Infrastructure plans in Cote d'Ivoire's San Pedro set to strengthen region's role in economy

While Abidjan may serve as Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial centre, San Pedro – 350 km to the west – is the key gateway for the country’s exports. The city, which is situated in the San Pedro Region of the Bas-Sassandra District to the west of the country, along the Gulf of Guinea, ranks as Côte d’Ivoire’s second-largest city in terms of economic activity. This is most evident in the upward trajectory of the city. In spite of the broader unrest in the country during the previous decade, the San Pedro Region has seen its population more than triple since the 1990s, from roughly 650,000 people at the start of the decade to just over 2m currently, the city itself is home to 270,000 people. A total of 2.3m inhabit Bas-Sassandra. That growth has been driven in large part by the construction of a deepwater port, which has emerged as the main portal for the country’s primary export earner – cocoa – of which Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer. However, a number of other sectors, including cash crop processing and mining in the northern and western stretches of the country, have also helped boost activity in the region.

The prominence of the San Pedro Region in the national economy is clear, with the area currently accounting for roughly 5% of Côte d’Ivoire’s GDP. While the region faces plenty of challenges endemic to the country, including a high youth unemployment rate, its contribution is expected to increase in the coming years, with the more optimistic estimates for the region’s growth rate exceeding that of the nation; according to port authorities, San Pedro’s GDP may increase by as much as 10% in the coming years.

That growth is expected to come from a steady increase not only in the broader related sectors of agriculture and mining, but also from the hefty capital investment planned for important transport infrastructure. Transport spending, which will go towards a wide range of projects, from a new container terminal to new railway links and an international airport in Abidjan, will help expand the region’s linkages to the mineral and agricultural regions in the north and west, as well as neighbouring landlocked countries like Mali and Burkina Faso. Hilaire Lamizana, CEO of PASP, told OBG, “While the current intermodal system is relatively basic, the Ivorian government has a plan to further extend the railway system throughout the country, which will augment San Pedro’s role as a transit point for landlocked West African countries.”

Port Of San Pedro

The primary engine for the San Pedro Region, and indeed for Bas-Sassandra more generally, is the Port of San Pedro (Port de San Pedro, PSP), which serves as the country’s second-largest port and the main export facility for Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa production. The Port Authority of San Pedro (Port Autonome de San Pedro, PASP) manages the PSP and has been rated as “stable” by the Bloomfield Investment Corporation for its short- and long-term stability and mobilisation of financial credit.

The port, which includes facilities for fishing as well as commercial shipping, was built shortly after independence and, similar to Port of Abidjan (Port Autonome d’Abidjan, PAA), PSP is publicly owned. However, since 2008 management, including operational, steering and towing services, has been outsourced to a concessionaire, the Swiss-headquartered Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). The port is currently composed of a 5-ha container terminal, a 5-ha multipurpose terminal and three specialised terminals, including a palm oil tank terminal with a 20,000-tonne storage capacity, a cereals terminal with a 11,000-tonne capacity as well as a cement terminal with a capacity of 600,000 tonnes.

The existing container terminal has a 300-metrelong dock and a handling capacity of around 200,000 twenty-foot equivalent units but has reached saturation in recent years. A total of five major transit agents currently operate in PSP, including Bolloré Africa Logistics, Shaza Transit, Necotrans, Simat and Movis.


According to a report by export group AGSWest Africa, over the past decade PASP has seen its share of national export volumes rapidly increase, from 20% in 2013 to 35% in 2015, and on average roughly four-fifths of the port’s traffic is comprised of exports. In 2016 traffic stood at the same level as 2015, mainly driven by exports of coffee and cotton, as well as fertilisers and rice. Furthermore, due to the region’s capacity in terms of mining and agricultural products and the development of the new port facilities, there is the potential for traffic to increase to 1bn to 6bn tonnes in the future, according to AGS. The port’s success has provided a boost to the nation’s coffers, as nearly 20% of Customs revenues come from San Pedro. Port authorities also expect to create 50,000 new indirect jobs as a result of port projects.

Development Plans

With only two commercial quays, along with quays for cement, servicing and timber, and a steady increase in shipping volumes, San Pedro is prone to congestion, particularly during periods of high traffic. Ships also face delays due to frequent calls from MSC, Maersk and CMA-CGM ships on stopovers. As a result, and in a push to shift a larger portion of activity away from PAA, the government is planning to invest heavily in the modernisation of PSP as part of a 20-year development plan, with financing and support supplied by donors, including the EU.

The first phase of the project, at a cost of CFA400bn, (€600m), includes the construction of a new container terminal, along with a multipurpose industrial terminal and the expansion of Customs and warehousing facilities. Additionally, in line with efforts to boost Côte d’Ivoire’s oil and gas sector – part of a push to mirror the recent success neighbouring Ghana has had with new offshore discoveries – the first phase also includes construction of a logistics base dedicated to offshore oil and gas. This will be followed by a hydrocarbons storage platform to break ground in 2020 under the second development phase.

In September 2016 the government announced that the first phase’s new facilities would be managed by UAE-based construction firm Bilal General Transport and MSC. All of the facilities are currently scheduled for delivery by 2020. The oil and gas platform project, meanwhile, will be led by the national oil operator Société Nationale d’Opérations Pétrolières de la Côte d’Ivoire in partnership with private investors.

Branching Out

In addition to the oil and gas terminal the second phase, which will cost approximately CFA550bn (€825m), will also involve a new minerals terminal project, carried out under a public-private partnership. The terminal will link to San Pedro and Man via rail, and process minerals such as nickel, iron and manganese. PASP is looking to expand affiliated activities at the port to strengthen the role it plays in the value chains for agriculture and mining. Plans are also afoot for the development of port-related processing and logistics zones.

In September 2016 PASP signed a deal with Belgium’s Port of Anvers, which is aimed at reinforcing San Pedro’s position as a regional centre for agricultural processing activities, with a focus on fertilisers, cashew and cocoa. The five-year agreement involves the Belgian company providing technical and training support in the development of a logistical platform, due to open in late 2017, which is focused on those sectors.


Perhaps unsurprisingly given the volume of cocoa that passes through San Pedro – estimated to be roughly 20% of the global total – and the focus by the authorities on improving agricultural supply chain facilities, the cultivation of cash crops plays a crucial role in the regional economy.

Côte d’Ivoire is already the world’s largest cocoa producer and the second-largest cashew producer, as well as being a significant producer of cash crops, including rubber, palm oil, bananas, cotton and coconut – many of which come from San Pedro’s commercial farms. Most of the plantations in the region focus on hevea (natural rubber) palm oil, coconut, coffee and cocoa, with the bulk of output destined for export.


The most-produced food item in the San Pedro Region is cocoa, with the output of local farmers averaging around 150,000-200,000 tonnes per year. That comprises a significant chunk of the country’s total production, which hit 1.57m tonnes in the 2015/16 season (see Agriculture chapter).

Stakeholders also benefitted from elevated global prices throughout 2015, with farmgate prices rising approximately one-fifth in October 2015 alone. More recently, however, cocoa producers have faced headwinds as a result of climate change and El Niño-related volatility, as well as global price turbulence and softening demand from major markets. Yields in San Pedro have also remained low due to limited mechanisation and poor use of fertilisers. In addition, poor road conditions and limited access to energy are major hurdles.


To address such barriers, San Pedro has been working to reduce the dependence of the agricultural economy on raw commodity production by moving activities up the value chain, with some success. Manufacturing industries currently account for an estimated two-thirds of local GDP, with the bulk of that supplied by the agro-industry.

Unsurprisingly, the largest agro-industrial segment in the region involves cocoa. Both light crop and dark crop are processed locally, with production directed to the domestic market – for products like cocoa butter – as well as for export – for products like chocolate. According to local press reports, SACO, a subsidiary of the Barry Callebaut group, which is itself part of the Swiss-owned Jacobs Holding Group, grinds 230,000 tonnes of cocoa in its Ivorian plants, while Choco Ivoire, which processes 30,000 tonnes per year, is undergoing a CFA10bn (€15m) expansion to increase the capacity of its San Pedro facility to 66,000 tonnes.

In 2015 the world’s third-largest cocoa grinder, Singapore-based agricultural conglomerate Olam, inaugurated a cocoa-processing factory in San Pedro with a grind capacity of 75,000 tonnes. The addition to this $75m facility – which produces cocoa butter, cocoa cake and nib roasted liquor – allowed Côte d’Ivoire to become the world’s largest cocoa processor, ahead of the Netherlands, in 2016. A year earlier, Olam acquired the cocoa operations of US-based Archer Daniels Midland for $1.3bn. This gave Olam access to the firm’s cocoa-processing operation in Abidjan, taking Olam’s processing capacity in Côte d’Ivoire to 156,000 tonnes. As a result of recent expansions San Pedro has become the largest cocoa terminal in the country, exporting 640,000 tonnes compared to 620,000 tonnes for PAA.

In addition to cocoa, palm oil has become another major agro-industrial segment in San Pedro. Firms with both cultivation and processing operations in the country include local firm SIPEF CI, which is headquartered in San Pedro and has a total of three plantations and two mills in the country, and PALMCI, which manages eight plantations spanning 39,000 ha. Hevea has also become a major industry in the region, albeit more recently, with producers including SAPH, SCASO, SOGB, and EXACT having established facilities.

Timber also has a sizeable local footprint, with a handful of sawmill firms in the San Pedro Region, including African Industries, Bois et Sciages d’Abidjan, SOFIBEX, and Sciages et Moulure de Côte d’Ivoire. However, due to the reduction in forest cover in San Pedro and the surrounding regions, the sector has gradually lost competitiveness, with transport prices rising as logging firms shift activity to increasingly remote areas.


As elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire, staple crops have received little attention, with much of the production of domestically consumed staples grown by a patchwork of smallholder farmers, many of who farm on a subsistence basis. Local subsistence crop activity includes igname (yam), potato, manioc, rice, corn and vegetables, but production is far from sufficient to handle the rapidly growing population’s needs. According to the Food Marketing Assistance Office, 75% of San Pedro’s food needs are supplied by other producing regions, especially for banana, rice, igname, manioc, other fruits and vegetables, which come from Daloa, Soubré, Korhogo, Bouaké and Abidjan.


San Pedro is also at the forefront of the development of the country’s mining sector, which while lagging behind some of its neighbours, such as Ghana, is boosting the importance of its role in the Ivorian economy (See Mining chapter). Although mining activity in the Bas-Sassandra District is minimal, San Pedro is expected to serve as the primary conduit for many of the country’s biggest planned mining projects.

President Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s administration has previously stated its ambition of raising the mining sector’s contribution to GDP to 8% by 2030. However, the sector has only seen an uptick in growth since 2014 – when it accounted for 1% of GDP – to reach 2% in 2016, according to the Chamber of Mines of Côte d’Ivoire. Despite this, there is a lot of potential for future development. A third of the Birimian Greenstone Belt, a mineral-rich geological formation that links Senegal and Ghana, is located within Côte d’Ivoire, and despite the fall of mineral commodity prices in recent years, the Ministry of Industry and Mines estimates annual potential revenues at some CFA800bn (€1.2m).

Sizeable gold deposits are located in the country, along with estimated reserves of 4bn tonnes of iron ore, 40m tonnes of nickel and 18m tonnes of manganese. Many of these deposits – particularly for metals and ores that have yet to be fully exploited, such as iron, manganese and nickel – can be found in the central and north-western stretches of the country, in regions such as Bafing and Haut-Sassandra. Among the many sites pegged for development is a 2bn-tonne and a 1.2bn-tonne iron ore reserve in Mont Klahoyo and Gao, respectively, as well as nickel reserves in Samapleu of around 50m tonnes and nickel cobalt in Touba-Biankouama estimated at 254m tonnes.

New discoveries are keeping the momentum going. A total of 3.3m tonnes of manganese reserves and additional probable reserves of 3m tonnes at Ziemougoula in the northern Denguélé District have been confirmed by Indian firm Dharni Sampda although exploitation of the site has still not started. Furthermore, in early 2016 Canadian mining company Sama Resources was awarded an exploration licence for an 80-sq-km area where it believes nickel and copper deposits might be located. The area under exploration is located near the Samapleu concession area, where Sama Resources is already conducting exploration.

Tapping into all of these sites, most of which are located far from the country’s major population centres, will require hefty infrastructure spending and a number of projects are already on the cards. Among the biggest of the announced developments is a planned 500-km, $1bn railway in the west of the country that will stretch between PSP and Man in the north-west, linking up with nickel and iron deposits as well as iron ore mines in Guinea. The proposal for the rail link currently has it joining up with a new mineral port in San Pedro, an investment worth a total of $1.4bn. The mineral port will offer a processing capacity of between 50m and 100m tonnes of output per year.

However, funding for the projects is not wholly set yet. A portion of the financing had been expected to come from London-listed pan-African Minerals, which was developing Burkina Faso’s flagship manganese project at Tambao. That development has since been indefinitely postponed, pending the outcome of a case brought before the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, which may result in a reduction in the capital available for the new mineral port.


In spite of the uncertainty over the financing behind the mineral port project, San Pedro and the Bas-Sassandra District more generally are investing heavily in transport infrastructure to help improve both the quality and capacity of the area’s corridors, particularly roads, which continue to account for nearly all of the region’s internal trade and distribution (see Transport chapter). San Pedro’s road network is currently composed of 1867 km of roads, of which only 199 km is paved. In a bid to improve accessibility within the region, as well as to Abidjan and Liberia, authorities have announced plans for the development of a series of road paving and expansion projects.

As part of the National Development Plan 2016-20, the authorities have already initiated the renovation and paving of a short stretch of road between Abidjan and Dabou, which will eventually comprise part of the Abidjan-San Pedro highway. The project has an estimated cost of CFA90bn (€135m) and is being co-financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank and the EU, with maintenance expected to be funded by the eventual implementation of a toll system (see Transport chapter).

The new highway will involve the construction of a dual-carriage, triple-lane section of road, which is 50 km long and is expected to ease congestion between the country’s two major economic centres and encourage further development along the corridor. This section is expected to be subsequently connected to the existing coastal road, which will also be expanded at a later time. The Abidjan-San Pedro highway section will comprise the second phase of the development, stretching 370 km and costing an estimated CFA740bn (€1.1bn). “With regard to infrastructure, our major handicap stems from our lack of connectivity to the rest of Côte d’Ivoire, as the main road linking us to the economic capital, Abidjan, remains in bad condition,” Donatien Beugré, president of the Regional Council of San Pedro, told OBG. “The rehabilitation of this access point is ongoing, however, Air Côte d’Ivoire has provided a suitable stopgap alternative with daily flights to the capital.”

Another substantial project that should help improve the volume of trade passing through San Pedro’s port is the Road Development and Transport Facilitation Project, in partnership with Mali. Côte d’Ivoire already serves as a primary port of entry for the majority of its landlocked neighbours, but transit activity is frequently hindered by under-par road connections.

To help address this issue, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, along with the AfDB and the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa, are financing the paving of a total of 270 km of the existing road between San Pedro and Bamako, Mali’s capital city. The works will ensure that the road is weather-resistant and that transport costs between the two countries are reduced.

Air Connectivity

The city of San Pedro is equipped with a small airport for domestic flights, and its airstrip was rehabilitated in 2014. However, authorities are currently planning to construct an international airport and a new logistics area to boost the city’s logistics competitiveness (see Transport chapter). Bidding for the tender is under way and, according to local media, the Turkish construction company Limak has already expressed interest in the construction of the facility. The project, estimated to cost CFA500bn (€750m), will be able to accommodate short- and medium-haul aircraft from Europe, with facilities spanning 2000 ha.

The primary aim of the new facility is to expand the city’s economic potential, given that it serves as a major agricultural and mining export point, as well as develop the region’s tourism opportunities. However, similar to plans for the country’s main airport in Abidjan, there are also proposals to use the facility as leverage for the development of a cluster of industrial and logistics zones in the immediate vicinity, with the construction of an airport city encompassing hospitality, accommodation and industrial zones.


Power generation in Côte d’Ivoire, as in many West African countries, has generally been unable to meet demand, and with high GDP growth and an increasing emphasis on energy-intensive activities like manufacturing and mining, the strain on utilities is expected to increase further in the coming years.

San Pedro is no exception. Authorities have been looking to develop local power generation capacity as a way to meet rising need for electricity in San Pedro and neighbouring regions, which are expected to grow by 10% per year on average. In 2016 the government announced the construction of a coal-fired plant in the city, with a projected capacity of 700 MW. Scheduled to come on-line in 2020, the $800m project, which comes as part of the government’s national energy strategy to double power generation capacity to 4000 MW, will be carried out by Star Energie 2073, an Ivorian firm, on a build-operate-transfer basis.

Similarly, efforts have been made to further expand the electricity network into more of the country’s rural areas. Five villages have recently been connected to the grid, including Djirognepayo, Klotou, Menegbé, Naboville and Tolou, and new communities close to San Pedro are expected to be connected shortly. In March 2016 the government secured a €117m loan from the European Investment Bank for the development of the Energos project, which is centred on the rehabilitation and extension of distribution networks in the cities of Bouaké, San Pedro and Abidjan.

Utilities & Housing

In light of steady population growth in the region, urban planning – particularly in terms of residential and social infrastructure – has become increasingly important, with demand for housing and utility services far outstripping supply.

San Pedro is far from unique in facing these challenges, but recently the government has sought to aggressively tackle the quality of housing stock and improve public utilities. Much of the effort in this regard has been overseen by the South-West Development Authority (Autorité pour l’Aménagement de la Région du Sud-Ouest, ARSO) which was established in 1968 and has been responsible for the development of a range of key projects, including an hospital, a high school and a number of social housing units.

However, the expansion of San Pedro has far exceeded ARSO’s predictions – the agency was established at a time when the city consisted of less than 4000 people – and public services and infrastructure have since suffered as a result.

The city has struggled somewhat to accommodate the influx of new arrivals, which has led to a proliferation of slum areas in the peripheries of the city in addition to a gradual deterioration of road and water infrastructure. As recently as 2011 only half of San Pedro’s road network was suitable for regular car travel, and the region has a housing deficit of more than 110,000 units (see Real Estate chapter).

Social Projects

To address this, several road, electricity, water and social sector projects have been carried out over the past decade, which has helped in the partial reintegration of nearly 70% of the slum areas. April 2016 saw the rollout of a large-scale infrastructure and urban management project (Projet de Renaissance des Infrastructures de Côte d‘Ivoire, PRICI). Financed by the national government and the World Bank, the CFA12.7bn (€19.1m) PRICI campaign involved the rehabilitation of four health care centres, a 5.5-km extension of street lighting networks, the paving of 7.1 km of urban roads, and the construction of several water and sanitation projects, among other works.


In line with the efforts to strengthen infrastructure, efforts are also under way to improve the quality and capacity of the region’s schools and universities (see Education chapter). The San Pedro region has one of the densest education networks in the country – not unexpectedly given the comparatively high level of urbanisation – with a total of 170 primary schools (23 of which are private), seven public high schools and 12 private high schools.

In a bid to accommodate the rising number of pupils, authorities have recently constructed several new schools in small outlying towns, such as Petit Nado, Batcha, Soublaké, Doba and Boignykro, as well as refurbished several high schools in some of the larger urban areas, including Tabou and the city of San Pedro.

The region is also due to get a boost in terms of post-secondary capacity. As part of the government’s university regionalisation process, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science Research has announced plans for the development of a new greenfield facility: the University of San Pedro. With a cost estimate of roughly $370m, the new campus, which is a key educational objective in the government’s national development plan through to 2020, will have the capacity to accommodate 22,000 students and will provide courses covering sectors that are relevant to the regional economy, such as logistics, fisheries and construction.

Health Care

As elsewhere in Côte d’Ivoire, the local health care system is fairly limited, with one regional hospital, one medical school unit and a handful of private clinics in San Pedro city, and several small public health care centres scattered across the region.

In a bid to improve the accessibility and quality of primary health care, particularly in outlying areas of the country, the government has built a number of new facilities, including health care centres in communities such as Gnagny and Takoro, and a maternity hospital in Djapadjy. In addition, the authorities are also planning to expand the existing regional hospital in San Pedro and convert it into a larger university hospital, which will offer specialty as well as acute care services.


Prior to the political unrest of the previous decade, the San Pedro region was the one of the main tourism destinations in the country. Beach tourism was thriving, supported by the development of several hotel complexes along the Gulf of Guinea coastline. The city also lies near Tai National Park, one of a handful of protected natural areas and a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, as with the rest of the country, the unrest brought visitor numbers in San Pedro to a halt.

That is beginning to change now. While a fully developed leisure tourism industry is still some way off – San Pedro ranks only fifth in terms of bed capacity by region in Côte d’Ivoire, well behind Abidjan, Yamoussoukro and Grand-Bassam, with only 350 rooms – there have been some encouraging signs of late. Although many hotel facilities were abandoned during the last decade, local authorities have been looking to rehabilitate some of the larger landmark developments. In December 2016 one of the biggest hotel complexes in the region, the Baie des Sirènes in Grand-Béréby, re-opened its doors for the first time since 2002.

The San Pedro regional council has also launched a three-year plan that aims to support the renovation or establishment of new hotel facilities, bringing a combined total of 2500 beds to the market in targeted areas, with a particular focus on integrated resort complexes. There are also plans for a new cultural centre in San Pedro city, alongside an arts museum and a stadium with Olympic-standard track and field facilities.


As a whole, the region of San Pedro is expected to be one of Côte d’Ivoire’s major drivers of growth over the medium term, not only in terms of direct spend – which is significant – given the plans for new or expanded infrastructure, but also in terms of the impact it has on two of the country’s key sectors: namely, mining and agriculture.

There are still ample challenges ahead, including a high incidence of poverty, a low job-creation rate and an informal sector that accounts for as much as two-thirds of regional employment, but certainly, as is the case for the country, the outlook for San Pedro is bright.



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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2017

San Pedro chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2017

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