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Special Report : Côte d'Ivoire

Abidjan
At the center of its world

Par Zyad Limam - Publié en janvier 2022
With Emmanuelle Pontié
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Abidjan "Babi". NABIL ZORKOT
Abidjan "Babi". NABIL ZORKOT

Between land and sea, this megalopolis known as “Babi”, is cosmopolitan, excessive, industrious and festive. Our GALLERY TOUR reveals a capital that is far from purely “economic”.

​​​​​​​Located on the Gulf of Guinea coast, between land and lagoon, Abidjan flaunts the imposing Plateau towers, its 13 districts – cities within the city – its unbridled hustle and bustle, epic traffic jams, hectic days and feverish nights, and avant-garde art scene. “Babi”, a local combination of Abidjan and Babylon, is one of the gateways to emerging Africa. A global city, an astonishing melting pot of cultures and origins, this is where all the West and even Central African communities come together and French, Lebanese, Chinese and Vietnamese expatriates come to seek their fortune or a new life. The megalopolis of 5 million people is expanding a little more each day, growing spectacularly and sometimes chaotically. Abidjan is pushing its boundaries to meet the meandering lagoon, from Bingerville to chic Assinie, on the seashore, where the happy few gather.

Babi is a constant work in progress: planning water and electricity supply, fighting unsanitary conditions, ensuring transparent property transactions, upgrading roads, dealing with waste management [see p. 70], protecting the lagoon and natural heritage, and reinventing abandoned areas (such as the former Akouédo dump, which will made into an urban green space). The city is permanently under construction. From its centre will rise the F Tower, the tallest building in Africa. The 4th bridge, connecting Yopougon and the Plateau, crosses the lagoon. The 5th, linking Cocody and the Plateau, is under construction. Construction on the underground, the most ambitious urban transport project in sub-Saharan Africa, is finally moving forward, and the first line is due to open in 2025. The exhibition centre on the outskirts of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny airport paves the way for the forthcoming Aérocité. Naturally, the pandemic has slowed the pace a little. But Abidjan has faith. It believes in its future, aware of its dynamism. In 2023, the magnificent new Olympic stadium in Ebimpé will host the African Cup of Nations final. And in 2030, Abidjan, the “pearl of the lagoons”, will be home to nearly 8 million people.

 

Le Plateau. It is the beating heart and business district of Abidjan, a bustling hive of company headquarters, business lunches and tree-lined avenues at the foot of tall towers. Also famous for its traffic jams and dodgy red taxis that look like they cheat death on a daily basis. ZYAD LIMAM
Le Plateau. It is the beating heart and business district of Abidjan, a bustling hive of company headquarters, business lunches and tree-lined avenues at the foot of tall towers. Also famous for its traffic jams and dodgy red taxis that look like they cheat death on a daily basis. ZYAD LIMAM
The Esplanade, Le Plateau. This elongated vessel of mirrored glass, floating on its central pillars, is to be the new presidential palace and was designed by architect Pierre Fakhoury. In a nod to historical continuity, it faces the current palace, shaped like a traditional African stool, in accordance with the wishes of late former president Felix Houphouët-Boigny. ZYAD LIMAM
The Sofitel Hotel Ivoire. Welcome to this mythical hotel, built in the mid-1960s. Its familiar and unmistakable 100 metre high tower is etched into the city skyline, a witness to the ups and downs of the country's contemporary history. ZYAD LIMAM

 

The Sofitel Hotel Ivoire. Welcome to this mythical hotel, built in the mid-1960s. Its familiar and unmistakable 100 metre high tower is etched into the city skyline, a witness to the ups and downs of the country's contemporary history. ZYAD LIMAM
The Esplanade, Le Plateau. This elongated vessel of mirrored glass, floating on its central pillars, is to be the new presidential palace and was designed by architect Pierre Fakhoury. In a nod to historical continuity, it faces the current palace, shaped like a traditional African stool, in accordance with the wishes of late former president Felix Houphouët-Boigny. ZYAD LIMAM

 

Style. As the fashion capital of Africa, Abidjan sets the tone. Local designers invent and reinvent the mix of materials and chic design. Like Élie Kwame (pictured here, centre), who founded his luxury brand in Paris before relocating to the banks of the lagoon in 2017. ADER DIABY
Style. As the fashion capital of Africa, Abidjan sets the tone. Local designers invent and reinvent the mix of materials and chic design. Like Élie Kwame (pictured here, centre), who founded his luxury brand in Paris before relocating to the banks of the lagoon in 2017. ADER DIABY
Abidjan by night. There’s no denying it's one of the African cities that offers the widest and most exciting choice of restaurants, discotheques and bars. Young and old, rich and poor, this is a place where people party until dawn, in a vibrant mix of atmospheres, ultra-chic, trendy or mainstream. MARTIN COLOMBET
Abidjan by night. There’s no denying it's one of the African cities that offers the widest and most exciting choice of restaurants, discotheques and bars. Young and old, rich and poor, this is a place where people party until dawn, in a vibrant mix of atmospheres, ultra-chic, trendy or mainstream. MARTIN COLOMBET

 

Treichville. There are nearly 5 million people living in the economic capital, spread over 4,200 hectares and 13 districts (three on the outskirts). Real cities within the city, each with its own identity, like Yopougon or Abobo, which has a population of over a million. Or Treichville, pictured here, on Petit-Bassam island, south of Le Plateau. An industrial area and a relatively formal open-air supermarket (the famous Rue 12), Treichville is also known for its shady atmosphere after dark.
Treichville. There are nearly 5 million people living in the economic capital, spread over 4,200 hectares and 13 districts (three on the outskirts). Real cities within the city, each with its own identity, like Yopougon or Abobo, which has a population of over a million. Or Treichville, pictured here, on Petit-Bassam island, south of Le Plateau. An industrial area and a relatively formal open-air supermarket (the famous Rue 12), Treichville is also known for its shady atmosphere after dark.

 

Assinie. One of the Abidjan jet-set's favourite weekend destinations, Assinie can be reached by road or boat, gliding alongside the mangroves and small lakeside villages. Cosy villas and elegant hotels stretch the length of an endless sandy beach, offering a haven of relaxation, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. DR
The Exhibition Centre. This is one of the city of tomorrow's flagship projects and the starting point for the planned Aérocité development, on the outskirts of Félix Houphouët-Boigny Airport. The first step is the 9,000 m² Convention Centre, with its large, central 35 m high nave and a modular design to accommodate exhibitions, international trade fairs, sports competitions, and conferences, etc. A new top venue for Abidjan! ZYAD LIMAM

 

The Exhibition Centre. This is one of the city of tomorrow's flagship projects and the starting point for the planned Aérocité development, on the outskirts of Félix Houphouët-Boigny Airport. The first step is the 9,000 m² Convention Centre, with its large, central 35 m high nave and a modular design to accommodate exhibitions, international trade fairs, sports competitions, and conferences, etc. A new top venue for Abidjan! ZYAD LIMAM
Assinie. One of the Abidjan jet-set's favourite weekend destinations, Assinie can be reached by road or boat, gliding alongside the mangroves and small lakeside villages. Cosy villas and elegant hotels stretch the length of an endless sandy beach, offering a haven of relaxation, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. DR

 

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