Interview: Siandou Fofana

What are the main projects under Côte d’Ivoire’s tourism strategy moving forward?

SIANDOU FOFANA: A 2016 industry census estimated the number of tourists worldwide reached 1.2bn, of which only 5% travelled to the African continent. We believe that this, in conjunction with our readily apparent ecological and cultural advantages, highlights the potential for an increase in our global market share. In an effort to develop this potential, we are currently developing a strategy that, to date, encompasses 620 suggestions under seven primary pillars, each targeting specific tourist markets. In our estimation, the cost of developing the required infrastructure, landscaping and skills-based workforce will cost close to CFA3trn (€4.5bn).

Business tourism has remained our most lucrative market, with Côte d’Ivoire ranked third in Africa behind Morocco and Nigeria. In comparison, we are ranked 12th in the leisure market. Moving forward, it is clear that our strategy must leverage our existing achievements in business tourism toward the growth of niche markets which present the greatest opportunity for traction, and include the cultural, memorial and ecotourism markets.

Given the current trend toward environmentally sound practices, ecotourism offers us the most immediate potential for growth. A predominantly agricultural country, we continue to see the effects of deforestation. A focused strategy on ecotourism provides us with the unique opportunity to not only positively impact our market share, but to develop infrastructure while rehabilitating damaged ecosystems. Given the historical importance of our coastline, this expanded infrastructure would also serve to support memorial tourism, offering visitors the opportunity to discover and learn the history of the slave trade. Cultural tourism is of equal importance given the diversity of tribes and cultures that inhabit Côte d’Ivoire. Infrastructure is also cultural: ongoing topics of discussion include highlighting and rehabilitating a number of museums and national heritage sites, which could be utilised to further develop craftsmanship, showcasing the rich culture, customs and traditions represented through Côte d’Ivoire’s numerous tribes – each with their own distinct methods of governance, practices and festivals.

How will investment in tourism impact the economy both now and in the near future?

FOFANA: In the Ivorian economy, investments in tourism will provide jobs and contribute to the decentralisation of economic activities. In the global economy, the service industry is a major contributor to employment, and we see the creation and development of jobs for Ivorian youth as a way to provide opportunities at the global scale. With our population expected to double by 2050 – with 70% under 35 years old – boosting job growth and opportunities in our industry is of paramount importance. Moreover, by tapping into the opportunities offered in each region, we will move the government’s decentralising policy forward, ensuring a distribution of benefits from economic growth across the country.

How will these projects be financed?

FOFANA: We aim to create a sovereign fund based on capital provided by the state of Côte d’Ivoire and our regional neighbours. The fund will be supported by a land reserve guarantee of over 6000 ha, valued at between CFA50,000 (€75) and CFA100,000 (€150) per sq metre. The private sector also has a role to play, through either investment funds or direct private investment in a stand-alone or public-private partnership format. We are currently working with the Côte d’Ivoire Investment Promotion Centre and consultancy companies on a proposed update of our investment code, in order to better drive private investments within our national tourism economy.