Interview: Georges Philippe Ezaley
Which sectors offer the most potential for economic growth in Grand-Bassam?
GEORGES PHILIPPE EZALEY: As the major tourist destination in Côte d’ Ivoire for both the local and international community, Grand-Bassam offers an array of tourism attractions. Given its proximity and ease of access to the economic capital and airport, Grand-Bassam plays a key role as a destination for day trips outside of Abidjan with family or friends. Given its role as the first capital of Côte d’ Ivoire and as the cradle of the emancipation movement, the city boasts historical infrastructure dating back to colonial times, which led to it being added to the UN World Heritage List in 2012, heightening the city’s visibility worldwide. Its historical importance attracts students and delegations, who come to learn about the city’s role in the development of the country.
During the colonial era, Grand-Bassam experienced high levels of immigration from countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal, resulting in a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, thus developing a vivid cultural atmosphere propitious to the development of the arts. The city is now home to many craftspeople and artists. The city is also home to a number of cultural celebrations, such as the Abissa festival, organised by the N’Zima tribe. In recent years Grand-Bassam has also become an attractive destination for events, although the limited capacity to host major gatherings in terms of hotels or conference rooms has become a challenge to the development of the industry. Indeed, the city still lacks major multinational hotel branches within its portfolio, such as those found in Abidjan. In our view, Grand-Bassam can quickly become the destination of choice for tourism and leisure in the country.
Moving away from tourism, Grand-Bassam is also an important university city, with the International University of Grand-Bassam playing a significant role in its development. However, the future is undeniably the Village of Information Technology and Biotechnology. With a strong focus on new technologies, this duty-free zone provides operators with the basic requirements, such as electricity and water, as well as fiscal incentives to grow their operations, not only in Côte d’Ivoire but also around the region. Authorities are currently setting the groundwork for a further 150 ha of commercial real estate in an effort to provide additional room for companies looking to establish themselves in the area. The development of this zone falls in line with our sustainable development goals. In this regard, in collaboration with the National Bureau of Technical Studies and Development, the city has embarked on an ambitious project to become the first city in the region to adopt the UN’s sustainable development action plan Agenda 21 by the beginning of 2017.
Given recent plans to open the estuary, the fishing industry in Grand-Bassam will soon experience a boost. By creating an opening to the sea, the lagoon will be cleaned, encouraging more fish into our waters. In this regard, the city will soon need investments in the production, processing and distribution of fish products.
What were the effects of the terrorist attacks in Grand-Bassam in May 2016?
EZALEY: As seen around the world, these asymmetric warfare tactics are of an unpredictable nature. These events had a psychological impact on both local and foreign communities. However, during these events the city received an unprecedented amount of support from local communities and authorities. Two days after the attacks, a ministerial meeting was held in Grand-Bassam and the government spearheaded a CFA250m (€375,000) investment plan to support local hotels, craftspeople and logistical companies. On the side of the locals, normal activities resumed very quickly. The tourism sector was more negatively impacted but normal activities had resumed by September. With the help of the National Guard, we have increased security at tourist sites, particularly on weekends, and some private firms have also heightened security measures.
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