Jean-Marie Ackah, President, General Confederation of Businesses of Côte d’Ivoire: Interview

Jean-Marie Ackah, President, General Confederation of Businesses of Côte d’Ivoire

Interview: Jean-Marie Ackah

What are the main challenges being faced by the private sector in Côte d’Ivoire?

JEAN-MARIE ACKAH: The obstacles vary depending on the company’s size. While large companies usually face challenges related to taxation, administrative procedures, access to skilled labour and so on, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are mostly concerned with financing, market access and capacity building. After 10 years of crisis Côte d’Ivoire has a long way to go, but we must acknowledge the advances made since 2012. We need to move ahead with reforms by improving public-private dialogue, and consolidate our achievements in promoting private enterprise development. The local private sector has suggested fiscal reform, which is under discussion with the administration. This includes the creation of a tribunal specialised in tax and Customs issues; the reduction of special and parafiscal taxes; and the introduction of a specific fiscal regime for SMEs, which will contribute to formalising companies operating in the informal sector and broaden the tax base.

Are there any other reforms that could contribute to the development of SMEs?

ACKAH: The development of Ivorian SMEs will necessitate the implementation of an adequate capacity-building framework. Several initiatives have been implemented so far, but they have been limited in their scope. It is important to find a mechanism that will allow a large number of SMEs to sustainably access support. Regarding financing and market access, the General Confederation of Businesses of Côte d’Ivoire has its own initiatives, such as the implementation of a guarantee fund, funding for start-ups and the establishment of incubators. Moreover, the state has initiated a programme dedicated to the development of SMEs, entitled the Phoenix Plan. Its purpose is to propose solutions to financing, market access and competitiveness issues. We must seek to make all our initiatives more inclusive in order to help SMEs in Côte d’Ivoire.

To what extent does the significant size of the informal sector impact Côte d’Ivoire’s economy?

ACKAH: The informal sector has a major impact on the Ivorian economy. Companies in the informal sector operate in precarious conditions and their access to financing, as well as to regional and international markets, is limited. They cannot benefit from measures and opportunities that favour the private sector, and generally remain small. As long as the informal sector occupies such a large space the economy’s dynamism will suffer, and a large proportion of the working population will remain underemployed.

In which sectors do public-private partnerships (PPPs) have the greatest potential?

ACKAH: Côte d’Ivoire requires investment in all sectors, especially road and transport infrastructure; energy, which must keep up with demand from new industrial complexes; health and education; and tourism. Other sectors – such as real estate and IT infrastructure – also offer opportunities for PPPs. In addition, the government has created a National PPP Steering Committee, and the implementation of the 2016-20 National Development Plan should increase the volume of PPPs.

How can the country’s education system better respond to the market’s needs?

ACKAH: The business world is constantly evolving, together with means of production and technology. Technical education and professional training curricula must follow suit and continuously adapt to the labour market. It is important that schools, universities and training centres all remain connected to private enterprises. The education system must work in conjunction with the private sector on the constant adaptation of curricula. A National Branch Committee has been tasked with both detecting and overseeing the evolution of skills and expertise that is needed, and this work must continue until the process has been completed.

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Jean-Marie Ackah

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2017

Economy chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2017