Interview: Jean-Louis Menudie
What can be done to improve the current corporate tax framework in Côte d’Ivoire?
JEAN-LOUIS MENUDIER: The current implementation of tax policy is not entirely aligned with the government’s goal of increasing national production. However, the private industrial sector and the administration have worked together towards overall the improvement of the tax framework. This cooperation has led to the creation of a new and attractive tax policy framework which satisfied both parties. Unfortunately, the new policy was only partially adopted, and the tax authority is currently revising the original policy.
Industry players from the private sector are looking forward to collaborating with the administration to attempt to facilitate industrial development in the country. Fostering a rapid, privately led industrial development requires a stable environment in which unexpected costs are not common. If left unaddressed, these issues could potentially have an impact on capital investment activity.
How important is the construction of new industrial zones, specifically in rural areas?
MENUDIER: Considering the nation’s business attractiveness, catalysing demand for new zones will be challenging. However, there are multiple factors that call for the construction of new industrial zones across the country. First, these projects will likely ease congestion in Abidjan and its surrounding areas. Second, they will enable efficient utilisation of the existing workforce. Third, logistics management will be greatly facilitated by the decentralisation of economic activities.
Côte d’Ivoire’s infrastructure levels are sufficient for this process to begin. The country’s ability to successfully implement industrial zones is the best it has ever been. Rather than attempting to establish industrial parks wherever companies already have physical locations, company creation is driven by the establishment and preparation of designated areas conducive to relevant activities. Financial incentives also exist for companies that are looking to establish themselves in areas where economic activity has only just begun to flourish.
How do you assess the industry’s technological maturity levels and related competitiveness?
MENUDIER: Improving the use of technology in production is essential to maintaining the national economy’s competitiveness. Côte d’Ivoire’s technological maturity levels are higher than those of neighbouring countries. However, intensification of global competition is requiring local producers to respond with increases in their productivity.
Unlike most industrialised countries, in Côte d’Ivoire local manufacturers have more difficulty accessing bank funding, which remains particularly expensive. Therefore, to stay competitive, local players must improve the overall operational efficiency of their production processes. Our members are currently undertaking heavy investment in order to bring their productivity to optimum levels.
To what extent is the local talent pool sufficient for the development of a fast-paced industrial sector?
MENUDIER: More people have pursued business-related studies than engineering in Côte d’Ivoire. In view of the importance of talent availability for the private sector, business associations are engaging in opportunities to train technical profiles. For example, our organisation is in the process of developing a training initiative in collaboration with an international public aid programme. This should be confirmed by the end of 2018 and begin in the early months of 2019. Naturally, the results associated with initiatives such as these will take some time to become wholly evident.
In the meantime, companies operating in Côte d’Ivoire are working hard on acquiring talent from the diaspora to address the lack of local engineers.
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