Interview: Siandou Fofana

What concrete steps should be taken to position Côte d’Ivoire as a leading tourist destination?

SIANDOU FOFANA: Côte d’Ivoire’s ambition is to make the country one of the top-five destinations in Africa and to increase tourism’s contribution to GDP from 7.3% in 2019 to 10% by 2025. To that end, the government is committed to bringing in a total of 4.2m visitors by the aforementioned date. Projections suggest that GDP from tourism will double from CFA2.5trn ($4.3bn) in 2019 to more than CFA5trn ($8.6bn) in 2025, facilitating the creation of more than 250,000 direct and indirect jobs, and stimulating consumer spending in the local economy. The government launched the Sublime Côte d’Ivoire tourism development strategy in September 2018 to meet the country’s strategic goals of increasing GDP growth and expanding tax revenue, promoting territorial development outside Abidjan, and creating a pool of skilled and unskilled jobs.

Following the implementation of this programme, and overall improvements in travel and tourism, the sector’s contribution to GDP rose from 2.4% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2019. Revenue from direct tourism expenditure grew from CFA1trn ($1.7bn) in 2015 to CFA1.2trn ($2.1bn) in 2019. The number of domestic tourists increased from around 1.7m in 2015 to approximately 2m in 2019. The total number of international and domestic tourists went from 3.1m in 2015 to 4.1m in 2019, generating some CFA1.2trn ($2.1bn). Furthermore, public and private investment between 2015 and 2019 totalled CFA594bn ($1.02bn) – 99%, or CFA588bn ($1.01bn), of which came from the private sector.

How can the ministry and the private sector jointly develop synergies to promote the country internationally and attract more tourists?

FOFANA: The context for developing the tourism industry is shaped by the government’s aim of increasing the sector’s contribution to GDP from 7.3% in 2019 to 10% in 2025. The sector is underdeveloped and offers competitive options at a lower cost in a dynamic business environment. Since 2012 the private sector has emerged as one of the driving forces of economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire. Indeed, according to the World Bank, the private sector recorded an increase in investment of 13.9% and consumption of 4.6% in 2018. This increase in activity contributed to the 6.9% GDP growth rate in 2018. This positive dynamic was amplified by the acceleration in investment approved by the Investment Promotion Agency of Côte d’Ivoire and by the rise in foreign direct investment from 1.2% to 1.4% of GDP between 2016 and 2018.

Synergies between the Ministry of Tourism and the private sector are due in part to several government reforms related to the governance framework for private investment, the business environment, support for small businesses, and the mobilisation of domestic and foreign private capital. In terms of the business environment and support for the private sector, the 2020 Ibrahim Index of African Governance highlights a substantial improvement in the country’s ranking. In 2008 Cote d’Ivoire ranked 41st out of 54 African countries. By 2020 it had jumped 23 spots to 18th place.

To what extent could the introduction of a harmonised visa regime in the ECOWAS increase tourism?

FOFANA: The ECOWAS Commission is working towards the introduction of a harmonised ECOVISA regime for foreign countries in the region. The visa will permit international tourists to travel within the 15 ECOWAS member countries. This development is expected to boost local tourism and encourage business travellers to explore potential investment opportunities.

Côte d’Ivoire intends to make it easier for local and international visitors to find affordable, high-quality tourism packages. To achieve this, the government will focus its efforts on diversifying travel and leisure offerings, improving access to tourist destinations, and developing more robust security and safety measures.