Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa. Cocoa beans are used to make chocolate.
But, little chocolate is produced in the West African nation. Most of the cocoa produced in the country is sent to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere.
This is a common issue facing many places in Africa. Countries produce and export large amounts of raw materials, but manufacture few finished goods.
Several businesses in Ivory Coast are working to change that.
One of those businesses is led by chocolate maker Suzanne Kabbani. Her shop is called “La Maison du Chocolat Ivoirien” or “House of Ivorian Chocolate.” It is in Abidjan, the country’s economic capital.
She recently made special chocolates ahead of the country’s independence day, celebrated on August 7.
Ten years ago, Kabbani wanted to prove that it was possible to make high-quality chocolate in Ivory Coast using local supplies. But, she says it was difficult to prove to Ivorians that it could be done.
“I started creating various flavors adapted to local tastes, to encourage the population to eat their own product," she said.
Kabbani uses ginger, cashew nuts and coconut grown in Ivory Coast. She works with growers to improve the quality of their crops, especially the cocoa beans.
Her customers are mostly middle-class Ivorians and people from other countries. She plans to open another store in Abidjan soon. And she plans to make chocolates that are less costly, so more people can afford to buy them.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara has said he wants the country to process about half of its cocoa production by the year 2020. It now processes about 30 percent.
Large signs were recently placed around Abidjan to encourage people to buy and eat Ivorian chocolate.
Axel Emmanuel is also a chocolate-maker. He is a former banker. He says learning to make chocolate is not yet popular among Ivorians. He says that is because people believe chocolate is difficult and costly to make.
He says people ask, “Why make something that others are not interested in? Who will buy it?” He says Ivorians prefer to make cakes because they know they will be able to sell them.
But his chocolates are very popular. He recently began selling a less costly chocolate bar on the street. He says the quality of the chocolate is as high as his other, more costly products.
A street seller is trying to get people to buy chocolates. “Good evening, Madam,” he says . “Chocolate made in Ivory Coast, 200 francs.”
That is about 30 US cents for the 50-gram bars. Many people buy them.
At a small restaurant nearby, three men sit at a table with a large amount of chocolate they have just bought for their children.
“The price is very competitive. For that chocolate bar -- 200 francs -- it’s very cheap.”
At another table, two young people try a taste of the chocolate.
“We want to see what chocolate made in Ivory Coast tastes like. Yes, it’s good!”
Another says, "We can feel the natural taste of cocoa. That’s good! I really like that!”
Emmanuel says he will try to raise enough money on the Internet through crowdfunding to attend the famous Salon du Chocolat in France. The huge chocolate conference takes place at the end of October.
His goal is to prove that chocolate made in Ivory Coast is as good as chocolate made anywhere else.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Words in This Story
raw materials - n. the basic material that can be used to make or create something
goods - n. things for sale
adapt - v. to change (something) so that it functions better or is better suited for a purpose
encourage - v. to make (someone) more likely to do something
middle class - n. the social class that is between the upper class and the lower class and that includes mainly business and professional people, government officials, and skilled workers
process - v. to change (something) from one form into another by preparing, handling, or treating it in a special way
bar - n. a solid piece of something that is shaped like a rectangle
competitive - adj. as good as or better than others of the same kind : able to compete successfully with others