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Weeks before a wave of revolutions began to spread across North Africa and the Middle East, Côte d’Ivoire held a presidential election at the end of November. It did not produce a clear winner, but instead provoked a political stand-off that spurred international sanctions and, this week, led to a total shutdown of the country’s financial sector.

One by one the largest private banks closed their branches. As the closures mounted, the disputed winner of the November election, Laurent Gbagbo, showed the increasing desperation of his situation by announcing late on February 17th that his government had seized four major international banks: the subsidiaries of Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Citibank and Standard Chartered. This could mark the beginning of the end in Côte d’Ivoire’s political turmoil, as the credit crunch is severely affecting the ability of Mr Gbagbo’s government to function.

Read more at Financial Services Briefing: “Seized up” (February 18th)