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Special Report : Côte d'Ivoire

Heading into the future

Par Zyad Limam - Publié en janvier 2022
​  Future success also lies in the education and training of young people, like these youngsters in Gabiadji, in the west of the country. NABIL ZORKOT  ​
Future success also lies in the education and training of young people, like these youngsters in Gabiadji, in the west of the country. NABIL ZORKOT

​​​​​​​There are ambitious targets to be achieved by 2030. Sights are set not only on doubling the country's wealth but also getting a far-reaching modernisation process underway, not only for the state but also for the private sector and the people.

​​​​​​​Let's fast-forward to the Côte d'Ivoire of 2030. The country's population will be close to 34 million (compared to 28 million today) and the vast majority of this population will be under the age of 30. There will be around 8 million people living in Abidjan, making it one of the continent's major cities, and one that is especially cosmopolitan and mixed.  By 2030, if everything goes according to plan, the country's wealth will have doubled again (compared to the decade 2011-2020), reaching a gross domestic product (GDP) of over $90 billion and a per capita income that could be as high as $4,000. The country is expected to maintain a growth rate of 7% per year over this period, thus maintaining its place among the 10 most dynamic economies in the world. By 2030, Côte d'Ivoire will have become an upper-middle-income country, with a majority of the population falling into the so-called middle classes. The economy, boosted by investment, will have been able to create 8 million additional jobs, absorbing much of the demographic shock. Poverty would be halved to below 20% of the population, positively impacting the lives of millions of Ivorians. These Ivorians will live, on average, 10 years longer, with a life expectancy of 67 years.

This scenario is enshrined in Vision 2030, the strategic master plan drawn up by President Alassane Ouattara during the October 2020 presidential campaign. It is also the desired outcome of the objectives set out in the new National Development Plan (NDP), which spans the period 2021-2025 and provides for a budget of $105 billion in investments. The numbers are pretty impressive and, in this uncertain and pandemic context, this faith in the future might be seen as overly optimistic. However, this vision is not unattainable for Prime Minister Patrick Achi's government.

First and foremost, the plan draws on a strong dynamic. The country is not starting from scratch. The decade 2011-2021 will have been a record-breaking period. According to the British think tank Legatum Institute, Côte d'Ivoire is the country that has recorded the strongest growth in prosperity in the world over the last 10 years. On the macroeconomic level, the numbers speak for themselves. The average growth rate for the period 2012-2019 is 8%, while the state budget tripled between 2011 and 2020 and there was seven times more overall investment. GDP per capita has doubled in under 10 years, making Côte d'Ivoire one of the top countries in Africa (excluding oil-producing countries and South Africa). It has also shown resilience in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, maintaining positive growth in 2020 and aiming for a final rate of 6.5% for 2021.

The country's already relatively diversified economy provides a sound base for growth, boosted by major investments in infrastructure and competitiveness, with a thriving agribusiness sector (cocoa, cashew nuts, bananas, rubber, etc.), and rapidly expanding services. From a geographical point of view, Côte d'Ivoire is the gateway to the sub-region. Its road network is increasingly expanding and extending into the hinterland and represents 50% of that of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). The country has almost 500 km of coastline on the Gulf of Guinea and two major ports, one of which – the port of San Pedro – is one of the busiest cocoa sector ports. The other, the Autonomous Port of Abidjan, has been further modernised and upgraded with a new deep-water quay and a second container terminal. Despite the restrictions and constraints, illustrated in recent months by power cuts, the country is still the main energy supplier for the entire region and the upgrading of the energy sector is proceeding apace. This Côte d'Ivoire hub caters to a dual market (in addition to its domestic potential): the UEMOA, which has a population of nearly 130 million and a single, stable currency, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with a population of over 400 million.

To stay the course set by President Ouattara, meet the NDP and Vision 2030 objectives, and rise to the challenge presented by the opportunities, Côte d'Ivoire's approach is based on two priority areas.

A mission of modernisation and upgrading

The first step is developing the national private sector (and also the international private sector via direct foreign investment). This is central to the NDP and its success. More than $75 billion of the estimated $105 billion must come from  private sector companies, which have become the main engines of growth. Private initiative must be the basis of “emergence”, with a target set at 75% of total investment by 2025. The private sector must be responsible for creating jobs to cope with the population boom and mobilise the talents of a large number of young people. Productivity and creativity gains must come from the private sector, with the objective of increasing Côte d'Ivoire's share of value in globalised product sectors. Producing in Côte d'Ivoire, and promoting the “Made in Côte d'Ivoire” label is becoming a national mission.  The focus is therefore on the processing of raw materials (especially cocoa, but also other agricultural products) as well as on a number of sectors defined as strategic and where the country has a competitive advantage. These are agriculture, textiles, the digital economy, construction and housing, light industry, and pharmaceuticals, while not forgetting culture.

President Alassane Ouattara with Prime Minister Patrick Achi and Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara at the first cabinet meeting of the new government on 7 April. LUC GNAGO/REUTERS
President Alassane Ouattara with Prime Minister Patrick Achi and Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara at the first cabinet meeting of the new government on 7 April. LUC GNAGO/REUTERS

Another strong message for the years to come is that the state cannot do everything – provide jobs, get into debt, guarantee loans with its sovereign signature – indefinitely. The business community has to shoulder a share of the venture and a share of the risk associated with the country's tremendous opportunities. The State is poised to support this transition and take up the challenge by encouraging the growth of a number of companies, boosting their size, and creating “national champions” capable of aiming high, competing, and investing for the long term. For if the State is no longer the donor or the guarantor, it must be what Prime Minister Patrick Achi calls a “catalyst”. This is the second component of the global plan. It involves making the state a strategist, a manager, accelerating the rise of the private sector. The administration and the bureaucracy must be simplified, tuned in, and geared up to promote growth and development and support private initiative. The public service will have to up its game to face the challenges: the necessary legal framework, transparency, and taking digital developments into account.  This represents a small but real breakthrough at a time when the sovereign State's tasks will be just as important: internal and external security, justice, tackling inequalities, investment in the social sectors, education, health, etc. This demand for modernisation and efficiency, for the private sector as well as for the public sphere, is a truly qualitative leap that will prove complex to implement. The reform agenda, the content of the legislative framework, the upgrading of education and training, regional stability and the sustainable improvement of the health situation – everything will have to be coordinated. And the estimates and projects will have to adapt to systemic developments such as climate change, the requirements of sustainable development, the impact of migration and diversity. However, this lofty ambition is essential and unavoidable. It is only through growth, progress and modernisation that Côte d'Ivoire will be able to tackle the issues of poverty, social and territorial inequalities in a sustainable manner.  In addition, more wealth sharing, more social equality, greater inclusiveness for the most fragile and a growing middle class, also means more stability and less conflict and more confidence in a shared future. In essence, the economic project generates political modernity. 

The country must create “national champions” that can aim high, compete, and invest for the long term.