Interview: Michel K Brizoua-Bi; Joachim Bilé-Aka
What major legislative and regulatory changes can we expect in the short term?
MICHEL K BRIZOUA-BI & JOACHIM BILÉ-AKA: Between 2012 and 2016 we have seen several regulatory changes, including the revision of corporate law, a new mining code, the creation of commercial courts and the liberalisation of the energy sector through six new decrees in 2016. We must now wait for these laws to take effect and see how they fare with regards to new projects and the current economic environment.
We expect new legislative measures in the coming years to target specific challenges, or to aim to boost the competitiveness of key sectors. We are also awaiting the outcome of a deliberation on a reform to modernise arbitration rights in the country. Elsewhere, a study is being conducted on whether a revision of the framework for public-private partnerships is required, to see if these projects can be made more attractive. One piece of legislation that will have a direct impact on operators is the revision of policies regarding local content and private industry support incentives.
Moreover, in light of recent complaints by taxpayers, a revision of the Ivorian tax regime is currently ongoing. Contributors claim that fiscal pressure in Côte d’Ivoire is too burdensome, especially when compared to regional peers. Of course, this is a sensitive matter, since the government is also seeking to enlarge the taxable base while ensuring the system remains attractive to private investors. The solution will stem from bringing a share of the informal economy into the formal sector, but the measures required to achieve that remain unclear.
What are the main legal obstacles and deterrents facing foreign investors today?
BRIZOUA-BI & BILÉ-AKA: Unlike in previous years, the legislative framework no longer worries foreign investors seeking to enter the country. Today, they are more likely to ask how to optimise their operations than to ask how secure their investments are. However, investors still regularly raise concerns about the efficiency and reliability of local authorities.
To what extent have the various issues surrounding land titles been addressed?
BRIZOUA-BI & BILÉ-AKA: Issues regarding land titles have been a recurrent theme of this administration. However, recent measures have taken a decisive step forward when it comes to land security and efficiency in acquiring titles. With the creation of a single window for land titles – the Guichet Unique du Foncier – the process has become much easier, while the Decree on Definitive Concession should provide a solution to the issue of double land accreditation.
Nonetheless, because of the high demand for land, we continue to face lengthy processing times when seeking suitable sites to build on. In other words, land is available, but it’s lacking the necessary infrastructure, such as sanitation, water and electricity.
In the case of rural areas, we advise investors to remain vigilant when dealing with native communities. The state has purged the customary laws and now takes over land, makes it viable for construction and sells its on. The positive aspect of this move is that investors no longer face protracted negotiations with local counterparts. On the other hand, the derisory level of compensation provided to people being expropriated means that these measures have been facing some backlash. If well implemented, this initiative can provide a solution to the issue of rural land acquisition.
What is the current status of the process to digitalise the legal system?
BRIZOUA-BI & BILÉ-AKA: The first authority to digitise their systems was the commercial court. However, the move has not been adopted by other authorities, nor was the service provided outside of Abidjan. To some extent, the culprit might be the inability of certain members to adapt to new processes.
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