The Permanent Representation of Côte d'Ivoire was founded in 1963 to liaise with the International Coffee Organization (ICO), which was created in the same year in New York (the ICO subsequently established its seat in London). In those days, the ICO was a powerful platform for the regular negotiation of quotas between exporting and importing countries. Hence, it was not unusual to hear of meetings taking place until dawn and involving many national delegations made up of key representatives, alternates, advisers, and technical experts.
For Côte d’Ivoire, the stakes were particularly high as it was second only to Brazil for the global production of coffee in the 60’s. It was the first African producer of robusta coffee with 10% of the global production of coffee and the raw material represented a substantial proportion of the country’s GDP.
Hence, the Côte d’Ivoire representation to the ICO was set up as a specialised unit within the Embassy of Côte d’Ivoire in London. Subsequently, the Ivorian office took up the representation, to the International Coffee Organisation, of eight other African States, namely Benin, Cameroon, Central Africa, Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, and Togo who, along with Côte d'Ivoire, formed the African and Malagasy Coffee Organization (O.A.M.CAF), which had been created in 1960 and was based in Paris.
This strategic alliance resulted in a permanent seat for OAMCAF at the ICO Executive Committee. The group's authority as well as negotiating capacity were reinforced to such an extent that in 1967, the Permanent Representation left the premises of the Embassy of Côte d'Ivoire to the United Kingdom, in order to better service the other OAMCAF Member States.
This move further indicated a clear political will to separate the traditional consular and diplomatic duties of the Embassy from the special functions of the Permanent Representation and turn it into an agency in its own right.
Côte d'Ivoire eventually left the African and Malagasy Coffee Organization in 2005 but, in the meantime, the mandate of the Permanent Representation had been enlarged to include products other than coffee, and namely cocoa, sugar, grains and natural rubber. It became known as the Permanent Representation of Côte d'Ivoire to International Commodity Organizations, in a manner similar to the Permanent Representation of Côte d'Ivoire to UNESCO in Paris, or the Permanent Mission of Côte d'Ivoire to the UN in New York and in Geneva.
In 1999, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire decided to shut down the Permanent Representation, following drastic changes in the macro-economic environment and a move from stabilisation to deregulation. Not only were the Bretton Woods institutions advocating a free economy and advising commodity-dependent countries to release their grip on the production and marketing of their major agricultural export products, but they were also urging International commodity organisations to dismantle their main stabilisation mechanisms known as buffer stocks.
From a commercial point of view, Côte d’Ivoire was also experiencing a drastic reduction of its export revenues as a result of the sharp fall in prices of most soft commodities during the late 90’s. Hence, the responsibilities of the PRCI were transferred to a dedicated “international organisations” section within the Côte d’Ivoire embassy in London for a couple of years.
This solution lasted until July 2001 when, the Government decided to re-open the Permanent Representation following a series of reforms of the Ivorian cocoa and coffee sectors. The new office was rebuilt from scratch, with new premises and a new workforce.
In the meantime, International commodity organisations (ICBs) had re-appraised their missions and took on a new role which involved projects, promotion, market transparency and a greater collaboration with the private sector. The work of these ICBs was enhanced by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), an intergovernmental commodity development agency based in Amsterdam.
Owing to the increasing interaction between International Commodity bodies and CFC for financing purposes, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture of Côte d'Ivoire appointed the Permanent Representative to International Commodity Organizations as his principal alternate to the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), in 2003.