In the north-west of Abidjan lies Côte d’Ivoire’s most populous commune, Yopougon, or Yop-city, as it is often referred to by locals. One of Abidjan’s 13 communes, it is home to nearly 2m people, according to the most recent official census in 2014, which is roughly one-quarter of Abidjan’s total population. Separated from the rest of the city by the Ebrié Lagoon to the south and the Banco Forest to the north-east, its only direct land connection to the rest of Abidjan is a worn-out road.
This densely populated commune is seldom visited by tourists, business delegations or any foreigner who does not work at its industrial zone, which is the country’s largest. Its streets are small and often unpaved and without footpaths. Accidents are frequent and traffic jams are a familiar sight. It can take between 45 and 90 minutes to travel from Yopougon to other communes; however, a single accident or car malfunction can easily increase travel times three-fold, especially during peak hours. The African Development Bank is currently financing a project to build a bridge linking the commune of Yopougon to Plateau, which should alleviate this bottleneck and substantially reduce travel times for Abidjan’s population.
Made up of 11 tribal villages of the Atchan and Akyé clans, Yopougon is home to numerous immigrants from francophone Africa. Much like other communes, such as Treishville, residents pride themselves on their multiculturalism and acceptance of others as their “brothers”. A cosmopolitan microcosm, Yopougon has become a bastion of the development of arts, culture and communal activities. A prime example of this is the Sortie de la génération (Exit of Generations), a symbolic event in which the junior members of the Blessoué tribe debut in front of tribal elders, allowing them to participate in the administration and decision-making of the group.
Not What It Seems
While Yopougon is considered one of the poorest communes in Abidjan, it is also home to a lower-middle and middle class that tend to live in the neighbourhoods of Millionnaire and Résidentiel. While younger generations see moving east as a sign of prosperity or success, older generations remain more attached to their communities and prefer to stay in the area. As is the case in most of Côte d’Ivoire, apartment buildings are not widespread, and most people opt for small residential estates. “During my childhood, homes in Yopougon were more spacious and open than today,” Marguerite Abouet, author of the book Aya de Yopougon, told OBG. “Given the level of urbanisation in Côte d’Ivoire and Africa as a whole, the population of the commune has substantially increased in the last decade. Nevertheless, the community-centred feel of traditional Ivorian culture still exists in Yopougon.”
Prior to 2011 Yopougon was considered one of the top night-life destinations in francophone Africa, with the famous Rue Princess as its epicentre. While bars, restaurants, maquis (open-air restaurants) and night clubs can still be found on virtually every corner, locals agree that it is less bustling than it used to be. Previously, this 2-km stretch was referred to as the heart of Abidjan. Following the election of Alassane Ouattara as president in 2010, the new government ordered the area’s reorganisation, resulting in many establishments closing down or relocating.
Some of the poorest suburbs of Abidjan, including Abobo, Adjamé and Attécoubé, and most recently, Yopougon, have become targets of delinquency. In an effort to counteract the problem, the state has instructed the police to organise regular patrols across high-risk areas.
Some communities have established their own vigilante networks, aimed at protecting civilians against instances of hostilities. During a public speech in August 2017, President Alassane Ouattara announced, “ A social reintegration programme has been put in place in favour of these kids, in order to re-establish links with their families, build up their civic and moral values, and help them return to school or learn a profession.”
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