Ivory Coast – Queen Pokou’s Costly Journey

Western Africa CFA franc

The capital letter “A” adjacent to the serial number, above, is the indicator that this banknote is for the Ivory Coast, officially the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. The West African CFA franc is the currency for eight west African states, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Each is distinguished by a single letter adjacent to the serial number.

The banknote features a symbol of the Ashanti people. It is a bronze weight, sawfish-shaped, utilized by the people for measuring out gold. Beside and behind are symbols of science, medicine and education.

Western Africa CFA franc

The Ashanti people, also spelled Asante, dwell in south-central Ghana and Togo and Côte d’Ivoire. A former Asante state1 had for its capital Kumasi, a city currently in Ghana, the neighbor of the Ivory Coast. The Asante empire arose in the 17th century where several tribes united under King Kumasi. 2 In the 18th century, some of the tribe moved to the Ivory Coast under the leadership of Princess Pokou. She established the Akan tribe in the Ivory Coast which is prominent to this day.3.

In the 18th century, one tribe decided to depart from the main Asante tribe that had been brought together under the reign of king Kumasai in Ghana in the 17th century. The story is told that an endeavor to further consolidate power among the already united tribes, was the catalyst for one tribe to break off and depart. The dispute over power erupted into a war; and a portion of the people broke away and fled westward toward Ivory Coast in search of new land. The breakaways departed under the leadership of Princess Pokou.

Pokou had been born into royalty as Princess Ewurabena Pokou early in the 18th century. She was a niece of a co-founder of the Ashanti empire. She was given the name Abena, the name traditionally given to a girl born on a Tuesday, and signifies that she will grow to be a bold, independent, and powerful, woman. And so it was. She was accompanied by many people, together with her priest.

Pursued by the Asante warriors, they continued westward until their progress was blocked by a river full of crocodiles, agitated. Pressed by warriors behind and blocked by crocodiles ahead, the Princess sought guidance from her priest. She was informed, that, to pass unmolested, she must sacrifice the thing most dear to her in life. Weeping, she cast her son into the river and the hippopotami arose holding back the crocodiles. A pathway opened, and the Queen and her tribe passed through unmolested. Then the hippopatami submerged, the crocodiles returned, and the pursuing warriors reached the river’s edge. Seeing that they could not cross the river, the warriors abandoned the pursuit, and the new tribe was safe in a new land.4 On the far bank of the river, the distraught Queen could only utter one word, “baouli”, which means the child is dead, and so the tribe has been known ever since.

“A powerful kingdom called Bhaooree, which has hitherto successfully resisted the Ashantees, was described to be westward,”5 so records the journal of British historian in 1817. The Baoule6 continued to grow and propser, and, today, is one of the greatest in the Ivory Coast to this day. The first president of Ivory Coast was drawn from their ranks. Their farms are among the most prosperous and industrious. The Baoule are renowned for their arts.

By many accounts Queen Pokou ruled her people with wisdom and grace, renowned for her abilities in resolving the disputes common among any peoples, and guiding her people into peace and prosperity.


  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Asante
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Ivory_Coast
  3. ELIZABETH OFOSUAH JOHNSON , How an Ashanti princess established the Akan lineage in Ivory Coast after sacrificing her son in the 1700s
  4. in some tellings, a great tree bent down over the river facilitating the crossing, in others, “a path quickly appears within the waters of the Comoé river allowing the queen and her people to cross it.” https://afrolegends.com/2016/06/22/queen-abla-pokou-and-the-origin-of-the-baoule-people/
  5. T.E. Bowdich , as reproduced at encyclopedia.com
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baoul%C3%A9_people