Interview: Daniel Kablan Duncan
How can trade between Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire be improved and expanded?
DANIEL KABLAN DUNCAN: In recent years, trade volumes have increased between the two countries, but one cannot deny that figures remain low. In 2011 Morocco represented a mere 1.02% of Côte d’Ivoire’s foreign trade and 1.3% in 2013. Morocco is only Côte d’Ivoire’s 25th-largest supplier; however, trade flows are accelerating, especially in terms of investment, leading to greater prospects.
Recently, Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco signed 26 partnership agreements, covering a great variety of sectors. Those agreements should jumpstart cross-sector activities. Already, Morocco has a strong presence in the banking sector, with Attijariwafa Bank having a 51% stake in Société Ivoirienne de Banque. After all, finance is at the heart of any economy, and if Morocco is in the banking sector, it will be able to diversify its activities.
Since 2012, a new investment code has been in effect to facilitate trade. The Investment Promotion Agency of Côte d’Ivoire also put in place a single window that allows investors to establish a company within 48 hours. The World Bank’s “Doing Business 2014” report ranked Côte d’Ivoire among the top 10 countries making major improvements. Thus, in two or three years from now, trade flows between our countries should be higher than they currently are.
What are the main constraints to trading between North and West Africa?
DUNCAN: Most urgently, we need to improve transport infrastructure as a whole. There is a lack of railways and roads linking North and West Africa, and while on the maritime front there is existent and functioning infrastructure, regularity is often a problem. Another constraint is finance. Compared to Asian countries, which invest massively through concessional loans, North African countries’ financial support to West Africa is small. That is partly due to the fact that North African economies are themselves in need of external financing. Lastly, while West Africa currently benefits from North Africa’s expertise in a variety of sectors, such as tourism, agriculture and health, it is not as diversified as it should be. So, while Western countries are generally more advanced and contribute more in terms of expertise, the proximity between North and West Africa simplifies trade and expertise sharing.
What sectors offer Moroccan companies the greatest investment opportunities?
DUNCAN: Following Côte d’Ivoire’s post-electoral crisis, the construction and real estate sectors boomed. Moroccan firms Groupe Alliances and Groupe Addoha have invested in this sector and each plans to build 10,000 housing units in 2014. Those investments should help boost trade between the two countries in terms of equipment and machinery. Additionally, Moroccan construction firm Ciments de l’Afrique has decided to expand its current cement factory, enlarging production capacity from 500,000 tonnes to 1m tonnes. There are also a number of economic infrastructure projects in which investment will be required, especially to extend our road network in the north-east of Côte d’Ivoire. Morocco’s Somepi and Société Nationale d’Opérations Pétroliéres de la Côte d'Ivoire could also form partnerships to produce lubricants and liquefied petroleum gas bottles. In the last decade we have fallen behind, but we now aim to accelerate our growth.
How can the Moroccan and Ivorian governments encourage further private sector cooperation?
DUNCAN: In order to boost private sector participation in our economies, there is a need to primarily focus on greater cooperation in the private sector. The General Confederation of Businesses of Côte d'Ivoire and the General Confederation of Enterprises of Morocco have signed a partnership agreement for the creation of an economic council. Our governments also have their own share of responsibility. Governments need to lay down the groundwork to facilitate private investment, and, to a larger extent, private sector participation.
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