In the half-decade following the return of political stability in 2011, Côte d’Ivoire was one among the fastest-growing economies in the world. Having missed out on much of the developing and emerging markets boom that characterised the global economy during 2000-10 due to its domestic political crisis, the more recent period of out-performance has allowed the country to bounce back. Strong investment has been an important driver of this, particularly as the public and private sectors have moved to replace or improve the stock of infrastructure and capital degraded or destroyed during the 2002-11 period. Given that Côte d’Ivoire is a major cocoa producer, accounting for about 40% of the global market, high prices for its main cash crop helped during 2014 and 2015, in particular – a period that also saw increased oil and gas production and stepped-up exploration at recently discovered reserves.
In 2016, however, Ivorian growth appears to have entered a new phase: still strong, but slightly slower. This comes as the result of various cyclical and structural factors, and it is natural that investment and growth would moderate after such a strong and sustained bounce-back from the crisis period. A drought in 2016 hit the agriculture sector hard, and better weather in 2017 could not make up for a drop in cocoa prices, which fell by more than one-third in 2016 before they appeared to stabilise at lower levels. Even though GDP expansion has slowed somewhat, and is projected to moderate further through to 2020, it is still expected to remain robust relative to regional peers.
By The Numbers
During the decade to 2011, annual GDP growth averaged 0.66%, reaching an all-time low of -4.4% in 2011 itself. Expansion bounced back strongly, however, to 10.7% in 2012, and averaged an estimated 9.3% in the five years to 2016. According to the IMF, GDP growth was expected to moderate from an estimated 7.7% for 2016 – still on a par with growth in 1996, the highest of any year between 1978 and 2011 – to 7.6% in 2017. It is then expected to stabilise around this rate, notching in 7.3% in 2018 and 7.1% in 2019 before declining slightly to 6.9% in 2020.
Per Capita Growth
From 16.7m in 2000, Côte d’Ivoire’s population continued to grow quickly even during the period of political strife, reaching 23.7m by 2016. The combination of rapid population growth, and a stagnant economy until 2011, saw an extension of the long-term decline in GDP per capita since it peaked in the late 1970s, before beginning to recover from 2011 onwards. From a low of $2414 in 2011, gross national income per capita has increased rapidly, reaching $3345 by 2016 (at constant 2011 prices). According to the IMF, however, this was still around one-third below the historic peak reached in 1978, measured in real, local-currency terms. When viewed in its historical context, it becomes clear how much room for improvement remains for the country to realise its full potential and achieve emerging market status.
National Development Plan
Launched in 2016, the National Development Plan (Plan National de Dé veloppement, PND) 2016-20 is the second medium-term plan to be adopted by the authorities since 2011. It seeks to build on the lessons and successes of its predecessor, which covered 2012-15. The PND is an important staging post towards the country’s ambition of achieving emerging market status by 2020, and of making Côte d’Ivoire “an industrial power, united in its cultural diversity, democratic and open to the world” by 2040. The strategy sets out plans for the evolution of the Ivorian economy through to 2020, as well as detailed plans for investment and structural reform needed to achieve its objectives. It envisages investment on the order of CFA30trn (€45bn) over its five-year duration, of which CFA18.7trn (€28.1bn) would be from private sources and the rest public.
Agriculture has historically occupied a substantial share of the Ivorian economy. However, during the last half-decade of robust growth, there is evidence that a structural transformation is under way. The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector still accounted for a collective 23.4% of GDP in 2016, but this was down on the 30.3% it accounted for in 2011. While some of this may be down to 2016 being a particularly challenging year for the industry – due to inclement weather and weak cocoa prices – the trend is still clear after several years of the manufacturing and services sectors outperforming agriculture. Despite significant increases in the production of oil and gas, the contribution of the extractive sector to the economy increased only marginally, from 7.9% in 2011 to 8.1% in 2016. This suggests that mining has faded somewhat in importance as the extraction of hydrocarbons has picked up. Manufacturing had become the second-largest contributor to GDP by 2016, having increased its share from 14.5% in 2011 to 16.6% in 2016. Unsurprisingly, rebuilding and upgrading of infrastructure after the return of political stability in 2011 has seen the share of construction in GDP more than double, from 1.7% in 2011 to 5.9% by 2016. The second-biggest share increase was in transport and communications, with its contribution rising from 7.1% to 10.3% over the same period. The third-largest gain was in public administration, which increased its share from 10.7% of GDP in 2011 to 13.6% by 2016.
Looking to the future, the PND 2016-20 sets out three possible growth scenarios for the five-year period. The central scenario – labelled the “triumphant elephant”, and most closely aligned with the latest IMF projections for the period – foresees a continuation of the structural transformation already under way, with growth in the secondary and tertiary sectors set to outstrip that of the primary sector. Under this central scenario, growth in the primary sector would average 3.7% through to 2020, with subsistence farming leading the way with average growth of 4.6% annually. There is still a lot of scope for productivity gains here, through increased rationalisation and using better seeds. By contrast, average growth rates in the large agriculture export subsector and the smaller fishing subsector would lag behind, with average growth rates of 2.1% and 2.2%, respectively. In the secondary sector, the plan expects average growth rates of 8.7% over the five-year period, making it the main motor of Ivorian growth under this scenario. Growth in the extractives industry is expected to slow under this scenario, from a high of 8.8% in 2017 to an average of 4.4% during 2018-19, before contracting by 3.1% in 2020. Alternatively, production of gold and manganese is set to pick up as new mines come on-stream. Sustained investment in infrastructure and social housing is expected to see construction register average growth of 15% until 2020, in line with the strong growth trend seen in recent years. With annual projected growth of 13.8% under this central scenario, energy production is anticipated to be the second-strongest performing subsector. Meanwhile, agribusiness is set to record average growth rates of 8.6% as more agricultural produce is processed domestically before export. Manufacturing and other industries are expected to progress broadly in line with GDP, with annual growth averaging 8% through to 2020. Under the PND’s central scenario, the tertiary sector is set to experience average growth of 8.7% through to 2020. The only subsector deviating significantly from this is public administration, in which growth is forecast to average 3.3%. The transport (8.6%), telecoms (7.5%), wholesale and retail (8.7%), and other services (9.2%) sectors are expected to progress broadly in line with the overall tertiary sector, and a little ahead of the GDP growth rate.
Cocoa accounts for roughly one-third of Côte d’Ivoire’s exports, but the sector suffered a twofold setback in 2016, with global market prices falling by more than one-third and a severe drought hitting production. Overall, merchandise exports fell by 9.1% in 2016. According to the IMF, goods exports were anticipated to experience a substantial recovery in 2017, to post gains of 13.4%, before moderating to 9.1% in 2018 and dropping further to 8.2% in 2019.
As economic growth slowed in 2016, merchandise imports contracted even more quickly than exports, falling by an estimated 14% that year. However, the IMF forecast a 9.1% increase for 2017, followed by a more moderate 4.1% gain in 2018 and rises broadly in line with exports to be registered in 2019 and 2020.
Largely as a result of the terms-of-trade shock, and the swifter recovery of imports relative to exports, the IMF projected that the country’s current account deficit would continue to widen from 1.1% of GDP in 2016 to 2.9% of GDP in 2017, before narrowing slightly to 2.8% of GDP in 2018 and 2.7% in 2019. An IMF programme currently in place is expected to cover two-thirds of the balance-of-payments financing gap over the 2017-19 period, with the remainder to be covered by additional financial assistance from a range of bilateral and multilateral partners.
INVESTMENT: According to the IMF, investment as a share of GDP is expected to increase steadily from the 18.2% achieved in 2015 to 20.1% in 2018, before reaching 21.9% by 2020. While investment by the central government increased from 7.9% of GDP in 2015 to a projected 8.8% in 2017, further advances are expected to be more muted over the 2018-19 period in light of fiscal constraints, before picking up significantly in 2020 to reach 9.7% of GDP. Private sector investment, which had already increased from 10.3% of GDP in 2015 to a projected 11.4% in 2017, is expected to take up some of this slack, increasing further to 12.2% of GDP in 2018 and reaching 14.2% of GDP by 2020.
Operational since 2012, the guichet unique (single window) is a one-stop-shop for foreign and domestic entrepreneurs wishing to establish a business in the country. Over the 2013-16 period, 695 businesses were established through this channel, with resulting investments of CFA2.3bn (€3.5m) in total, supporting more than 24,000 jobs. While the number of businesses opening each year has been increasing, and a further jump in 2017 was expected from the 2016 total of 225, the value of resources mobilised has levelled out. Firms established through the single window mobilised CFA669m (€1m) in 2015 and CFA672m (€1m) in 2016, with the authorities expecting a similar level in 2017. In sectoral terms, construction and civil engineering have been the big drivers of such investment in 2015 and 2016, with ICT also coming increasingly to the fore. However, a number of important sectors including banking, housing, retail, mining and energy, are not covered by the guichet unique.
ACCESSING CREDIT: Ready access to finance is essential to underpin private sector growth in general, and investment in particular. Traditionally, access to bank lending has been relatively limited for all but large firms and wealthier segments of the population (see Banking chapter), while the financial markets have not been sufficiently developed to represent a viable alternative for small and medium-sized enterprises (see Capital Markets chapter). Credit growth spiked to of 29.6% in 2015, before slowing sharply to 15.4% in 2016 and increasing again to nearly 20% in 2017. According to the IMF, this should moderate again in the coming years, to 14.6% in 2018, 14.2% in 2019 and 12.9% in 2020.
Inward foreign direct investment has been on a steadily upward trajectory in recent years, increasing from CFA209bn (€314m) in 2014 to an estimated CFA284bn (€426m) in 2015 and CFA358bn (€537m) for 2016. Given that this estimated outcome for 2016 actually fell below expectations, however, the IMF has significantly revised downwards its projections for growth in FDI for the coming years. Nonetheless, it does expect further progress, having predicted CFA428bn (€642m) of FDI in 2017 – down from the CFA761bn (€1.1bn) previously forecast – CFA594bn (€891m) in 2018 and CFA730bn (€1.1bn) in 2019.
According to UNCTAD, Côte d’Ivoire’s stock of FDI stood at $7.3bn at end-2015, making it the third-largest recipient of inward FDI in West Africa, after Nigeria ($89.7bn) and Ghana ($26.4bn). This amounted to 23.2% of GDP – down from 31.8% in 2007 – compared to 74.8% in Ghana, 17.1% in Nigeria, and over 100% of GDP in some of the region’s smaller economies, such as Liberia (318.2%) and Mauritania (129.4%).
The combination of a return to relative political stability and strong growth have underpinned a surge in inward FDI flows (in local currency terms), which are expected to have more than doubled between 2014 and 2017. Just as important, however, have been concerted government efforts to improve the business environment in recent years. Landmark advances have included launch of the Commercial Court in Abidjan in October 2012, a new Investment Code adopted in November 2012, and the one-stop shop “single window” for business formalities, which has been in operation since December 2012.
That same year also saw the authorities target improvements in the country’s World Bank Doing Business rankings, with the ambitious long-term aim of achieving emerging market status and a top-50 Doing Business ranking by 2020. These efforts were formalised institutionally with the creation of an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by the prime minister and supported by the national Investment Promotion Centre (known by its local acronym of CEPICI) acting as the secretariat, in close cooperation with the World Bank team on the ground. As a result, Côte d’Ivoire’s ease of doing business rankings improved from 170th in 2011 to 142nd in the 2017 iteration of the World Bank report. In the 2015 rankings, for example, Côte d’Ivoire was the fourth-best reformer.
The year 2017 was a critical one for expanding e-governance in Côte d’Ivoire. An important development in this regard, and one which should greatly improve efficiency and transparency, is a move towards electronic declaration and payment of taxes through the “e-Impôt” system, which has been obligatory for firms with annual sales above CFA200m (€300,000) since February 2017. Smaller firms can also opt into e-Impôt to claim reimbursements for value-added tax, for example, and the authorities hope to make it possible to make payments using mobile money in the future. Efforts have also been made to move land registry and construction permit requests to online platforms.
After scoring a number of quick wins, however, reform momentum appears more recently to have slowed. Previous “Doing Business” reports show that the country only improved three places, to 139th, between the 2017 and 2018 reports. Areas in need of significant further attention from the authorities relate, in particular, to tackling corruption, cementing the rule of law and clarifying land titles for industrial lands. The government is working to improve bankruptcy arrangements and boost protections for minority shareholders, notably those listed on the regional stock exchange.
Rule Of Law
On the judicial front, an important development during 2017 was the rollout of small claims procedures for claims smaller than CFA3.5m (€5300). This should help unclog and ultimately speed up decisions in the court system while reducing costs and easing access to the judicial system for those of more limited means. Claimants do not need a lawyer to use the new system, and can do so by paying a flat fee of CFA15,000 (€22,500). The lead time for the average judgment in the commercial court was reduced from 60 days in 2016 to 45 in 2017, with a maximum of 120 days. Another measure to streamline the court system was the 2014 introduction of voluntary mediation. Resource-permitting, the authorities hope eventually to roll out the commercial court beyond Abidjan, but there were no concrete plans for doing so as of early 2018.
Despite the progress made in recent years, tackling corruption remains one of the key policy challenges facing the country, as well as one of the main impediments to doing business. Transparency International ranks Côte d’Ivoire 108th out of 176 countries in this respect, with a score of 34 out of 100, noting that “corruption remains endemic, systemic, permeating all levels of society”. The organisation commends the authorities on their efforts to tackle the issue in recent years, however, citing the presidential anti-corruption decrees of 2013 as well as the creation of the Brigade for the Fight Against Corruption in 2012 and the High Authority for Good Governance in 2014.
The economic slowdown has hurt tax revenue across most categories, while spending pressures have continued unabated, particularly given the demands of funding military personnel and civil servants in early 2017. The IMF estimated that the fiscal deficit was set to have risen to 4.5% of GDP in 2017, but forecast this to narrow to 3.75% of GDP in 2018. Further steps have been taken by the government to try to meet the longer-term deficit target of 3% of GDP by 2019 set under the IMF programme, which would also bring the country in line with the UEMOA regional deficit norm. However, the government has so far taken a moderate approach to narrowing the deficit, in order to still cater to the country’s pressing social demands. Reaching this target will require further fiscal consolidation efforts to be made each year, particularly if the GDP growth underperforms in comparison to projections (see analysis).
From an estimated peak of 48.7% of GDP in 2017, the IMF expects Côte d’Ivoire’s gross central government debt to decline moderately to 48.3% in 2018, 47.1% in 2019 and 46.5% in 2020 as economic growth remains relatively robust and the fiscal deficit narrows towards its medium-term target (see analysis). The authorities successfully tapped the eurobond market for the third time in June 2017, raising nearly $2bn in euros and US dollars. This allowed them both to meet the greater-than-expected funding needs arising from the increased fiscal deficit and to smooth out the maturity profile of external debt so as to minimise refinancing risks in the mid 2020s. According to the IMF, such transactions are expected to result in an increase in non-concessional external debt, from 22.6% of GDP in 2016 to peak at 28.2% of GDP in 2019 before beginning to decline. Similarly, the cost of servicing external debt is anticipated to continue increasing through to 2018, when it is set to account for approximately one in every eight francs raised by the government, before declining in the years following 2020.
As a member of the eight-country UEMOA, Côte d’Ivoire does not have an independent monetary policy. At the same time, it is by far the largest country in UEMOA, and the Central Bank of West African States (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, BCEAO) is headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. UEMOA countries share a currency, the West African CFA franc, whose name derives from its predecessor currency, the franc, used in the French colonies of Africa. The CFA has a fixed one-to-one exchange rate with both its Central African counterpart, shared by six countries, and the former French franc. With the advent of the euro, this equates to a currency peg of CFA656:€1. While maintaining the currency peg constrains monetary policy for the entire UEMOA, it also helps keep a lid on inflation across the region. Côte d’Ivoire is no different, where inflation averaged 2.4% during 2017 and is expected to average 2% annually over 2017-22, according to the IMF. As in most countries, the price of food and beverages tends to be more volatile, as evidenced by the spike in prices during 2016 due in large part to the drought’s impact on output in the agriculture sector, though these pressures moderated in 2017.
PRIVATISATION: As part of its efforts to stimulate private sector development and improve efficiency among 79 fully or partly state-owned enterprises, in 2013 the authorities selected 15 to be privatised. Of these, six had already been disposed of between 2013 and mid-2017. Most recently, NSIA bank was divested in July 2017 through an initial public offering on the regional stock market, which raised CFA34.5trn (€51.8bn). Of this, around 80% was new capital, with the rest consisting of shares disposed of by the government, which nevertheless retained a 10% stake. Two smaller state-owned banks, Versus and Banque de l’habitat de Côte d’Ivoire (BHCI) were said to be preparing for privatisation during 2017 and early 2018, though no new information had been released as of January 2018.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have a rich history of delivering infrastructure and public services in Côte d’Ivoire (see analysis). While PPP activity slowed during the decade of political strife, they have become a central component of authorities’ efforts to upgrade the stock of infrastructure and drive economic growth. A new institutional and regulatory framework for PPPs was launched in late 2012, while structural reforms have greatly improved the business environment in the intervening years. The National Steering Committee for PPPs, chaired by the president, has overarching responsibility for governing the sector and for selecting and overseeing projects. In 2017 the committee reported a portfolio of 124 projects at various stages of development, accounting for some CFA11.5trn (€17.3bn) in investment. While fiscal constraints may require postponing some capital projects in the coming years, PPPs are expected to play a central role in delivering the investment elements of the PND.
Despite strong economic growth since 2011, the poverty rate has only fallen modestly, from 48.9% in 2008 to 46.3% in 2015, and the country is ranked 172nd of 188 on the Human Development Index. The African Economic Outlook 2017, conducted by the OECD Development Centre and African Development Bank, indicates that 62.8% of the population is of working age, while 52.8% live in rural areas. With 8.42m in employment, official unemployment is relatively low at 2.8%. That said, the education system is recognised as one of the poorer performers in the francophone world, with citizens receiving an average of only five years of schooling as of 2015. However, efforts to improve the situation are under way, including an extensive school-building programme and an increase in school hours from 26 to 30 per week through the introduction of Wednesday morning classes.
While economic growth in recent years has been strong, it has not always been inclusive (see analysis). Economic activity, particularly in the higher-value-added manufacturing and services sectors, has long been concentrated in the commercial capital of Abidjan, the fourth-largest city in Africa. Rural areas dependent on agriculture, and even secondary cities, have been relatively left behind. Inequalities within rural areas are further exacerbated by the concentration of the main cash crops – cocoa and cashew nuts – in the south, while the north is more dependent on subsistence agriculture. To address this, the government has invested heavily in infrastructure and social programmes. Transport links between north and south have been greatly improved, though the road network across the north is still relatively under-developed, complicating farmers’ efforts to transport produce to market and economic development more generally.
Despite having entered a phase of slower economic growth, the economy’s medium- to long-term outlook is bright. GDP growth is still expected to average more than 7% in the coming years, which should see it remain one of the top reformers globally. Without an up-turn in cocoa prices, and associated state revenue, meeting even the revised fiscal targets agreed with the IMF is likely to prove challenging. Political pressures to raise spending and refrain from increasing taxes may mean that capital investment will bear the brunt of the adjustment, thereby complicating execution of the PND and undermining potential long-term growth. Having greatly improved the operating environment for investors in the years after the political unrest, reform momentum has stalled more recently. While the judicial system has seen significant improvements, further efforts are needed to root out corruption and cement the rule of law. Regaining momentum in structural reform can help boost long-term growth potential and broad-based improvements in living standards while moving the country closer to emerging market status.