Interview : Jean-Marie Ackah

What efforts are under way to make it easier to do business in Côte d’Ivoire?

JEAN-MARIE ACKAH: Since 2012 Côte d’Ivoire has started to improve the business climate using “Doing Business” criteria as benchmarks of policy-making. The initial goal remains to provide an objective basis for understanding and improving the regulatory framework. Thus, a reform agenda was designed with input from different public and private stakeholders. The government is aiming to make it into the top 50 by 2020 and to remain among the top-10 most reform-oriented countries.

This agenda ultimately aims to facilitate business by minimising paperwork. To achieve this, efforts must be made to increase government involvement in the timely implementation of reforms; to provide the resources to finance the reforms; and to commit involved stakeholders, such as public administrations, territorial communities and the private sector. The private sector also has an important role to play in monitoring and evaluating reforms to enable the state to make the necessary adjustments.

Which synergies can the education system and private sector develop to improve employability?

ACKAH: The skills of students graduating from general, vocational, technical and university courses must match company needs. Dialogue between the state and private actors will reveal and quantify the specific needs of each sector, enabling the state to deliver appropriate education policies. That dialogue needs to be constant in order to anticipate occupational changes that require updates to curricula and training methods.

On the one hand, the private sector needs must be put at the centre of education; on the other, the private sector must take responsibility and fully involve itself at all stages of education policy implementation, especially in technical, vocational and university courses.

The framework for such dialogue exists. It has structured the economy into interprofessional branches run by companies and organisations, and allowed them to test a new mode of governance, notably with the involvement of the private sector in building teaching capacity. In light of the challenges the lack of a highly skilled workforce poses to our companies’ competitiveness, this initiative must be sustained and accelerated.

A genuine social contract must be established around knowledge and skill acquisition because education remains everyone’s business. This contract must include not only teaching staff and the administrators of the education system, but families and companies as well.

How can international organisations leverage local content when entering the market?

ACKAH: Local entrepreneurs have deep knowledge of the economic, social and cultural environment. In light of various complexities associated with navigating the market, the expertise of a local partner can be very helpful. Specifically, investors can leverage the experience of local managers to tailor international processes to Ivorian realities. More often than not, local businesspeople have complemented their educations and professional careers with international experiences, which enables them to adjust to the needs of multinationals and the subsidiaries of large companies.

What can be done to bolster an environment conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation?

ACKAH: Considering that an innovative economy is largely the fruit of entrepreneurs investing in and developing projects, the government must create a cultural and regulatory environment that encourages the development of original ideas and activities, This can be realised by including such skills in school; supporting the creation of innovative and sustainable businesses by fostering an ecosystem conducive to growth; encouraging research and technological progress by facilitating access to support and oversight services; and by expanding access to financial resources.