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The country is made up of three distinct geographic regions: the southeast is marked by coastal lagoons; the southern region, especially the southwest, is densely forested; and the northern region is called the savannah zone.
The population of Côte d'Ivoire is ethnically diverse and delineated by the places the more than sixty indigenous ethnic groups live, although this number is often reduced to four major cultural regions—the southeast, sometimes referred to as the Atlantic East (Akan), the southwest, sometimes referred to as the Atlantic West (Kru), the northeast/north-central (Voltaic), and the northwest (Mande).
The remaining population is comprised of the Agni, Africans from other countries (mostly Burkinabe and Malians), and non-Africans (primarily French and Lebanese).
Of the more than 5 million non-Ivoirian Africans living in Côte d'Ivoire, one-third to one-half are from Burkina Faso; the rest are from Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, Liberia, and Mauritania.
Four of the major branches of the Niger-Congo language are spoken among Ivoirians, including the Kwa, Atlantic, Mande, and Voltaic.
Often called the "jewel of West Africa," Côte d'Ivoire has been a model of economic prosperity and political stability for its neighboring African countries since its independence in 1960.
In the fifteenth century, French and Portuguese merchants in search of ivory named the region the Ivory Coast for its abundance of the natural resource.
In the north, variants of Mande and Senofu are the most widely spoken, but are also heard in almost all southern trading areas.
No single African language is spoken by a majority of the population, and most Ivoirians speak two or more languages fluently.