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If you have friends or acquaintances in common, you should mention them and ask how they are doing.
Ivorians like making these kinds of connections and discovering that you know their cousin, neighbour or even a local political figure.
Work is another general topic of conversation that helps make your first contact with someone and show that you are interested in what he/she does.
Other subjects include talking about the weather as people from all over the world worry about it and this topic is particularly relevant in Africa where many people are dependent on agriculture.
This way, the locals with whom you are speaking will find you to be a wise person who is eager to learn things even if you were sent there as the "expert".