The government has set up an export council charged with implementing a strategy to diversify the world’s leading cocoa exporter away from its traditional markets and provide a roadmap for realising opportunities related to mining and rubber, among other segments.
The National Export Council (Conseil National des Exportations, CNE) was established in June 2014 following the government’s fourth consultation in April with the International Trade Centre (ITC), which has served as a partner for technical assistance on export matters since 2013. The CNE was launched at the end of 2014 and will manage the National Export Strategy (NES), a new blueprint for promoting trade. Côte d’Ivoire’s top three exports are cocoa, hydrocarbons and rubber, which made up 48%, 18% and 11% of exports as of 2012. However, the administration of President Alassane Ouattara is keen to promote under-represented sectors such as mining and manufacturing. “We are really open to all the world,” Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan told an investment forum in 2014.
The country is seeking to diversify trading partners and has pursued trade liberalisation both with Europe, as well as with newer markets in North America and Asia, following GDP growth in recent years. The economy has rebounded to high single-digit growth since 2012, with real GDP growth estimated at 8.7% in 2013, driven by exports and high domestic demand, according to the IMF’s fifth review in June 2014. Exports, at current prices, rose by 3.8% in 2013 year-on-year following 5.2% growth in 2012. Maintaining the high volume of exports, however, will be important for keeping the current account deficit in check. Despite projections of exports rising by 11-12% annually over the next decade, they are likely to be overshadowed by faster growth in imports, expected at above 13% per year, according to the IMF. The current account deficit is thus expected to widen to 4.7% of GDP in 2014, 6.3% in 2016 and 7.3% by 2018, though when aid inflows are factored in, these figures will be lower at 2.6%, 4.5% and 5.8%, respectively.
According to a decree on June 18, 2014 by the Council of Ministers, the CNE will serve as a consultative body mediating between government and the private sector, with an aim to carry forward the government’s new export drive as well as take advantage of the opportunities offered by regional and international markets. Following consultations between industry representatives, including the Export Promotion Agency and the ITC over the past 18 months, and subsequent confirmation by the Council of Ministers, priority will extend to the following segments: rubber, cashew, cotton, fruit, cassava, fashion and textiles.
The CNE’s tasks will range from the provision of trade information and logistics to quality standards, capacity building and access to financing, Anton Said, head of the ITC unit advising the strategy, told the media. “The NES will serve as the reference roadmap for export development and competitiveness to boost growth in line with Côte d’Ivoire’s aim to become an emerging-market economy by 2020.”
A recent ITC project showcased textiles, fashion and home decoration products from the Côte d’Ivoire at a pop-up store in Paris. “ITC has introduced the producers to potential buyers in central and southern Africa and prepared them with marketing strategies and support in handling commercial negotiations,” said James Howe, senior advisor of international marketing and branding at ITC. “In addition, we assisted the companies in designing branding strategies, in particular communications materials and websites, in order to better present their products to international buyers.”
EU Trade Access
The announcement of the council comes as negotiations continue for a regional economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the EU that would allow Côte d’Ivoire, along with fellow ECOWAS member states, to trade more freely with Europe. Having signed an interim EPA in November 2008, the country is now engaged in the approval process for a more comprehensive regional agreement endorsed at a summit in July 2014 by the ECOWAS heads of state.
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