Tough Treatment In Côte d’Ivoire Schools, Expelling ‘Losers’ To Boost Grades

Students are seen at the Djedji Amondji Pierre high school in Adjame, Abidjan, on September 16, 2022. – Ivorian students returned to school this week, with a sword of Damocles above their heads: those who have less than 8.5 average will be excluded at the end of the year. An “old” measure that reappears in the hope of raising the bar. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

 

 

Youngsters in Côte d’Ivoire return to school this week with a sword of Damocles above their heads: those with average grades of less than 8.5 out of 10 will be excluded at the end of the year.

The measure is an old one brought back by authorities in the hope of raising the general standard of education in the country — prohibiting any pupil with an unacceptable grade from pursuing their studies.

In the working-class district of Adjame, at the heart of the commercial capital Abidjan, the rule stirs comment at small stalls selling school supplies, where people also exchange secondhand textbooks.

“What are we going to do with the students who will be excluded? It’s too drastic!” exclaims Mariam Eid, a mother of three.

“We’re going to turn them into bandits. We want the teaching to be up to par, but one step at a time,” she adds, while making sure a worn mathematics book has no missing pages before she buys it.

But at the Pierre Amondji college in Adjame — where the motto “Who seeks perfection obtains excellence” is displayed in capital letters on the walls of the courtyard — the measure is generally well received among the students.

 

Pupils attend a classroom in Abidjan on September 12, 2022 at the beginning of the school year in Ivory Coast. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

— ‘Redouble our efforts’ —
“I find it positive,” says Djenebou, who is taking the baccalaureate school leavers’ exam at the end of the year.

“It will incite us to redouble our efforts and work harder.”

“It’s a good measure. The goal is to improve our knowledge so we move on with solid training,” adds his classmate Seydou.

But Seydou also hopes the regulation will not encourage fraud, and in particular the blackmailing of students by certain teachers in exchange for good exam grades.

“Some teachers are difficult… The marks are very low and to move on to the next class we have to negotiate with them,” the young student says.

The minister of national education, Mariatou Kone, who is seeing in the second new school year of her time in office, defends a regulation that is far from universally welcomed.

“This is a measure that has existed since the 1970s and that we are restoring to encourage students to work and fight against mediocrity,” she tells AFP.

“Students will not be barred from the school system. There are bridges between technical education and vocational training,” Kone adds, keen “to reassure parents”.

The minister says students who don’t get the grades will not follow the standard curriculum, but they will be able to learn a trade or different skills.

“We must not leave anybody aside. The state must redirect these students to training in other trades,” insists Claude Kadio Aka, president of the Organization of the Parents of Pupils and Students in Ivory Coast (Opeeci).

“All our children are useful in the development of the country,” Aka declares.

 

Pupils attend a classroom in Abidjan on September 12, 2022 at the beginning of the school year in Ivory Coast. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

— ‘Measure of averages’ —
Minister Kone stresses the aim of the reform is “to raise the standard” of Ivorian schools and to give diplomas their full worth.

In the past two years, the success rate for the baccalaureate has hovered around 30 percent, compared with 45 percent in previous years.

“Our children are in advanced classes and don’t even know how to write an elementary sentence,” protests Christelle Okingni, who has four children in school and welcomes the initiative.

But the “measure of averages” will not suffice to improve a school system which is sorely lacking in resources.

“Students regularly rise up to denounce the lack of classrooms and desks,” points out a teacher of French from an establishment in Bouake, the country’s second city, who prefers to remain anonymous.

It is not uncommon in Ivory Coast to find classrooms with 60 or even 80 pupils, while a lack of teachers sometimes cuts short the school year by several weeks.

“Last year, we had a mathematics and physics teacher only after the first term, it’s not good for us students,” laments Aya, a middle-school pupil at a college in Bouake.

The matter of school fees has arisen more than ever at a time when worldwide inflation is not sparing low-income households in Ivory Coast.

Officially, Ivorian state schools are free, but the price of uniforms, satchels and supplies can quickly put a strain on the family budget — not to mention illegal registration fees sometimes requested by certain establishments.

Last week, the government announced a free distribution of six million textbooks and 5.3 million kits of classroom supplies, as well as the provision of 167,000 tables.

Côte d’Ivoire’s ‘Pearl Of Lagoons’ Loses Its Lustre

Residents use open latrines at the Ebrie lagoon of the Zimbabwe district in the commune of Portbouet in Abidjan on July 22, 2022. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

 

 

It was once a jewel of West Africa — the “Pearl of Lagoons,” people liked to call it.

Today, the vast Ebrie lagoon which abuts Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan is a sick and sorry sight, choked by plastic pollution and ravaged by sand extraction and unbridled development.

Named after an ethnic group that lives on its banks, the lagoon covers 120,000 hectares (297,000 acres), mostly separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a strip of land.

Old-timers wax nostalgic about the days when its waters were a pristine aquamarine and mangroves teemed with fish and wildlife.

Today, the shoreside village of Beago exemplifies a nightmarish problem with plastic.

Discarded bottles, wrappers and other plastic rubbish smother the banks for at least a kilometre (more than half a mile).

“The situation is alarming. There are no more fish because of the pollution — fishing has been abandoned,” said the village chief Paul Abe Blessoue, 73.

Urban and industrial waste from Yopougon, Abidjan’s biggest district, has transformed his village of 3,000 inhabitants into an open dump, he said.

“If we are not careful, Beago could disappear in a few years, abandoned by its inhabitants,” he said.

 

Once a prized feature of Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan and its surroundings, the “pearl of lagoons” has lost its shine to become a victim of plastic pollution on a vast scale.
 (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

 

– Minimal recycling –
Discarded plastic typically enters the marine environment from rivers or drains or by the wind. Once there, it becomes a notorious problem.

Larger pieces can choke seabirds and mammals, and after biodegradation that can take years, tiny fragments may enter the food chain at the smallest level.

Many rich economies are trying to crack down through such measures as banning single-use plastic bags, launching awareness programmes and sorting rubbish to encourage recycling.

But in Ivory Coast, as in many developing countries, little such headway has been made.

The country of 26 million produces 460,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year, said Yaya Kone, CEO of recycling company Coliba Africa.

Of this, 290,000 tonnes come from Abidjan, where some six million people live.

“Only three percent is recycled and used again,” he said.

The rest “ends up in nature, especially the lagoon and the sea.”

 

Known as the Ebrie lagoon from the name of an ethnic group that lives on its banks, the brackish waterway extends over 120,000 hectares (297,000 acres) mostly separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a strip of land. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

 

– ‘Dead bay’ –
One of the biggest expanses of brackish water in Africa, the lagoon stretches far through countryside west of Abidjan to the Azagny National Park.

Its eastern point lies at Grand Bassam — Ivory Coast’s first French colonial capital, renowned today for its ocean beach.

“Plastic is the (lagoon’s) biggest pollution source,” said Ayenon Seka, from the Institute of Tropical Geography at the University of Cocody in Abidjan.

But plastic is not the only ill.

Around Bietry Bay, pollution has been compounded by industrial extraction of sand and anarchic development.

“Bietry Bay is a dead bay — it is extremely polluted, a real environmental disaster,” said businessman Bernard Derrien, 76, who has lived in the area since 1998.

He said 1.6 million square metres (17.2 million square feet) of the bay had been filled in to build factories there.

 

People pass near a dumping ground for plastic and other waste on the edge of the Ebrie lagoon in the Zimbabwe district in the commune of Portbouet in Abidjan on July 22, 2022.  (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP)

 

– ‘Poto-poto’ –
Gerard Frere, a Frenchman who has lived in Abidjan for 67 years and owns a hotel in the bay, remembered the old days with nostalgia.

“Bietry used to be a corner of paradise — now it is poto-poto,” said Frere, using a term for muddy terrain infested with mosquitoes and exposed to flooding.

A specialist in sports fishing, Frere said pollution had halved his turnover.

“The floor of the lagoon is carpeted with plastic waste 30 centimetres (a foot) thick,” he said.

Voices are being raised to reverse the lagoon’s catastrophic decline, with some, like Derrien, demanding a massive sewerage network to ensure that water entering the lagoon from Abidjan is clean.

Residents in Bietry district have launched an association, Abidjan Ma Lagune, and Kone’s company is launching a training programme for as many as 6,000 plastic rubbish collectors.

But public awareness is still far behind, said Kouadio Affian, an oceanographer at the University of Abidjan.

“People don’t realise that when they throw away a plastic bottle in the street, it could end up in the lagoon,” he said.

Côte d’Ivoire Announces New Oil, Gas Discovery

Policemen are seen in front of the Sapet Gas, an LPG Tanker built in 2022 and currently sailing under the flag of Marshall Islands, as it’s moored at the port of Abidjan on July 26, 2022. The vessel is the first Ivorian vessel used to import butane gas by Pertroci Holding and Sahara Group. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

 

Côte d’Ivoire reported a fresh discovery of offshore oil and natural gas by Italian firm Eni on Thursday, expanding the potential of reserves found last year by 25 percent.

In September 2021, the country had announced a find of deposits estimated at between 1.5 and 2 billion barrels of oil and around 1.8-2.4 trillion cubic feet (51-68 million cubic metres) of gas.

The latest discovery off the eastern coast “increases by about 25 percent” the previously announced deposits, the ministry for mines, oil and energy said in a statement, with extraction due to start in early 2023.

President Alassane Ouattara has said he wants Côte d’Ivoire to become a major oil producer. The West African nation’s current output is modest, at around 30,000 barrels per day.

International companies including French giant Total and Britain’s Tullow Oil have also announced significant discoveries of Ivorian offshore oil reserves in recent years.

Ivory Coast Denies Plan To Destabilise Mali After Soldiers Held

Alassane Ouattara Photographer: Michael Nagle/

 

Ivory Coast’s president on Friday dismissed any suggestion that his country sought to destabilise Mali after a group of Ivorian soldiers were detained there and accused of being mercenaries.

Speaking during an official visit to South Africa, President Alassane Ouattara also voiced hopes for a rapid solution to the dispute, which has strained relations between the two West African countries.

“Ivory Coast cannot get involved in any attempt to destabilise any country and especially a neighbouring country,” he told a press briefing in Pretoria.

“For us, there is no question of getting involved in any attempt at destabilisation,” he reiterated, adding, “Everyone regrets this situation.”

Forty-nine Ivorian soldiers were detained after their arrival at Bamako airport on July 10.

Mali has labelled them “mercenaries,” but Ivory Coast says they were sent to provide backup duties for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

A UN spokesman has said that while they were not UN peacekeeping troops as such, they were part of “national support elements” routinely deployed by contributing countries.

Mali is struggling with a long-running jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

It is also in the grip of political turbulence after colonels angry at the government’s handling of the insurgency seized power in August 2020.

Their takeover triggered a long standoff with the regional bloc ECOWAS, of which Ivory Coast is a member, over a timetable for restoring civilian rule.

-AFP

Ivory Coast To Spend $430m In Anti-Jihadism Campaign

Ivory Coast Map

 

Ivory Coast said Monday it would spend around $430 million in a three-year campaign to support young people in border regions at risk from Sahel jihadists.

“As part of the fight against vulnerability in northern areas, particularly the six regions bordering Burkina Faso and Mali, the government has launched an ambitious programme of integration and infrastructure for education and health,” Youth Minister Mamadou Toure told AFP.

The cost amounts to “405 million euros,” he said.

The Gulf of Guinea country has suffered sporadic cross-border attacks over the past two years.

Armed incursions have also affected neighbouring Ghana, Togo, and Benin, strengthening fears of a southward push from the Sahel towards the coast.

Under the new plan, the government will earmark 33 billion CFA francs ($53 million) to provide 60,000 young people with professional training, apprenticeships, and startup financing.

READ ALSO: Health Workers, Teachers Strike In Zimbabwe

“Along with the military response, we want… to develop an ambitious social programme to… give young people prospects to prevent them from becoming easy targets for jihadist movements,” Toure said.

“Many young people sometimes have difficulty integrating after attending madrassas,” or Koranic schools, he added.

AFP

Ivory Coast Arrests 30 In Cocaine Swoop

Ivory Coast Map

 

 

Police in Ivory Coast have arrested around 30 people after making a massive cocaine haul in two port cities, the public prosecutor said on Thursday.

Police made the arrests after seizing more than two tonnes of the drug in Abidjan and San Pedro in April, prosecutor Richard Adou told AFP.

“This is an international inquiry which involves South America, Africa, Europe,” he said, adding that further details would be given at a press conference at a later date.

The street value of the haul is put at 41 billion CFA francs ($67 million).

Ivory Coast has become a reputed transit hub for South American cocaine heading for Europe.

Last year, police seized a 1.56-tonne consignment and in 2020, more than 400 kilos (880 pounds) were found aboard a freighter that had sailed from Brazil.

Salah And Haller Go Head To Head As African Heavyweights Clash

A photo collage of Egypt’s forward Mohamed Salah and Ivory Coast’s forward Sebastien Haller at a press conference at the Japoma Stadium in Douala at the ongoing 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN). PHOTO: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations last-16 tie between Egypt and the Ivory Coast brings together two of the continent’s heavyweight teams who have plenty of history as well as two of the most exciting attacking players in the world just now.

Mohamed Salah leads an Egypt side looking to add to their record haul of seven AFCON titles, while the Ivorians — with Sebastien Haller leading the line — are chasing a third crown.

Not everyone in Cameroon will have the appetite for the competition to continue after the tragic events of Monday in Yaounde, but there will be a big, expectant crowd at the Japoma Stadium in economic capital Douala, where the majority of supporters will likely be backing the Elephants.

READ ALSO: Hakimi Fires Morocco Into Quarter-Finals After Malawi Scare

They must find a way of stopping Salah without neglecting the rest of Carlos Queiroz’s team, even if Egypt hardly set the tournament alight in the group stage, losing 1-0 to Nigeria before beating Guinea-Bissau and Sudan by the same scoreline.

“We always seem to face big teams with great experience in the competition,” said Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle, whose side beat Algeria 3-1 in their last outing to eliminate the reigning champions.

“They are a very experienced team whose players almost all play in Egypt and so I suppose they are used to African conditions.

“They always turn up in big games, even if they are not playing brilliantly.”

Beaumelle, who has twice won the Cup of Nations as an assistant coach, said he was preparing for a “tight, tactical battle but an exciting game.”

 

– History favours Egypt –

For obvious reasons the focus is drawn to Salah and Haller, even if each has only scored once so far in Cameroon.

The Liverpool forward has 54 goals for his club since the start of last season, including seven this campaign in the UEFA Champions League.

He has won the Premier League and Champions League in recent years but is desperate for international glory with his country.

“It is my country, what I love the most. This trophy for me would be completely different. It would be the closest one to my heart,” Salah said.

Salah’s Champions League tally this season has been bettered only by Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, with nine, and by Ajax striker Haller, who netted 10 times in the group stage and became just the second player to score in all six group games, following Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017.

But while Salah has been playing for Egypt for a decade and is at his third Cup of Nations, this is French-born Haller’s first major international tournament.

“In certain aspects the AFCON is more difficult than the Champions League,” Haller admitted on Tuesday.

“Sometimes the conditions are maybe less favourable. We obviously do less work together on the training ground than we do with our clubs, so that all makes it harder.”

As the teams target a place in the quarter-finals and a tie against Morocco, history is certainly on Egypt’s side.

They notably beat the Elephants on the way to winning the trophy in 1986, and then won on penalties in the 2006 final in Cairo, with Didier Drogba one of those to miss from the spot.

Two years later the Pharaohs crushed the Ivorians 4-1 in the semi-finals en route to retaining their crown.

“What matters to us as a team is to live in the present. It is two different teams, different players, different coaches, and the past doesn’t help us to win games,” warned Queiroz.

AFP

Curse Of The Holders Strikes Again As AFCON Heads Into Knockout Phase

Algeria's forward Riyad Mahrez reacts after Ivory Coast scored their fourth goal that did not count during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ivory Coast and Algeria at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 20, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Algeria’s forward Riyad Mahrez reacts after Ivory Coast scored their fourth goal that did not count during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ivory Coast and Algeria at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 20, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

As the Africa Cup of Nations heads into the knockout stages, the reigning champions are heading home early to follow a pattern set at recent editions of the tournament.

Algeria were unceremoniously dumped out on Thursday, Riyad Mahrez missing a penalty in a 3-1 defeat against the Ivory Coast before a delirious crowd in Douala as they finished bottom of their group with one point.

Djamel Belmadi’s team arrived in Cameroon on a 34-game unbeaten run and were naturally one of the favourites to win the title. Instead, the Fennec Foxes depart with their tails between their legs.

It has been notoriously difficult for teams to retain major international titles. No side has successfully defended the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, while Spain in 2012 are the only nation to have retained the European Championship.

In Africa, the Cup of Nations might be held more often and now features 24 teams after its expansion for the 2019 edition, but the reigning champions have a habit of stumbling at the finals.

Since Egypt won a third consecutive AFCON in 2010, only once have the titleholders made the knockout phase of the following edition.

That was Cameroon in 2019, but they were eliminated in the last 16. Egypt did not even qualify for the tournament in 2012, nor did Nigeria in 2015 after they won the previous edition.

Fans Show Up At Last 

Mali’s forward Ibrahima Kone (2L) celebrates with teammates and supporters after scoring a goal during the Group F Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Gambia and Mali at Limbe Omnisport Stadium in Limbe on January 16, 2022. Issouf SANOGO / AFP

 

Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle was the assistant to Herve Renard when Zambia won the title in 2012 and he believes that has shown national teams across Africa what is possible.

“It is always difficult to successfully defend the title because it is a coveted trophy and when we won it with Zambia in 2012 that inspired a lot of teams as well,” Beaumelle said.

“Zambia was a great team but not one you would say would-be contenders to win every time. Everyone wants to go far and we don’t know who is going to win it.”

Since the tournament’s initial expansion to 16 teams a quarter of a century ago, whenever the AFCON has been held in North Africa it has been won by a North African team.

However, North African sides have often struggled elsewhere on the continent, with the obvious exception of the Egyptians who notably won in Ghana in 2008 and Angola in 2010.

Belmadi regularly cited the challenging conditions as a reason for his team’s struggles during their games in Cameroon’s economic capital Douala, where temperatures are high and humidity extreme.

After a disappointing start as fans stayed away in droves due to the coronavirus rules in place to attend games in football-mad Cameroon, crowds have increased markedly, with 30,000 in Douala to see Algeria go out.

 Minnows Enjoy Their Moment 

Ghana's goalkeeper Abdul Manaf Nurudeen (R) fights for the ball with Comoros' forward Said Bakari (2L) during the Group C Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ghana and Comoros at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 18, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP
Ghana’s Abdul Manaf Nurudeen (R) fights for the ball with Comoros’ forward Said Bakari (2L) during the Group C Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ghana and Comoros at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 18, 2022. Daniel BELOUMOU OLOMO / AFP

 

 

The knockout stages begin on Sunday with Nigeria — the only side to win all three group games — playing Tunisia in one of the ties of the last 16.

Cameroon, Morocco, the Ivory Coast, Mohamed Salah’s Egypt, and Sadio Mane’s Senegal are through too, but the expanded format has also allowed two minnows to make their mark.

In their first AFCON, the tiny Indian Ocean island nation of the Comoros beat Ghana and qualified for the last 16 as a best third-placed side.

Ranked 132nd in the world and with a majority of players hailing from the Comorian community in France, they play the hosts next.

Gambia are the lowest-ranked national team at the finals, sitting 150th in the world, and yet they qualified from their group with seven points.

“When I arrived in July 2018, Gambia had not won a competitive match in five years,” their Belgian coach, Tom Saintfiet, told AFP this week.

“There was no hope, the team was 172nd in the world. I said I was here to qualify Gambia and everyone thought I was mad.”

Now they face west African rivals Guinea, and their Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, for a place in the quarter-finals.

AFP

Ivory Coast Send Reigning Champions Algeria Crashing Out Of AFCON

Algeria's forward Riyad Mahrez reacts after Ivory Coast scored their fourth goal that did not count during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ivory Coast and Algeria at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 20, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
Algeria’s forward Riyad Mahrez reacts after Ivory Coast scored their fourth goal that did not count during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ivory Coast and Algeria at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 20, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

The Ivory Coast crushed an abject Algeria 3-1 on Thursday with Nicolas Pepe among the scorers as the reigning champions crashed out of the Africa Cup of Nations in the group stage.

Franck Kessie and Ibrahim Sangare scored in the first half for the Elephants in Douala, while Pepe added another goal after the break as the Ivorians finished top of Group E.

Riyad Mahrez hit the post with a second-half penalty before Sofiane Bendebka pulled one back for Algeria with their first goal since arriving in Cameroon, but by then it was too late.

READ ALSO: Qatar World Cup Ticket Sales Launched At Reduced Prices

It is the fifth time in the last six Cups of Nations that the reigning champions have failed to make the AFCON knockout phase, but there has arguably never been a worse title defence.

“A failure, simple as that,” was how Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi summed it up.

“We never managed to take our chances, right from the start of the competition. Even penalties we had difficulty with. We just weren’t good enough.”

Algeria came to the tournament on an unbeaten run stretching back over three years but they were held by Sierra Leone in their opening match and then lost to Equatorial Guinea to suffer a first defeat in 36 matches.

They would have gone through with a win against an Ivory Coast side already guaranteed their place in the knockout rounds, but that never looked likely.

Their demise was lapped up by the fans at the Japoma Stadium in Cameroon’s economic capital, with the 50,000-capacity ground filling up as the game went on.

By the time the match was over it looked like fans had taken up more seats than the 60 percent capacity limit imposed as part of coronavirus restrictions, and many invaded the pitch in chaotic scenes of celebration.

The Ivory Coast clearly had the backing of the crowd and they will stay in Douala for a heavyweight last-16 tie against Mohamed Salah’s Egypt.

“I am very, very satisfied about what my team has done tonight,” said the Ivory Coast’s French coach, Patrice Beaumelle, who has twice won the AFCON as an assistant coach and had some sympathy for Algeria and their failed attempt to retain the title.

“It is always difficult because it is a coveted trophy and when we won it with Zambia in 2012 that inspired a lot of teams as well.”

Equatorial Guinea through

Equatorial Guinea go through in second place in Group E after defeating Sierra Leone 1-0 in Limbe thanks to a superb first-half strike from Pablo Ganet.

Kei Kamara missed a penalty for Sierra Leone as they go out while Equatorial Guinea will stay in Limbe for a last-16 tie against whoever wins Group F between Gambia, Tunisia and Mali.

The Group E results also ensured that debutants the Comoros go through and play hosts Cameroon next.

The Ivorians conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in their last game to draw 2-2 with Sierra Leone following a comical mistake by goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare.

He then learned of the death of his father later that night, but he kept his place in the Elephants line-up.

They went ahead midway through the first half at the end of a great move as Pepe cut the ball back for Kessie to finish.

It was 2-0 six minutes before the interval as the unmarked Sangare headed in Serge Aurier’s free-kick.

Algeria did not come out fighting after the restart and they might have fallen further behind before Pepe finished superbly in the 54th minute to make it 3-0.

Mahrez then hit the upright on the hour mark from a spot-kick awarded for a soft foul on Youcef Belaili.

They did get a first goal in over four hours of football when Aissa Mandi turned the ball back across goal for substitute Bendebka to score in the 73rd minute, but were spared extra misery when Sebastien Haller’s late header was disallowed for offside.

 

AFP

AFCON 2021: Gradel Stunner Gives Cote d’Ivoire Victory Over Equatorial Guinea


Ivory Coast’s forward Max-Alain Gradel (R) celebrates with teammate after scoring a goal during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 12, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

A stunning early strike by Max-Alain Gradel gave Cote d’Ivoire a 1-0 win over Equatorial Guinea in their opening game of the Africa Cup of Nations in Douala on Wednesday.

Gradel, the former Bournemouth and Saint-Etienne winger who now plays club football in Turkey, fired home an unstoppable shot from 20 metres in the fifth minute at the Japoma Stadium that proved enough for the Elephants.


An Ivory Coast supporter cheers prior to the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 12, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

The 34-year-old, whose father died shortly before the start of the tournament, appeared to be in tears as his teammates came across to celebrate the goal.

It is the ideal start for the 2015 African champions in Group E after reigning champions Algeria were held to a 0-0 draw by Sierra Leone at the same venue on Tuesday.

The Ivorians play Sierra Leone in their next match on Sunday, before Algeria take on Equatorial Guinea.

READ ALSO: Jallow Strike Gives Gambia Winning AFCON Debut


An Ivory Coast supporter cheers prior to the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 12, 2022. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

The result also maintains the average of just one goal per game across the tournament with every side now having played once.

Since hosts Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the opening match on Sunday, there have been two goalless draws and the remaining nine encounters have all been decided by a single goal.

AFP

Twin Towns At Côte d’Ivoire-Ghana Border Clamour For Reopening

Street vendors in Noe, a border town between Ivory Coast and Ghana where residents have not been able to cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic on September 22, 2021.  (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

 

“Noe looks like a ghost town,” says Eloukou Yapo, a youth leader in the Ivorian town near the border with Ghana. “Nothing moves. Everything has stopped.”

Life here has been in limbo for the past year and a half, since the authorities sealed off the border to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But the measure also killed off thriving trade and exchanges with Noe’s sister town Elubo, which lies across the Tanoe River marking the frontier.

In Noe, 170 kilometres (105 miles) east of the Ivorian commercial capital Abidjan, many shops are shuttered and the streets are deserted, with trucks and buses standing idle.

A grey gate, the point of access to the bridge spanning the Tanoe, is firmly closed.

Nanan Assi Atchan II, a traditional chief and former policeman in his seventies, adds: “People are suffering greatly from the closure.

“There are Ivorians who farmland in Ghanaian territory and vice versa… They can’t get to their plantation, which could fall into ruin.”

Several hundred Ghanaian traders demonstrated in Elubo on September 2, lobbying unsuccessfully for Ivory Coast to reopen the border.

 

Truck are seen stationary at the customs in Noe, a border town between Ivory Coast and Ghana where residents have not been able to cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic on September 22, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Stealthy trade

But people in the twin towns have also quietly organised themselves to defy the ban.

They have cut many tracks through the bush to the river, which people cross with makeshift canoes to keep business going.

“My three children go to the English-speaking school (in Elubo) and take the risk of crossing the river, at a cost of 2,000 CFA francs (three euros / $3.50) a day,” says Valerie Botche, a shopkeeper in Noe.

West of Noe, similar problems are being voiced in Adiake, a town on the Aby Lagoon, a key transit point for trade with Ghana.

There, local people say the border closure has been massively disruptive to their lives, but a blessing for traffickers of all stripes.

“The biggest drug seizures have been made in this area,” says Adiake resident Anvoh Bie.

The Ivorian authorities imposed drastic measures as the first COVID-19 cases began to appear in March 2020.

In addition to border closures, there was a state of emergency, a curfew, the shuttering of schools and places of worship, and the isolation of Abidjan, the epicentre of the epidemic.

Some of the measures have been gradually lifted, but land and sea borders remain closed.

 

 Life here has been in limbo for the past year and a half, since the authorities sealed off the border to help prevent the spread of Covid. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Interwoven economies

Côte d’Ivoire shares borders with four other neighbours — Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Liberia — but its economic, social and cultural ties with Ghana are especially strong.

Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are “twin nations” in terms of geography, population, agriculture and, more recently, oil. They are also the two largest cocoa producers on the planet, accounting for two-thirds of world production.

Côte d’Ivoire, with a population of around 25 million, has been relatively unscathed by COVID-19, but the epidemic has worsened in the past two months with 224 deaths since the beginning of August for a total of 600.

“The closure of the border with Ghana has played a part in the resurgence of a third wave,” said a local official who wished to remain anonymous.

 

Truck are seen stationary at the customs in Noe, a border town between Ivory Coast and Ghana where residents have not been able to cross due to the COVID-19 pandemic on September 22, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

He argues that if authorities “open the border, require the vaccine and a PCR test, there will be fewer cases.”

But Noe’s deputy prefect, Losseny Dosso, insisted: “As long as there is an increase in cases, it would be irresponsible for the state to reopen the borders.”

Ex-West Ham Striker Haller Stars As Côte d’Ivoire Beat Cameroon

Cameroon’s Bangou Tchamba (C) fights for the ball with Ivory Coast’s Serge Aurier (L) and Sebastien Haller (L) during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

 

Former West Ham attacker Sebastien Haller scored twice in nine minutes to give the Ivory Coast a 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over fellow African top-10 nation Cameroon in Abidjan on Monday. 

Haller, who moved to Ajax Amsterdam last January after scoring 14 goals in 54 outings for the Hammers, converted a penalty on 20 minutes and later outpaced a defender and fired into the far corner of the net.

Moumi Ngamaleu pulled one goal back from another penalty, on 61 minutes, to set up a tense finish to the Group D showdown.

Ivory Coast top the table with four points after two rounds, Cameroon have three, and Mozambique one and Malawi none ahead of their match on Tuesday.

 

Ivory Coast’s and Cameroon’s players fight for the ball during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Cameroon’s goalkeeper Roger Devis Mboka concedes a goal during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Group D is the only section of 10 in Africa featuring two countries among the 10 highest ranked in the continent — the Ivory Coast were 12th when the draw was made two years ago.

Meanwhile, South Africa edged Ghana 1-0 in Johannesburg through a 83rd-minute Bongokuhle Hlongwane goal and replaced them as Group G leaders.

Fielding a young, inexperienced side under recently hired Belgian coach Hugo Broos, the South Africans should have broken the deadlock earlier.

 

Ivory Coast’s Jean Evrard Kouassi (R) runs with ball next to Cameroon’s Nicolas Ngamaleu (L) and Bangou Tchamba (22) during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Percy Tau, who has quit English Premier League club Brighton to join Egyptian and African giants Al Ahly, had a first-half headed goal wrongly disallowed for offside.

Evidence Makgopa, one of many new faces after Broos complained about inheriting an “old” squad, missed a sitter just after half-time, poking the ball wide of an unguarded goal.

But with time running out and weakened Ghana looking like taking a point home, Hlongwane connected with a low cross and the ball rolled into the net via the far post.

Ghana lacked Premier League trio Daniel Amartey, Jordan Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp as South Africa is on the British coronavirus “red list”, which requires travellers to isolate for 10 days when they return.

 

Ivorian national football team players celebrate after scoring a goal during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium in Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

– Goal-shy Uganda –

South Africa have four points and Ghana three from two matches, and Zimbabwe one and Ethiopia none ahead of their meeting in Bahir Dar on Tuesday.

Mali, who are seeking a first World Cup appearance, took a firm grip on Group E by forcing a 0-0 draw away to 10-man Uganda.

Defender Murushid Juuko was shown a straight red card on 65 minutes and Uganda had to settle for another goalless stalemate, after holding Kenya last week.

Benin failed to build on a matchday 1 win in Madagascar and had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with Group J rivals the Democratic Republic of Congo in Cotonou.

Both goals were headed by senior players during the opening half with Dieumerci Mbokani, 35, putting the Congolese in front and Jordan Adeoti, 32, levelling.

Benin have four points and DR Congo two, while Tanzania, who have one, and pointless Madagascar face off in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday.

Niger equalled their record for the number of goal scored in a World Cup qualifier by coming from behind to trounce Djibouti 4-2 in Group A with Victorien Adebayor bagging a brace.

Djibouti are ranked 182nd in the world, making them the lowest of the 40 African World Cup hopefuls, and have conceded 12 goals in two outings.

 

Ivory Coast’s Cornet Maxwel (L) fights for the ball with Cameroon’s Andre Anguissa (8) during the FIFA Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification football match between Ivory Coast and Cameroon at the Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe stadium Anyama on September 6, 2021. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

The section is set to be dominated by African champions Algeria and Burkina Faso, both matchday 1 winners who clash on Tuesday in Morocco because the Burkinabe lack an international-standard stadium.

Djibouti, who have also created a base in Morocco, and Burkina Faso are among nine countries forced to use neutral venues either because the stadium facilities or the pitch are not up to scratch.

The Central African Republic and Liberia are other nations forced to play home matches abroad and they met in the Cameroonian port city of Douala, where Liberian Kpah Sherman scored the only goal.