The Ivory Coast, a Land of Opportunities

Natural resources, construction and services are booming

15/07/2016 Barcelona

IESE Business School

A diverse group of senior business executives from the Ivory Coast gathered at Barcelona for the IESE-Africa Think Tank & Networking Event this week / Photo: Jordi Estruch

Is the Ivory Coast a safe place for investment? And what preparations should a stranger to the country make before trying to do business there?

These were some of the questions raised at the IESE-Africa Think Tank & Networking Event – part of the IESE Africa Initiative – which took place recently on Barcelona campus.

A round table discussion brought together a diverse group of senior business executives from the Ivory Coast, including some participants from the Advanced Management Program of the MDE Business School who are at IESE's campus to take a module this week.

They were joined by Andrés Carasso, the Ivory Coast consul in Barcelona, Martí Frigola, the dean of MDE Business School, and IESE professor Alejandro Lago, co-director of the Africa Initiative.

By 2020 the Ivory Coast aims to have reached one objective: to become an emerging country. And it seems that they’re on the right track. In the last three years, the country’s growth rate averaged 9.5 percent.

This growth is partly due to reforms brought about by the national development plans, according to AMP participant, Lassana Sylla, general inspector at the Ivory Coast’s General Inspection of Finance.

And the fact that the Ivory Coast is in a strategic location – “a port of access to the African continent,” says Sylla – make the country attractive for investors.

Agriculture, Construction and Services

The agricultural sector continues to grow, representing 24 percent of the Ivory Coast’s GDP, 66 percent of employment and 70 percent of its exports.

“For example, the Ivory Coast is the world’s first cocoa and cola producer and the second for cashews and pineapples,” says Yao Léon Atsin, executive director of FIRCA (Fonds Interprofessionnel pour la Recherche et le Conseil Agricoles).

Coffee, palm oil and cotton are also produced on a large scale. This is a country with vast natural resources and “with great investment opportunities,” he added.

But there’s more on offer besides agriculture. The construction sector is also growing said Kouakou N’Douah Konan, president and CEO of the construction and civil engineering company Générale de Bâtiment et du Génie Civil.

He cited the example of roads – some still to be built, others to maintain – and the new housing under construction. No less than 400.000 in the whole of the country, with 200.000 of these being built in the capital.

“The time to invest is now,” he said, “because the turbulent times are in the past.”

Nadine Bla, CEO of the travel company Capital Voyages, said that the future lies in the service sector – as it is one of the main driving forces of the economy (57 percent of GDP) today.

There are more than 4,000 companies in the country, she said, dedicated to banking, insurance, finance, transport and ICT – and above all tourism. Which is expanding and growing with more than 200 hotels and 4,000 rooms. There are also opportunities in beach and cultural tourism, with almost 200,000 registered visitors last year alone.

The Time to Invest is Now

So, what is the first thing you have to do before investing in the Ivory Coast?

For MDE dean, Martí Frigola, the answer is clear.

“It’s the same as in any other country. Use your common sense. Find a trustworthy advisor. Get one or two lawyers on board too. You need to take precautions and be careful. Just like anywhere else,” he said.

Today the Ivory Coast is a safe place, he said, both in terms of city life and the law. It is also very open to the world, with a desire to achieve international standards. The state played a crucial role in the “ivory miracle” which occurred in the sixties – the bases, education and infrastructures are in place.

All that is needed now is to take advantages of the opportunities as they arise. At the end of the day, globalization means that we are now moving at the same pace as Europe.