The Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa for the global chocolate industry. 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from the country, twice as much as the next biggest supplier, Ghana. Cocoa is the state’s main economic resource, accounting for an average 35% of the total value of Ivorian exports, valued at around US$1.4 billion per year.
A new report Hot Chocolate: How cocoa fuelled the conflict in Côte d’Avoire, published on June 8 by Global Witness, a British-based independent non-governmental organization which investigates and campaigns on the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict and corruption, shows how over US$118 million from the cocoa trade have funded both sides, the Ivorian government and the rebel Forces Nouvelles (FN), in the recent armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire.
Since September 2002, the fighting in Côte d’Ivoire has claimed thousands of civilian lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, leaving 40% of the population desperately poor.
The Global Witness report documents patterns of mismanagement of revenues, non-transparency of accounts, corruption and political favoritism in the Ivorian cocoa sector, as well as detailed evidence demonstrating the diversion of more than US$58 million from cocoa levies to the government’s war effort.
Two executives of, respectively, Cocoa SIFCA, the Ivorian subsidiary of US food group Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and Dafci, then owned by French conglomerate Bolloré, were representing Côte d’Ivoire’s biggest exporters’ union on the board of the Ivorian the Bourse du Café et Cacao at the time the funds were diverted.
For their part, the Forces Nouvelles rebels raised approximately US$30 million a year by taxing cocoa travelling through the territory they control in the north of the country, and preventing northern-produced cocoa from transiting south into government-controlled territory. This parallel tax system has not only enabled the FN to survive as a movement but has allowed individual FN officials to enrich themselves to the detriment of the population of northern Côte d’Ivoire.
The Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer, who was investigating corruption in the cocoa trade and in 2004 and a French lawyer who was auditing the cocoa sector for the European Union was subsequently kidnapped.
’There is a high chance that your chocolate bar contains cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire and may have funded the conflict there, which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth,’ comments Global Witness director Patrick Alley. ‘The chocolate industry should clean up its act and ensure that it only sells conflict-free chocolate. Consumers should phone the helpline numbers on the back of their chocolate bars and demand that chocolate companies push their suppliers to support farmers, not the war effort. Suppliers should be transparent about where their money goes. They should ensure that it supports development in Côte d’Ivoire and not unaccountable elites on either side of the crisis.’
Click here to download the full report, Hot Chocolate: how cocoa fuelled the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire
For further information, contact:
In West Africa: Maria Lopez: +221 224 46 55
In the UK: Rosie Sharpe: +44 (0)20 7561 6393/ +44 (0)7884 042 254