Cementing change: As many Ivorians continue to work from home, the public sector is looking to make Covid-19 digitalisation trends permanent

While many countries worldwide signalled a shift towards economic recovery in late 2021 and into 2022 after the initial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Côte d’Ivoire appears to have weathered the global crisis better than many. The country’s GDP expanded by 2% in 2020 and 7% in 2021; by comparison, global GDP contracted by 3.1% in 2020 and grew by 6.1% in 2021, according to the IMF. Côte d’Ivoire’s economic expansion is forecast to continue apace, growing by an average of 6.2% per year between 2022 and 2026.

Part of this resilience can be attributed to digital readiness, agile government interventions and developed mobile money networks keeping money flowing through the economy – even as many other processes came to a standstill. Meanwhile, the private sector is working to digitalise operations, complementing an ongoing initiative aimed at digitalising all government services by 2023 (see overview).

Even as quarantine measures eased, many Ivorians have opted to continue work from home and order food delivery via mobile apps. Côte d’Ivoire’s trend toward digitalisation, accelerated by the pandemic, looks set to continue in the years ahead.

Rapid Response

Within a month of the World Health Organisation declaring Covid-19 a global pandemic, Côte d’Ivoire’s government implemented a number of key measures to bolster the local digital economy and soften the potential impact of pandemic-related lockdowns. It distributed social grants using mobile payment systems, and fees on certain mobile money transfers used to pay for utility bills were scrapped to encourage the use of digital payments. Mobile network operators supported these initiatives by waiving mobile money transaction fees and subsidising internet services.

Meanwhile, the government accelerated the digitalisation of key public services, quickly launching Citizen’s House, a one-stop online public service counter, to provide remote access to a range of products and services including birth certificates and criminal record checks. It also worked with the private sector to employ innovative safety measures, launch online virus-tracking dashboards and run effective information campaigns.

Digital Architecture

As of mid-2022 the government’s focus had shifted towards creating the regulatory framework required to support an increasingly digitalised economy. In January 2022 it issued a decree making remote work an officially recognised mode of employment, protected by the Labour Code. The decree has been broadly welcomed by citizens and the business community alike. “Business no longer needs to be conducted face-toface. That means lower costs for entrepreneurs who can now hire employees and manage their human resources interface without a physical office space,” Kassim Kouadio Assirou, CEO of local consultancy DG Cloud4Africa, told OBG.

Other reforms aimed at enabling business continuity include the creation of a digital tax reporting system launched in January 2022. While increasing the efficiency and speed of tax filing, the system aims to bolster the government’s ability to ensure compliance and carry out audits. The government also plans to incorporate value-added tax and property tax declaration into these digital processes.

Emergency Preparedness

The pandemic motivated the government to accelerate many digitalisation initiatives already in place. It also demonstrated responsiveness to the business community, amending regulations such as the Labour Code and implementing other measures aimed at establishing Côte d’Ivoire as an attractive destination for foreign business. Indeed, several international companies, including Spanish food delivery giant Glovo, are increasing their investment in the local market: Glovo plans to invest CFA2.9bn ($5m) in 2022 alone.