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Côte d’Ivoire

Executive Summary

Côte d’Ivoire (CDI) offers a welcoming environment for U.S. investment.  The Ivoirian government wants to deepen commercial cooperation with the U.S. The Ivoirian and foreign business community in CDI considers the 2018 investment code generous with welcome incentives and few restrictions on foreign investors.  Côte d’Ivoire’s resiliency to the COVID-19 crisis led to quick economic recovery.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth stayed positive at two percent in 2020 and rebounded to 6.5 percent in 2021, with government of CDI projecting average growth at 7.65 percent during the period 2021-2025.  International credit rating agency Fitch upgraded the country’s political risk rating in July 2021 from B+ to BB-, while the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) assessment confirms CDI’s economic resilience, despite the Omicron variant of COVID.  However, possible repetition of 2021 energy shortages, poor transparency, and delays in reforms could dampen confidence.

U.S. businesses operate successfully in several Ivoirian sectors including oil and gas exploration and production; agriculture and value-added agribusiness processing; power generation and renewable energy; IT services; the digital economy; banking; insurance; and infrastructure.  The competitiveness of U.S. companies in IT services is exemplified by one company that altered the local payment system by introducing a digital payment system that rapidly increased its market share, forcing competitors to lower prices.

Côte d’Ivoire is well poised to attract increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) based on the government’s strong response to the pandemic, the buoyancy of the economy, high-level support for private sector investment, and clear priorities set forth in the new 2021-2025 National Development Plan (PND – Plan National de Développement).  An important factor is Côte d’Ivoire’s resurgence as a regional economic and transportation hub.  Government authorities are continuing to implement structural reforms to improve the business environment, modernize public administration, increase human capital, and boost productivity and private sector development.  However, this will not come without challenges and uncertainties in the medium term, particularly regarding the evolution of the pandemic and global recovery as well as regulatory and transparency concerns.  Government authorities underscore their commitment to strengthening peace and security systems in the northern zone of the country, while striving for inclusive growth in the context of post-pandemic recovery.  Finally, recent political instability in northern and western neighboring countries Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, could impede investor confidence in the region, especially when it comes to security.

Doing business with the Ivoirian government remains a significant challenge in some areas such as procurement, taxation, and regulatory processes.  Some new public procurement procedures adopted in 2019 were only implemented in 2021, including implementation of an e-procurement module, and improved evaluation, prioritization, selection, and monitoring procedures.  This is a work in process, and concerns remain that these procedures are not consistently and transparently applied.  Similar concerns circulate about tax procedures, especially retroactive assessments based on changes in tax formulas.  An overly complicated tax system and slow, opaque government decision-making processes hinder investment.  Government has identified VAT (Value Added Tax), mining, digitalization, and property taxes as key areas for broadening the tax base and improving state revenues.  Other challenges include low levels of literacy and income, weak access to credit for small businesses, corruption, and the need to broaden the tax base to relieve some of the tax-paying burden on businesses.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings 
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 105 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 110 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2021 114 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 -$495 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $2,280 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Companies owned or controlled by the state are subject to national laws and the tax code.  The Ivoirian government still holds substantial interests in many firms, including the refinery SIR (49 percent), the public transport firm (60 percent), the national television station RTI (98 percent), the national lottery (80 percent), the national airline Air Côte d’Ivoire (58 percent), and the land management agency Agence de Gestion Foncière AGEF (35 percent).  Total assets of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were $796 million and total net income of SOEs was $116 million in 2018 (latest figures).  Of the 82 SOEs, 28 are wholly government-owned and 12 are majority government-owned, the government owns a blocking minority in seven and holds minority shares in 35.  Each SOE has an independent board.  The government has begun the process of divestiture for some SOEs (see next section).  There are active SOEs in the banking, agri-business, mining, and telecom industries.

The published list of SOEs is available at https://dgpe.gouv.ci/ind ex.php?p=portefeuille_etat

SOEs competing in the domestic market do not receive non-market-based advantages from the government.  They are subject to the same tax burdens and policies as private companies.

Côte d’Ivoire does not adhere to OECD guidelines for SOE corporate governance (it is not a member of OECD).

In 2021, audits of several SOEs highlighted serious irregularities (alleged embezzlement estimated at several tens or even hundreds of billions of FCFA, i.e. up to hundreds of millions of dollars.  The SOEs include FER, FDFP, ARTCI, and ANSUT, whose leaders have been removed and replaced.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The private sector, the government, NGOs, and local communities are becoming progressively aware of the importance of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) regarding environmental, social, and governance issues in CDI.

Investors seeking to implement projects in energy, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry, waste management, and extractive industries are required by decree to provide an environmental impact study prior to approval.  Under the new development plan and sustainable finance regime, government has laid down specific criteria to review, select, fund, and monitor private investment with the goal of channeling funds into priority sectors.  Foreign businesses, particularly in mining, energy, and agriculture, often provide social infrastructure, including schools and health care clinics, to communities close to their sites of operation.  Companies are not required under Ivoirian law to disclose information relating to RBC, although many companies, especially in the cocoa sector, publicize their work.  Cocoa companies publicize efforts to improve sustainability and combat the worst forms of child labor.  As a part of public-procurement reform, the Ministry of Budget plans to include social needs in public-procurement contracts to support job creation, fair trade, decent working conditions, social inclusion, and compliance with social standards.  On the environment, suggested reforms include the selection of goods and services that have a smaller impact on the environment.

There are reports of children subjected to forced labor in agricultural work, particularly on cocoa farms.  In February 2021, several individuals from Mali sued major international chocolate companies, claiming that the cocoa they bought came from farms in Côte d’Ivoire where the plaintiffs were subjected to abuse.

The government, through the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection, sets workplace health and safety standards and is responsible for enforcing labor laws.

The OHADA outlines corporate governance standards that protect shareholders.

There are government-funded agencies in charge of monitoring business conduct.  Human rights, environmental protection, and other NGOs report misconduct and violations of good governance practices.

Côte d’Ivoire participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and discloses revenues and payments in the oil, gas, and mineral sectors.  More information can be found at: www.cnitie.ci/.

Côte d’Ivoire is not a signatory of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.  Some private security companies operating in the country are participants of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers Association (ICoCA).

This year, government took active measures against State Owned Enterprises not paying their local contractors, generally SMEs.  After the FER general manager was removed, the acting manager made immediate payments to concerned SMEs.

9. Corruption

Many companies cite corruption as the most significant obstacle to investment.  Corruption in many forms is deeply ingrained in public- and private-sector practices and remains a serious impediment to investment and economic growth in CDI.  It has the greatest impact on judicial proceedings, contract awards, customs, and tax issues.  Lack of transparency and the government’s failure to follow its own tendering procedures in the awarding of contracts lead businesses to conclude bribery was involved.  Businesses have reported encountering corruption at every level of the civil service, with some judges appearing to base their decisions on bribes. Clearance of goods at the ports often requires substantial “commissions.”  The demand for bribes can mean that containers stay at the Port of Abidjan for months, incurring substantial demurrage charges, despite companies having the proper paperwork.

In 2013, the Ivoirian government issued Executive Order number 2013-660 related to preventing and combatting corruption.  The High Authority for Good Governance serves as the government’s anti-corruption authority.  Its mandate includes raising awareness about corruption, investigating corruption in the public and private sectors, and collecting mandated asset disclosures from certain public officials (e.g., the president, ministers, and mayors) upon entering and leaving office.  The High Authority for Good Governance, however, does not have a mandate to prosecute; it must refer cases to the Attorney General who decides whether to take up those cases.  The country’s financial intelligence office, CENTIF, has broad authority to investigate suspicious financial transactions, including those of government officials.

Despite the establishment of these bodies and credible allegations of widespread corruption, there have been few charges filed, and few prosecutions and judgments against prominent people for corruption.  The domestic business community generally assesses that these watchdog agencies lack the power and/or will to combat corruption effectively.  In April 2021, the government formally added Good Governance and Anti-Corruption to the title and portfolio of the Ministry of Capacity Building.

Côte d’Ivoire ratified the UN Anti-Corruption Convention, but the country is not a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (which is open to non-OECD members).  In 2016, Côte d’Ivoire joined the Partnership on Illicit Finance, which obliges it to develop an action plan to combat corruption.

Under the Ivoirian Penal Code, a bribe by a local company to a foreign official is a criminal act. Some private companies use compliance programs or measures to prevent bribery of government officials.  U.S. firms underscore to their Ivoirian counterparts that they are subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and to political parties.  The country’s Code of Public Procurement No. 259 and the associated WAEMU directives cover conflicts-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

There are no special protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption.  Whistleblower protections are also weak.

Resources to Report Corruption

Inspector General of Finance
(Brigade de Lutte Contre la Corruption)
Mr. Lassina Sylla
Inspector General
TELEPHONE: +225 20212000/2252 9797
FAX: +225 20211082/2252 9798
HOTLINE: +225 8000 0380
http://www.igf.finances.gouv.ci/
info@igf.finances.gouv.ci

High Authority for Good Governance
(Haute Autorité pour la Bonne Gouvernance)
Mr. N’Golo Coulibaly
President
TELEPHONE: +225 272 2479 5000
FAX: +225 2247 8261
https://habg.ci/
Email: info@habg.ci

Police Anti-Racketeering Unit
(Unité de Lutte Contre le Racket –ULCR)
Mr. Alain Oura
Unit Commander
TELEPHONE: +225 272 244 9256
info@ulcr.ci

Social Justice
(Initiative pour la Justice Sociale, la Transparence et la Bonne Gouvernance en Côte d’Ivoire)
Ananeraie face pharmacie Mamie Adjoua
Abidjan
TELEPHONE:  +225 272 177 6373
socialjustice.ci@gmail.com

10. Political and Security Environment

Following peaceful and inclusive legislative elections in March 2021, CDI entered a period of stability.  Major opposition parties participated and won a meaningful number of seats in elections internationally deemed credible.  The political leadership clearly recognizes that internal and regional security are prerequisites for sustained economic growth and longer-term stability.  All political parties participated in a structured Political Dialogue aimed at fostering reconciliation and strengthening democratic institutions, including dispute resolution mechanisms.  The fifth round of the Political Dialogue concluded in March 2022 and produced a consensus list of tangible recommendations to the President of the Republic.  The next presidential election is not due until 2025, so there is now a window of opportunity for the country’s political leaders to focus on difficult reforms.

The Ivoirian government has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing insecurity in the region by strengthening its capacity to counter terrorism, strengthen social resilience, professionalize law enforcement, strengthen its justice system, and improve border security.  In June 2021, CDI and France inaugurated the International Academy for the Fight Against Terrorism (AILCT) near Jacqueville, west of Abidjan. The aim of this academy is to train relevant cadres (e.g., prosecutors, forensic investigators) and security forces from the African continent to strengthen capacity to prevail against self-styled jihadists within respect for law and human rights, thereby reinforcing ties between the population and the state.  This comes at a time of increased security challenges emanating from the Sahel and spilling over into CDI’s northern region.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The official unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, 5.5 percent in the 15-24 age group; however, unemployment is difficult to measure in the informal sector, which is estimated to account for as much as 80 percent of the Ivoirian economy.  Of the non-agricultural workforce, 47 percent is employed in the informal economy.  Official statistics fail to fully account for the large informal economy throughout the country, and do not accurately portray the general dearth of well-paying employment opportunities.  Despite the government’s efforts, child labor remained a widespread problem in rural and urban areas, notably on cocoa and coffee plantations, as well as in artisanal gold mining areas and in domestic work.

There are significant shortages of skilled labor in fields requiring higher education, including information technology, engineering, finance, management, health, and science.  The Ivoirian government is working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to build and develop four technical and vocational training centers as part of a six-year Compact valued at some $536 million that will end in August 2025. The Compact comprises two projects: road transportation and education.

Labor laws favor the employment of Ivoirians in private enterprises.  Any vacant position must be advertised for two months.  If after two months no qualified Ivoirian is found, the employer may recruit a foreigner provided it plans to recruit an Ivoirian to fill the position within the next two years.

There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment in response to fluctuating market conditions.  Employees terminated for reasons other than theft or flagrant neglect of duty have the right to termination benefits.  Unemployment insurance and other social-safety programs exist for employees laid off for economic reasons.  For the roughly 60-80% percent of workers employed in the informal sector, unemployment insurance is not an option.  However, there are other social-safety-net programs that apply to informal economy workers, including monthly stipends and waiving of universal health care fees.

Labor laws are not waived to attract or retain investment.

Collective bargaining agreements are in effect in many major business enterprises and sectors of the civil service.  A prolonged teachers’ strike in 2019 was submitted for arbitration but due to the fractured nature of the teachers’ unions, not all parties agreed to the decision.

Labor disputes are submitted to the labor inspector for amicable settlement before engaging in any legal proceedings.  If this attempt to settle the dispute fails, then the labor court can be engaged to resolve the dispute.

No strike has posed an investment risk during the last year.

There are no gaps between Ivoirian and international labor standards in law or practice that pose a reputational risk to investors.

The government did not adopt any new labor-related laws or regulations in 2021.  In 2017, the government passed a law forbidding most forms of child labor for children under 12 and restricting it for minors aged 13 to 17.  The law’s passage put Ivoirian law on par with ILO standards for child labor.  The government established the National Surveillance Council (Conseil National de Surveillance, or CNS) and the Interministerial Committee (CIM – Conseil Interministériel). These agencies deal with child labor issues, especially in the cocoa sector.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2020 $61,349 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 -$1 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2020 2.1% UNCTAD data available at

https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/
Fdi.html    

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI 
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $11,997 Total Outward $2,520
France $2,532 21.1% Burkina Faso $426 16.9%
Canada $1,217 10.1% Mali $246 9.8%
United Kingdom $986 8.2% Liberia $227 9%
Morocco $801 6.7% Ghana $180 7.1%
Mauritius $664 5.5% Benin $177 7%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy Abidjan
Political/Economic Section
Cocody Riviera Golf
BP 730 Abidjan Cidex 03
Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
Phone: (+225) 27-22-49-40-00

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