Grand Royal Coat of Arms of France & Navarre

Coat of Arms of the Director of Cote d'Ivoire, showing a merger of the current crest of the Kingdom of France and the crest of the West African Company.

The African continent, situated between Europe and the imagined treasures of the Far East, quickly became the destination of the European explorers of the fifteenth century. The first Europeans to explore the West African coast were the Portuguese. Other European sea powers soon followed, and trade was established with many of the coastal peoples of West Africa. At first, the trade included gold, ivory, and pepper, but the establishment of American colonies in the sixteenth century spurred a demand for slaves, who soon became the major export from the West African coastal regions. Local rulers, under treaties with the Europeans and Asians, procured goods and slaves from inhabitants of the interior. By 1540 the French had laid claim to an area through commercial treaties with the various tribes in the surrounding area, and named the land they claimed Cote d'Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast after this particular area's main export. In 1541 the West African Company established a colony with a Company Charter given from the French Monarch in hand. Although the French have yet to press further inland, trade has flourished in the area. By 1599, the Company Charter was renewed and the power of the West African Company was strengthened in the area. With the new charter, the Director of the West African Company also had the power of law in Cote d'Ivoire.

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