail terminus gave Port Bouët a relative edge over any other alternative. By 1930, Port Bouët had re-emerged as the favorite site for the construction of the much-anticipated harbor. In this élan, the construction company Schneider & Daydé was entrusted with the task of carrying out the revived project, while other development projects were undertaken to provide Abidjan with running water and thoroughfares lit by electric lamps.45

     During the early years of the Second World War, the Vichy government, which had taken control of French West Africa, speeded up the completion of the port with the obvious aim of neutralizing the British (and ultimately the Allied Forces) at Freetown in Sierra Leone.46 While Free France eventually took over Abidjan in late 1942, its representatives in Ivory Coast never questioned the infrastructural and urbanistic priorities of the Vichy era. In fact, the new authorities continued the improvement efforts of the port facilities in a bid to compete with other international harbors in the Gulf of Guinea. At the end of the war, these efforts would be redoubled, especially when American aid money was mobilized to boost the modernization of the overseas territories.47 While such American assistance was a welcome addition to FIDES financing, it wet U.S. interest in the Ivorian harbor project, prompting the French diplomats to increase their protectionism over building contracts.

     The first indication of the resumption of French protectionism appeared in the summer that followed the end of the war. In July 1946, André Schock—one of the députés representing colonial Ivory Coast in the French parliament—requested that Raymond Concrete Pile (an American construction firm) be approached about taking over the completion of the Abidjan harbor.48 Having built the port of Monrovia during the war, Raymond Concrete Pile presented the best credentials to bring to conclusion the half-century long project of Port Bouët. However, arguing that a public expenditure contract to a foreign firm raised "delicate political questions," the colonial authorities never acted on Schock's request. Rather, they contracted with three French construction firms which were then tasked with putting the finishing touches to the port.49

     There was a general consensus among contemporary observers and colonial administrators that the opening of the port would bring a new dynamism to Abidjan and its vast hinterland that included not only the inland regions of the colony but also the landlocked territories of Upper Volta and Niger.50 The optimism was not misguided. In fact, the operationalization of the port in 1950 paved the way for the postwar prosperity of Ivory Coast.51 Already in 1948, the foreign trade of the colony had reached 400 000 tons. By the mid-1950s, the cargo traffic at the port had increased to more than one million tons, with tropical wood, coffee, and cocoa as leading exported products—a historical reality which confirmed the persistence of the extroverted logic that informed the political economy of the pacte colonial with its particularly disproportionate emphasis on extractive economic activities.52

Figure 3
  Figure 3: Cargo activities at the port of Abidjan, 1939–1956. Note that the data for cocoa, coffee, and wood are the earning shares (percentage) of these commodities relative to the total export earnings. [Data are drawn from Inventaire économique de la Côte d'Ivoire, 165–66; Kipré, Côte d'Ivoire: Formation, 156; Gbagbo, Côte d'Ivoire: Economie et société, 112, 124, 132; Peterec, "Port of Abidjan," 43a.]  

     Within the context of postwar reconstruction in Europe, France had become ever more dependent on its colonies to speed up its own recovery. As perceptive columnists of various American newspapers revealed in the late 1940s, this explained overwhelmingly why metropolitan authorities had enthused for the completion of the port of Abidjan.53 While colonial authorities charged with implementing FIDES modernization programs sometimes used the language of "social betterment" of the Africans, they too did not hide the benefit that the metropole would accrue from the new infrastructure. For this reason, they mobilized roughly 50 per cent of FIDES funds for Ivory Coast to finish the port and realize other related projects.54

     Although French colonial interests were the leading beneficiaries of the economic boom in postwar Ivory Coast, foreigners were equally enhancing their positions in Abidjan. This was the case of the Lever Brothers who opened a soap factory in the city in the mid-1940s arguing that since "the greater spending power of the population has led to a higher demand for consumer goods, of which soap is one," it made sense to set up a plant so that soap might "be economically produced locally." A similar capitalist logic of tapping into the booming economy on the Ebrié Lagoon led an American shipping company to open a new trade route between Baltimore and Abidjan.55

     Despite the denial of the colonial authorities, such increased linkage to the global economy affected the urbanism of Abidjan in various ways, including the specialization of the city as the colonial warehouse of Ivory Coast in the provision of raw materials to the world market—a historical reality that limited the emergence of local manufactures as a contemporary economic geographer suggested.56 Even more revelatory about the new emerging global status of Abidjan was the request of the United States government in 1951 to open a consulate in the city. The economic justification and diplomatic contours of such gesture in the context of an emerging Cold War are too complex to elaborate here. Suffice it to say that the French colonial authorities initially denied the request as they clearly aspired to maintain an exclusive control over Abidjan as France's ultimate imperial bridgehead in the entire region.57


     For many contemporary students of the late colonial and early postcolonial urban histories of Ivory Coast, the weight of Abidjan in the distribution of cities seems to be a given. This might partially explain the polarization of Ivorian urban studies on the port city. Yet in the light of the historical developments discussed above, it is clear that the hegemonic presence of Abidjan is a relatively recent phenomenon—indeed, an example of how urban spatial forms are the product and the reproduction of particular historical social relations. As a privileged, yet exclusionary, built environment, colonial Abidjan appears as the result of multiple struggles and negotiations: struggles of humans against the natural environment as in the case of the construction of the harbor in the Ebrié Lagoon, and negotiations between various groups of people who subsequently came to share a common, if segregated, city space.58 While the mediating forces that helped spur the colonial urbanism of the Ivorian metropolis and its eventual dominance in the settlement pattern of the territory were innumerable, none of them matched the power of imperial capitalism. The interactive but still asymmetrical engagements between metropolitan colonists and colonial subjects resulted in the production of spatial configurations that favored a certain expectation of capitalist modernity.59

     In the particular case of French imperialism, the doctrine of the pacte colonial that sustained French colonial development played a decisive role in the production of the historical urban configurations in the overseas territories. As the ideology and praxis that fed French imperialism, the pacte required in each of the overseas possessions the building of at least one peripheral urban settlement. Acting as a systemic node of French capitalism, Abidjan, like other port cities, was meant to connect the areas that produced raw materials in the hinterland of the colony to the industrial centers of metropolitan France. In the words of geographers Murray and Myers, it singularly acted as "overseas extensions" of the colonial power.60 Thus, like the tales of so many other colonial cities, the early history of the foundation of Abidjan can be read as the story of the frantic search for the ideal tropical beachhead that would link the Ivorian periphery to the larger capitalist world-system via metropolitan France. The opening of the city's harbor in the early 1950s as centerpiece of Abidjan's urban plan certainly paved the way for a "profound reorganization of the economy of much of West Africa."61 Such reorientation has been so successful that today, even after years of military and political crises, the city remains the economic hub and leading urban center of Francophone West Africa.

Abou B. Bamba teaches History and Africana Studies at Gettysburg College. His research is on the diplomatic and transnational relations among the United States, France, and Ivory Coast. Currently he is completing a book manuscript, which is tentatively titled "African Miracle, African Mirage." Under contract with Ohio University Press for its New African Histories Series, the manuscript deals with the interactions among Americans, French, and Ivorians over modernization and socio-political changes in Ivory Coast during the latter's Thirty Glorious Years (1951–1981). He can be reached at


1 Pascal Airault, "Abidjan fait peau neuve," Quand les villes font leur révolution, Special Issue, Jeune Afrique 4 (September 2013), 24; Haby Niakaté, "Top 10 des villes où il fait bon vivre," Quand les villes, Spec. Iss., Jeune Afrique 4 (September 2013), 19.

2 On the pioneering scholarship on Abidjan, see Philippe Haeringer, "Quitte ou double: Les chances de l'agglomération abidjanaise," Urbanisme 111/112 (1969): 89–93; idem,"Structures foncières et création urbaine à Abidjan," Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 9, 34 (1969): 243–249; Edmond Bernus, "Abidjan: Note sur l'agglomération d'Abidjan et sa population," Bulletin de l'IFAN 24, Sér. B, 1–2 (January–April 1962): 55–85; Gabriel Rougerie, Le port d'Abidjan. Le problème des débouchés maritimes de la Côte d'Ivoire. Sa solution lagunaire (Paris: Documentation Française, 1951).

3 Konaté Djibril et al., "Processes and Challenges of Urban Development in Côte d'Ivoire (Africa) with Case Study of Abidjan City," Journal of Geography & Regional Planning 5, 13 (July 2012): 353–361; Célestin Hauhouot, "Analyse du risque pluvial dans les quartiers précaires d'Abidjan: Etude de cas à Attécoubé," Géo-Eco-Trop 32 (2008): 75–82; Sylvie Bredeloup, Brigitte Bertoncello, Jerôme Lombard, Abidjan, Dakar, des villes à vendre? La privatisation made in Africa des services urbains (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2008); Jean-Fabien Steck, "Abidjan et le Plateau: Quels modèles urbains pour la vitrine du 'miracle' ivoirien?" Géocarrefour 80, 3 (2005): 215–226; Affou Yapi Diahou, Baraques et pouvoirs dans l'agglomération abidjanaise (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2000).

4 For a sample of mid-century observations on Abidjan, see "En soixante ans, la ville d'Abidjan est devenue une véritable métropole," Le Monde Diplomatique, October 1959, 10; Mildred R. Marcus, "A Cosmopolitan City in French West Africa," New York Times, 17 August 1958, X33; Laurent Péchoux, "Ivory Coast Governor Hails Territory's Great New Port," New York Herald Tribune, 29 March 1951, 6–7; Philip Clarke, "Abidjan Port: Boom Town of African Coast," New York Herald Tribune, 29 March 1951, 6–7.

5 Paul Humblot, "L'aide du Plan Marshall et la France d'Outre-mer," Marchés coloniaux, 21 May 1949, 958; John E. Orchard, "ECA and the Dependent Territories," Geographic Review 41, 1 (January 1951): 66–87; Abbot Low Moffat, "The Marshall Plan and British Africa," African Affairs 49, 197 (October 1950): 302–308. See also Sophie Dulucq, La France et les villes d'Afrique noire francophone: Quarante ans d'intervention, 19451985 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1997).

6 For the technical aspects of the cutting of the channel, see Côte d'Ivoire/Travaux Publics, "Port d'Abidjan: Rapports annuels, 1949," 2G49-114, Archives Nationales du Sénégal (hereafter, ANS), Dakar, Senegal; Paul Wagret, "Le laboratoire de recherches hydrauliques de Delft (Pays-Bas)," Revue de géographie alpine 43, 4 (1955): 838–839. For the presence of the submarine canyon off the coast of Abidjan, see Jean-René Vanney & Jean Mascle, "Un canyon sous-marin revisité: Le trou sans fond de Côte d'Ivoire," Annales de géographie 101, 563 (1992): 43–67; L. Droz & al, "The 'Trou Sans Fond' Deep-Sea Fan (Off Ivory Coast, Equatorial Atlantic)," Marine Geology 67, 1–2 (1985): 1–11; L. Martin, "Le trou sans fond, canyon sous-marin de la Côte d'Ivoire," Cahiers ORSTOM, sér. Géologie 6, 1 (1974): 67–76; Robert S. Dietz & Harley J. Knebel, "Trou sans fond Submarine Canyon: Ivory Coast, Africa," Deep Sea Research & Oceanographic Abstracts 18, 4 (April 1971): 441–447.

7 Perry N. Jester (American Consul at Dakar) to Washington, 6 June 1950, Box 5, William D. Moreland Papers, Hoover Institution Archives (hereafter, HIA), Palo Alto, CA; "New Road Bridge at Abidjan," Times, 17 March 1958, G8; Marcus, "Cosmopolitan City," X33; Virginia Thompson & Richard Adloff, French West Africa (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1958), 554–59; Guy Mainet & Gérard Salem, "Recherches de géographie urbaine en Afrique occidentale," in Géographie des espaces tropicaux: Une décennie de recherches françaises, ed. P. Vennetier (Talence: CEGET, 1993), 109–120.

8 For the idea of peripheral urbanization, I rely on the insight of Jeffrey Kentor who defines the peripheral city as a settlement fed by the "selective acceleration of the informal and tertiary sectors" of the urban economy. For details, see his "Structural Determinants of Peripheral Urbanization: The Effects of International Dependence," American Sociological Review 46, 2 (April 1981): 202. see also Dona J. Stewart, "African Urbanization: Dependent Linkages in a Global Economy," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie 88, 3 (1997): 251–261; David A. Smith & Michael Timberlake, "Conceptualising and Mapping the Structure of the World System's City System," Urban Studies 32, 2 (1995): 287–302; Anthony D. King, "Colonialism, Urbanism, and the Capitalist World Economy," International Journal of Urban & Regional Research 13, 1 (1989): 1–18. On the branding of Abidjan as "Pearl of the Lagoons," see Abidjan et ses alentours (Paris: Gouvernement de Côte d'Ivoire/Service de l'Information, 1955).

9 For this triad spatial model, see Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 33, 38–39. While the conceived space of French colonists was hegemonic in the making of Abidjan, the city and its everyday urban life provided a space for many an African resident to challenge the imperial status quo. For an insightful analysis of these oppositional spatial practices, see Marc Le Pape, Energie sociale à Abidjan: Economie politique de la ville en Afrique (Paris: Karthala,1997) and Claudine Vidal, "Abidjan des années trente: Landscapes" in Tropiques: Lieux et liens, ed. Paul Péllisier, et. al. (Paris: Editions de l'ORSTOM, 1989), 303–309.

10 Smith & Timberlake, "Conceptualising and Mapping," 287–302, quote on 287.

11 Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, The History of African Cities South of the Sahara: From the Origins to Colonization (Princeton: Markus Wiener, 2005); Richard W. Hull, African Cities and Towns before the European Conquest (New York: W. W. Norton, 1976); Basil Davidson, Lost Cities of Africa (Boston & Toronto: Little, Brown and Co, 1959). For a sample of analyses that saw urbanization as a relatively recent phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa, see Anne-Marie Cotton, "Le développement urbain et la polarisation de l'espace: L'exemple de la Côte d'Ivoire," Tiers Monde 12, 45 (1971): 167–74; Assane Seck, Introduction a l'étude des villes tropicales," Tiers Monde 6, 21 (1965): 171–204; Jean Dresch, "Villes d'Afrique Occidentale," Cahiers d'Outre Mer (July–September 1950): 200–30.

12 Pierre Kipré, Villes de Côte d'Ivoire, 18931940, vol. 1, Fondation des villes coloniales en Côte d'Ivoire (Abidjan: Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1985).

13 Marcel Eboï, De la prospérité à la paupérisation de la région des lagunes de Côte d'Ivoire (Abidjan: Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1987), 67–83; Cotton, "Développement urbain," 173–74.

14 For insights into the workings of the pacte colonial, see Jean Normand, Le pacte colonial (Paris: Pedone, 1900), 19–23; Horace Say, "Pacte colonial" in Dictionnaire de l'économie politique, vol. 2: JZ, ed. Charles Coquelin & Gilbert Urbain Guillaumin (Paris: Hachette, 1854), 304–305. For recent critiques of the practice and its contemporary legacies, see Mamadou Koulibaly, Les servitudes du pacte colonial (Abidjan: CEDA/NEI, 2005).

15 Alain Dubresson, Villes et industries en Côte d'Ivoire: Pour une géographie de l'accumulation urbaine (Paris: Karthala, 1989), 19–27.

16 Samir Amin, Le développement du capitalisme en Côte d'Ivoire (Paris: Editions Minuit, 1967), 186–197.

17 Bill Freund, The African City: A History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 68.

18 "French West Africa," Economist, 19 December 1942, 764. For the concept of cities in the world system, see Smith & Timberlake, "Conceptualising and Mapping," 289–90.

19 Freund, African City, 65–67.

20 Jean Debrie, "From Colonization to National Territories in Continental West Africa: The Historical Geography of a Transport Infrastructure Network," Journal of Transport Geography 18 (2010): 292–300; H. Laurens Van der Laan, "Modern Inland Transport and the European Trading Firms in Colonial West Africa," Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 21, 84 (1981): 547–575. For the quote on port cities, see Martin J. Murray and Garth A. Myers, "Introduction: Situating Contemporary Cities in Africa," in Cities in Contemporary Africa, ed. Murray and Myers (Gordonvilles, VA: Palgrave, 2006), 8.

21 "Ivory Coast Railway," Railway Age Gazette, 23 April 1915, 911.

22 Frank Simonds, "Peace-Time Railway Extensions Will Interlace World," San Francisco Chronicle, 26 October 1919, F4.

23 "France Projects Paris-Dakar Line," New York Times, 8 December 1918, 40.

24 H. L. Geissel, "The Railways of Africa," Railway Age, 6 April 1900, 371; "The Trans-Saharan Railway," Living Age, 5 April 1924, 643; R. Doucet, "Un projet de chemin de fer transafricain," Annales de géographie 21, 117 (1912): 271–276; "Les chemins de fer africains," Annales de géographie 13, 72 (1904): 427–454.

25 Laurent Fourchard,"Between World History and State Formation: New Perspectives on Africa's Cities," Journal of African History 52 (2011): 228.

26 David Simon, "Colonial cities, postcolonial Africa and the World Economy: A Reinterpretation," International Journal of Urban & Regional Research 13, 1 (1989): 71.

27 As one Ivorian historian argues, such move was aimed at encouraging the expatriate French/Europeans to build shops, hotels, and housing estates likely to promote the French presence and its permanence in the colony. For details, see Kipré, Villes de Côte d'Ivoire, vol. 1, Fondation, 94–95.

28 Kalala Ngalamulume, Colonial Pathologies, Environment, and Western Medicine in Saint-Louis-du-Senegal, 18671920 (Bern/New York: Peter Lang, 2012); Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

29 "Côte d'Ivoire," Bulletin du comité de l'Afrique française, February 1901, 44; Christophe Wondji, "La fièvre jaune à Grand-Bassam (1899–1903)," Revue française d'histoire d'outre-mer 215 (1972): 205–239.

30 Christophe Wondji, "Bingerville, naissance d'une capitale, 1899–1909," Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 16, 61 (1976): 83–102.

31 Ibid., 86–87.

32 Ibid., 88–94.

33 Marc Le Pape, "De l'espace et des races à Abidjan, entre 1903 et 1934," Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 25, 99 (1985): 295–307.

34 Dubresson, Villes et industries, 197.

35 Yves Marguerat, "Capitales en balade: Remarques historico-géographiques sur les changements de capitale en Afrique noire," Cahiers d'Outre Mer 175, 44 (July–September 1991): 217–242.

36 For the discussion of the military origins of colonial cities in the Ivory Coast, see Kipré, Villes de Côte d'Ivoire, vol. 1, Fondation, 83–101. For the crucial role of infrastructural development in urbanization of Ivory Coast, see Semi Bi Zan, "La politique coloniale des travaux publique en Côte d'Ivoire (1900–1940)," Annales de l'Université d'Abidjan, sér. Histoire 1, 2 (1973–1974): 10–14.

37 For a brief yet insightful historical analysis of pre-colonial cities in Ivory Coast, see Kipré, Villes de Côte d'Ivoire, vol. 1, Fondation, 47–82.

38 Dubresson, Villes et industries, 19–41.

39 Sylvie Jimenez, "Les investissements urbains à Abidjan dans le domaine de l'habitat (1931–1949)," in Les investissements publics dans les villes africaines, 19301985: Habitat et transports, ed. Sophie Dulucq and Odile Goerg (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1989), 88–89.

40 As Jimenez explains, the transfer of the Ivorian capital accounted for the preponderance of investments in Abidjan during the interwar period. In fact, the raising of the Ebrié locality to the rank of capital city necessitated the construction of 13 new buildings for functionaries. Half a dozen of villas/pavilions were also built. In the same vein, about 10 housing projects intended for the évolués were initiated. For details, see Jimenez, "Investissements urbains," 92. See also Doutreuwe, "Côte d'Ivoire," 126–134; René Parenteau & François Charbonneau, "Abidjan: Une politique de l'habitat au service du plan urbain," Cahiers de géographie du Québec 36, 99 (1992): 418–419.

41 René-Pierre Anouma, Aux origines de la nation ivoirienne, 18931946, vol. 1: Conquêtes coloniales et aménagements territoriaux, 18931920 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2005), 52–55; Pierre Kipré, Côte d'Ivoire: La formation d'un peuple (Paris: Sides-Ima, 2005), 159–161; Benjamin E. Thomas, "Railways and Ports in French West Africa," Economic Geography 33, 1 (January 1957): 10–12; Rougerie, Port d'Abidjan, 28–59; François-Joseph Amon d'Aby, La Côte d'Ivoire dans la cité africaine (Paris: Larose, 1951), 103–105; J. Eysséric, "Exploration du Bandama Côte (Côte d'Ivoire)," Annales de géographie 7, 33 (1898): 273–277.

42 Anouma, Aux origines, vol. 1, Conquêtes coloniales, 54–55; Amin, Développement du capitalisme, 133; Amon d'Aby, Côte d'Ivoire dans la cité, 106.

43 Commandant Houdaille as cited in Bi Zan, "Politique coloniale," 45.

44 For this new outbreak of yellow fever in Grand Bassam and an early Franco-American cooperation to stamp out the disease, see F. F. Russell to Chef de Santé/Grand Bassam, 31 August 1922, Record Group (RG) 5, series 1.2, Box 145, Folder 1918, Rockefeller Archive Center (hereafter RAC), Tarrytown, NY; H. C. Bauvallet to Rockefeller Foundation, 6 July 1921, RG 5, series 1.2, Box 123, Folder 1652, RAC.

45 Rougerie, Port d'Abidjan, 55–59; "La Côte d'Ivoire: Son développement," Le Petit Marseillais, 28 October 1930, 5.

46 Taylor Henry, "Vichy Rushing Ivory Coast Fortifications," Washington Post, 13 September 1941, 1; "New African Port Speeded by Vichy," New York Times, 13 September 1941, 7; "Vichy Fortifying New West Africa Base at Abidjan," Chicago Daily Tribune, 13 September 1941, 5.

47 Côte d'Ivoire/Travaux Publics: Subdivision du Port d'Abidjan, "Rapport annuel sur l'état d'avancement des travaux du port," 23 January 1946, 2G45-118, ANS; Arthur Veysey, "U.S. Money Aids Spending Boom in West Africa," Chicago Daily Tribune, 23 November 1952, 16; Paul Humblot, "L'aide du Plan Marshall et la France d'Outre-mer," Marchés coloniaux, 21 May 1949, 958.

48 André Schock to Chargé d'Affaire/Liberia, 18 July 1946, Carton 6, série: Afrique-Levant (AL) 1944–1952/sous-série: Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF), Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (hereafter AMAE), Paris, France.

49 Chargé d'Affaire/Liberia to Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, 3 September 1946, Carton 6, AL/AOF, AMAE; Laurent Gbagbo, Côte d'Ivoire: Economie et société à la veille de l'indépendance, 19401960 (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1982), 111.

50 Dakar to Washington, 2 August 1950, Box 4, William D. Moreland Papers, HIA; "Africa is Building 'Port of the Future,'" New York Times, 25 February 1950, 29; William Humphrey, "Port of Abidjan on Ivory Coast to Open Feb. 5," Daily Boston Globe, 28 January 1951, C4; "Man-made Port at Ivory Coast," Christian Science Monitor, 14 February 1952, 5; "Africa's 'Port of the Future' Plans for Partial Debut in 1950," Christian Science Monitor, 3 April 1950, 3. See also Gbagbo, Côte d'Ivoire: Economie et société, 112; Richard Peterec, "The Port of Abidjan: An Important Factor in the Economic Development of the Ivory Coast," (Columbia University/Division of Economic Geography, 1963), AD 408715, Defense Documentation Center, Alexandria, VA.

51 Philip Clarke, "Abidjan Port: Boom Town of African Coast," New York Herald Tribune, 29 March 1951, 6–7; Rougerie, Port d'Abidjan, 80–82; A Decade of Progress: French Economic Assistance to West and Equatorial Africa, 19481958 (New York: Ambassade de France aux USA/Service de Presse et d'Information, Nov. 1958), 9.

52 Territoire de la Côte d'Ivoire, Inventaire économique de la Côte d'Ivoire, 19471956 (Abidjan: Ministère du Plan/Service de la Statistique, 1958), 165–66; "Côte d'Ivoire: Activités du port d'Abidjan en 1952," Bulletin du comité de l'Afrique française, April 1953, 19; Jean Lebeuf, "L'évolution des productions agricoles," Marchés coloniaux, 28 April 1951, 1171–73. See also Rougerie, Port d'Abidjan, 21; Decade of Progress, 9; Peterec, "Port of Abidjan," 44–51.

53 Egon Kaskeline, "West Africa Seen Hub of French Empire," Christian Science Monitor, 21 August 1951, 13; "Develop African Port to Attract More Trade," Pittsburgh Courier, 4 March 1950, 23; C. L. Sulzberger, "France Seeks More Labor and Raw Material Sources," New York Times, 7 March 1949, 6. Some historians have suggested that such reliance on the African colonies led to a "second colonial occupation." For details, see Mamadou Diouf, "Privatisations des économies et des Etats africains: Commentaires d'un historien," Politique Africaine 76, 1 (1999): 16–23; John Lonsdale, "East Africa" in The Oxford History of the British Empire, vol. 4: The Twentieth Century, ed. J. M. Brown and Wm. Roger Louis (London: Oxford University Press, 1999), 530–44; John Hargreaves, Decolonization in Africa (London: Longman, 1996), 117–20; D.A. Low and John M. Lonsdale, "Introduction: Towards the New Order" in History of East Africa, vol. 3, ed. D. A. Low and Alison Smith (London: Oxford, University Press, 1976), 1–63.

54 "Le plan d'équipement en Côte d'Ivoire," March 1953, Box 215, Archives des Anciennes Colonies/Dakar, Centre des Archives Diplomatiques (hereafter, CAD), Nantes, France; Laurent Péchoux, "Ivory Coast Governor Hails Territory's Great New Port," New York Herald Tribune, 29 March 1951, 6–7; Georges Riond, "Un port qui s'équipe en Afrique—c'est une porte qui s'agrandit sur l'avenir social des Africains," La Côte d'Ivoire, February 1951, 3. In the estimation of one observer, the completion of the port cost $17,000,000 and $14,000,000 were spent on other related projects in Abidjan. For details, see Philip Clarke, "Abidjan Port: Boom Town of African Coast," New York Herald Tribune, 29 March 1951, 6–7.

55 Dakar to Washington, 23 August 1950, Box 4, William D. Moreland Papers, HIA; "Lever Brothers and Unilever, Limited," Manchester Guardian, 30 March 1946, 9; "Baltimore Is Port for 5 New Routes," New York Times, 28 January 1947, 47.

56 André Hauser, "Les industries de transformation de la Côte d'Ivoire," Etudes Eburnéennes 5 (1955): 108–113.

57 "Les Etats-Unis veulent ouvrir un consulat général à Abidjan pour surveiller les activités communistes," Le Monde, 29–30 April 1951, 1; "Abidjan Consular Post," Washington Post, 1 May 1951, 2; Washington to Paris, 30 April 1951, Carton 4, AL/AOF, AMAE; Dakar to Paris, 2 May 1951, ibid; Dakar to Washington, 23 August 1950, Box 4, William D. Moreland Papers, HIA.

58 Christopher Winters, "Urban Morphology in Francophone Black Africa,"Geographical Review 72, 2 (Apr. 1982): 139–154; Sophie Dulucq, "Les ambiguïtés du discours et des pratiques urbaines: Afrique noire francophone, c. 1900–c. 1980," in La ville européenne outre mer: Un modèle conquerant?, ed. Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch and Odile Goerg (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1996), 217–234.

59 Marc Le Pape, "De l'espace et des races à Abidjan, entre 1903 et 1934," Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines 25, 99 (1985): 295–307; Dubresson, Villes et industries, 197–203; "En soixante ans, la ville d'Abidjan est devenue une véritable métropole," Le Monde Diplomatique, October 1959, 10; "Côte d'Ivoire: Inauguration du pont d'Abidjan," Bulletin du comité de l'Afrique française, May–June 1958, 91.

60 Murray and Myers, "Introduction," 7.

61 William Moreland, Draft Book, Chapter C4, 1952, Box 4, William D. Moreland Papers, HIA.

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