Interview: Souleymane Diarrassouba

Which industrial segments hold the greatest potential for growth in Côte d’Ivoire?

SOULEYMANE DIARRASSOUBA: The government’s stated goal under its industrialisation plan is to significantly increase the contribution of the industrial sector to wealth creation and employment. Specifically, this involves strengthening the link between production and processing to create more added value, along with decent and sustainable jobs, while also creating new industrial development centres. The share of industry in terms of GDP increased from 22% in 2012 to 25% in 2018.

However, this improvement in the sector’s relative share of GDP does not fully reflect the significant developments in Côte d’Ivoire’s industrial sector. Industrial value added almost doubled over the 2012-18 period, rising from CFA3trn ($5.2bn) to CFA6trn ($10.3bn), with this figure set to have reached CFA6.7trn ($11.5bn) in 2019. Furthermore, the sector grew by 8.5% on average between 2012 and 2018, and is expected to have grown by 10% in 2019. The agri-business sector – which includes cashew nut, coffee, cocoa, cotton, palm oil, rubber, and fruits and vegetables – has been identified as a priority by the government in terms of increasing value added. Other priority areas include mining, metallurgy, building materials, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, clothing and footwear, vehicles and equipment.

What is being done to boost e-commerce?

DIARRASSOUBA: To accelerate the development of the digital economy, the government has implemented reforms and introduced tax incentives to encourage the use of ICT. E-commerce is used regularly by many Ivorians, especially young people and the emerging middle class. E-commerce has been responsible for the creation of nearly 1200 direct jobs and has grown on average by around 8% each year. It is expected to emerge as an increasing source of employment for people aged between 18 and 40 years. There are about 10 significant companies who operate in the field of e-commerce in Côte d’Ivoire, while the daily volume of financial transactions via mobile money channels was about CFA17bn ($29.2m) in 2018. However, many challenges remain to be addressed to further develop e-commerce in the country and change consumer behaviour. The main challenges include infrastructure, limited access to equipment and terminals, low levels of education, the need for transaction certification, along with the need for litigation management, and improve the reliability of information and security procedures.

How could the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) benefit the development of Côte d’Ivoire?

DIARRASSOUBA: According to a 2012 study from the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the AfCFTA could lead to a 52.3% increase in intra-African trade flows by 2022 compared to the baseline scenario. With the elimination of tariffs on 97% of products traded between African states, and the establishment of an online information and notification mechanism for non-tariff barriers, the AfCFTA – which represents a market of 1.3bn consumers – will have a significant impact on industry and trade. The economies of scale it offers will allow for a considerable increase in the production and marketing of manufactured products, along with the development of new enterprises. Ivorian companies will benefit from an expansion of their traditional market, which should extend further at the ECOWAS level, then to the level of the other regional economic communities of the African Union (AU). They will also be able to develop their businesses on the continent or form partnerships with other companies from different countries in the AU. Overall, the AfCFTA should enable Côte d’Ivoire to increase its exports to the continent significantly, alongside other regions of the world, and consequently improve its trade balance and its balance of payments. It should to help accelerate the structural transformation of the country while also boosting economic and social development.