OBG talks to Michel K Brizoua-Bi and Joachim Bilé-Aka, Founders, Bilé-Aka, Brizoua-Bi & Associés: Interview

Interview: Michel K Brizoua-Bi, Joachim Bilé-Aka

How has the one-stop shop helped the business climate in Côte d’Ivoire?

MICHEL BRIZOUA-BI: Beyond the need for financial, tax and legal advisors, the implementation of a one-stop shop system for company incorporation procedures facilitates both local and foreign investors’ engagement in the market. All administrative procedures are centralised in one place, thus addressing all investors’ needs. Processes are streamlined and simplified. In terms of timing, we have witnessed massive improvements – not only are delays now almost nonexistent, but it also takes just 48 hours or so to establish a business. In the past, investors and businessmen faced recurrent delays in file processing; but the Investment Promotion Agency of Côte d’Ivoire addressed the issue with the establishment of its one-stop shop, and thus drastically reduced delays. For entrepreneurs, it is a key element in doing business. It is a major improvement, and places Côte d’Ivoire very well on the international scene in terms of the ease of doing business. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of companies created.

How will the cancellation of minimum capital requirements enhance entrepreneurship?

BRIZOUA-BI: The financial viability of a company is often measured by its initial level of capital; however, in Côte d’Ivoire, this is precisely what small and medium-sized enterprises are lacking. In an effort to not hinder entrepreneurial creativity and business creation, the cancellation of the minimum capital requirement for those companies is welcome. Being undercapitalised, however, can be tricky when it comes to investing in innovation or even getting a line of credit. At least barriers are lifted now, and this should allow investors and entrepreneurs with few resources to materialise ideas.

How can access to land titles and building permits in Côte d’Ivoire be facilitated?

JOACHIM BILÉ-AKA:The question of land in Côte d’Ivoire remains an issue. There is strong will from the government to clarify and computerise procedures to avoid litigation risks. There are also measures in the pipeline to improve transparency and efficiency in land acquisition. For instance, to simplify the procedure the Final Concession Decree document was been issued, smoothing decisions on land ownership. In terms of access to industrial land, there is a growing demand, and indeed, the demand is higher than the supply. Today, there are only three industrial zones, but projects are starting to flourish in Abidjan and its suburban areas.

What effect has the creation of commercial courts had on the business community?

BILÉ-AKA: This relatively new institution lives up to its promises, notably in terms of processing times and clarity. The efforts made towards transparency and the quality of the decisions taken are also to be mentioned. In most cases, these are good decisions. Some decisions are not satisfactory enough, but it is the case in every country in the world. So, everything the system used to be blamed for – slow and biased process, integrity issues and lack of technical skills – is no longer valid. The country should be proud to have such a credible and transparent legal tool. Obviously, nothing is perfect, and hopefully the institution will not be victim of its success and will keep its impartial status. Overall, it is a strong and positive signal for the private sector.

How can greater transparency in public procurement be ensured?

BRIZOUA-BI: In terms of public procurement, there are not that many companies that go to litigation because they do not want to be blacklisted. However, as a means to improve transparency, we have a regulatory authority for public procurement that is really rigorous. Of course, the number of single tendering procurements is worrying – however, the reality is that many projects were urgent and had to be jump started. Currently, the regulatory authority has launched several investigations on past single-tendering procurement projects.

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2015

Legal Framework chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2015

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