Interview: Joachim Bilé-Aka and Michel K Brizoua-Bi

What actions should be taken to improve the legal framework for investment?

JOACHIM BILÉ-AKA/MICHEL BRIZOUA-BI: First, in order to improve the legal framework for investment in Côte d’Ivoire, the institutional environment must be strengthened. A closer relationship between private sector operators and the government is necessary, as both play a crucial role in the decision-making process.

Among the actions needed, the enacted laws should be publicised to a much wider audience in the country to ensure compliance with the rules and obligations contained in each law, particularly for legislation that concerns economic matters, or relates to domestic or foreign investors.

With regard to the adequacy of the legal framework for investment, there is room for improvement in the process of granting tax concessions. For several years now, the Investment and Promotion Agency (Centre de Promotion des Investissements en Côte d’Ivoire, CEPICI) has been involved in the management and selection of investment projects that should benefit from the new investment code.

The positive impact of the code will only be visible when the administrative decision of approval is signed and notified to the beneficiary, after the intervention of the government authority. However, the implementation of a mechanism of judicial control, which the applicant could turn to in the event of a final refusal decision, would be practical.

Similarly, the investment legal framework would be more stimulating for companies if they could immediately take advantage of the provisions of the investment code, as long as they consider under their own responsibility to meet the conditions identified by the legislator. CEPICI would then intervene to carry out the necessary checks. The agency’s monitoring of the terms and conditions of eligible investments could thus allow several local and foreign companies to engage in projects that meet the criteria set by the public authorities responsible for the economic development of Côte d’Ivoire. This is subject to the compliance of companies, in due course, with CEPICI’s inspections, which are necessary to ensure the full application of the favourable regime provided in the legislative and regulatory framework.

How can the legal and fiscal framework further promote the formalisation of the economy?

BILÉ-AKA/BRIZOUA-BI: In Côte d’Ivoire, a large number of individual business operators are not formally registered. Therefore, a number of legal and fiscal measures need to be put in place to regulate all entrepreneurs in the country’s economy. The admission by the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa of the legal status of the entrepreneur is already a positive step. This term is describes an individual entrepreneur, subject to more flexible reporting requirements, who is involved in a civil, commercial, artisanal or agricultural activity.

In order to give even greater significance to this entrepreneurial legal form, through which the public authorities hope to have a better understanding of economic operators that are not fully formalised, two different types of files need to be considered.

On the one hand, there are those held by town halls for small traders subject to municipal taxes, which could be compared with those of the General Directorate of Taxes and the Trade and Personal Property Credit Register, for better mapping of economic operators. On the other hand, there are those kept by mobile phone operators, as the registration of line holders has been made compulsory and a large number of informal workers rely on mobile money.

Moreover, it should be noted that the law already allows the payment of certain tax contributions through electronic money. Therefore, databases kept by mobile phone operators are an avenue to improve the formalisation of economic activity in Côte d’Ivoire.