Eric Kacou, CEO, Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners: Interview

Eric Kacou, CEO, Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners

Interview: Eric Kacou

How can Côte d’Ivoire improve its business climate?

ERIC KACOU: There are two main aspects of Côte d’ Ivoire’s business climate that need to be improved, as highlighted in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index. First, Côte d’Ivoire, which is an important member of the UEMOA, could achieve better results by enhancing regional trade. Although this would be dependent on initiatives taken by several states, countries with political, economic and historical leverage such as Côte d’Ivoire should take the lead. Second, the country needs to improve its infrastructure. Although the building code adopted in June 2019 was a significant improvement, it will not have an immediate effect. The code is a good initiative to tackle long-standing issues such as building permits and property regulations. Moreover, industrial land is necessary for the private sector to be able to establish and undertake value-added activities, and substantial investment and in-depth reforms are needed towards this end.

Currently, most of the business activity is concentrated in and around Abidjan, but a qualified workforce needs to be available to work and live in the interior of the country. This would give more weight to inland regions where the infrastructure network is less developed than Abidjan. Moreover, industrial regional centres will need to be connected to the market through ports, railways and even through fibre optics, enabling a higher standard of living. Reforms to diversify industrial activity will take time, but the government has laid the foundations.

In what ways can graduates be better supported in their integration into the labour market?

KACOU: Education gives an individual certain skills and abilities that are valuable to employers. Special attention needs to be devoted to vocational training due to the steady demand for qualified and well-trained technicians such as masons, painters and electricians. Public colleges such as the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny have for decades offered high-quality professional education in technical areas. Moreover, institutions such as the General Confederation of Businesses of Côte d’ Ivoire (Confédération Générale des Entreprises de Côte d’Ivoire, CGECI) are managing collaboration agreements between educational institutions and private companies, with a view to match the private sector’s needs with the educational curricula.

There are also personal skills that are not learned through education, but rather have more to do with an individual’s mindset, willingness to learn and professionalism. People whose values and attitudes allow them to be productive and proactive are fundamental.

What are the main obstacles that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face, and how can these challenges be overcome?

KACOU: An internal study conducted by our organisation and the CGECI estimated that SMEs were in need of CFA3.5trn ($6bn) worth of financing and investment. This was before the Covid-19 crisis, making it likely that this figure is higher today. However, the measures put in place were not adapted to the needs of SMEs. Many SMEs believe it is not only a matter of funding operations, but of financing assets in the medium and long term. Therefore, there is a mismatch between their needs and the supply of financial products and services. To tackle this – aside from ensuring the technical and managerial skills necessary to manage the businesses properly – SME financing issues should be analysed holistically, by adapting products and services to the current situation. This approach would allow companies to accumulate smart capital and adapt to technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain and the internet of things. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen the importance of technological tools in adapting to the new reality and finding innovative solutions.

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The Report: Cote d'Ivoire 2020

Economy chapter from The Report: Cote d'Ivoire 2020

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