Interview: Nicolas de Roquefeuil

How would you assess the performance of the construction sector over the last two years?

NICOLAS DE ROQUEFEUIL: The sector recorded growth of 18% in 2021 after a temporary setback in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Development is continuing apace in Côte d’Ivoire, which has positively impacted all construction and development segments. Many operators are taking an interest in the country, and we are working to ensure competitiveness.

To what extent can the modernisation of road and logistics infrastructure facilitate growth?

DE ROQUEFEUIL: Infrastructure upgrades, particularly to roads, are favourable for national development as they facilitate the free movement of goods and people. Realising the importance of sound infrastructure, Côte d’Ivoire has been working to develop its transport network for the past 10 years. In this regard, the SanPédro port project, located near the country’s primary cocoa-producing region, will serve as an alternative to the Port of Abidjan and will help to boost exports to the rest of the continent over the medium and long term.

Which areas of the construction sector have been affected by the ongoing inflation?

DE ROQUEFEUIL: Inflation has affected all ongoing construction projects and companies that committed themselves to lump sum prices. Depending on the legal provisions of the contracts, some additional costs incurred as a result of inflation can be claimed, while others cannot be recovered and translate into operating losses. In the current context of price instability, we rely on the expertise of our purchasing department. Prices of all metal products have increased significantly and remain volatile as of August 2022.

For construction projects under negotiation, we must offer our customers price revision formulas that allow us to adjust our prices throughout the project and with complete transparency. For more than 10 years public procurement actors have worked in moderate inflation environments. These players will have to adapt to the new inflationary context.

What is your perception of the legal and administrative framework of the construction sector?

DE ROQUEFEUIL: The public procurement framework was revised in 2019 and is consequently up to date. Electronic procurement management holds immense potential but has yet to be adopted by construction firms. In my opinion, the new generation of engineers should work in fields where innovation could prove very profitable for all stakeholders.

There is no particular legal framework in place for private contracts. Each operator adopts the specifications that suit their interests in line with Ivorian law. For successful project execution, private investors should improve their knowledge of legal and administrative frameworks. They must also comprehend legal and administrative procedures, such as the acquisition of building permits, conducting compliance monitoring, establishing design offices and obtaining approvals from the National Environment Agency. Constant monitoring of the process is critical to ensuring that the investment is recognised and approved by the Investment Promotion Agency of Côte d’Ivoire.

In what ways are operators adapting to environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards?

DE ROQUEFEUIL: Very few construction operators are currently adopting ESG standards in Côte d’Ivoire. In this regard, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our construction sites by implementing new monitoring and energy reduction systems. The informal sector still accounts for a large share of construction activity, which limits the formal sector’s development. However, many construction companies are trying to develop ESG policies to improve labour standards and working conditions for their employees.