Cameroon, the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), continues to face the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, growth has started to recover from a 2020 recession. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects Cameroon’s gross domestic product (GDP) to increase by 4.6 percent in 2022. Cameroon’s current account balance also improved in 2021 and early 2022. The government continues to implement its 2020-2030 National Development Strategy and development projects, especially in road infrastructure, transport, energy, and health, albeit with delays. Cameroon utilized its hosting of the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament in early 2022 to hasten the completion of some long-awaited projects and promote Cameroon to investors.
Cameroon maintains strong competitive advantages because of a bilingual population, a relatively diversified economy, and its location as a gateway to the Central African region. It offers immense investment potential in infrastructure, extractive industries, consumer markets, and modern communication technology (for example, internet broadband, fiber optic cable, and data centers). However, Cameroon’s telecommunication infrastructure is overutilized and in need of upgrades, which often results in network outages. Agricultural processing and transport infrastructure, such as seaports, airports, and rail, need investments, especially for modernization and maintenance. More investment opportunities exist in the financial sector as only 15 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services.
Corruption and weak governance structures continue to hamper Cameroon’s business climate.
The IMF approved a three-year, $689.5 million hybrid Extended Credit Facility-Extended Fund Facility arrangement in July 2021 to advance structural fiscal reforms, improve governance, and continue mitigating the health, economic, and social consequences of the pandemic while ensuring domestic and external sustainability. Cameroon’s 2022 budget aligns with its National Development Strategy and IMF program and sets a target to reduce the budget deficit from -3.2 percent in 2021 to -2 percent in 2022.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Creating a conducive business environment to attract foreign direct investments is a corner stone of Cameroon’s development strategy. Governance and strategic management of the state constitutes one of the four pillars of the 2020-2030 National Development Strategy 2030, which was launched November 2020. The Government of Cameroon acknowledges that the challenging nature of the domestic business climate remains a concern. To fight corruption, rebuild a weak legal system, and modernize an inefficient public service, the National Development Strategy has adopted a holistic approach to governance, which includes political and institutional governance, administrative governance, economic and financial governance, regional governance, and social and cultural governance.
Cameroon has put in place an arsenal of institutions and laws to improve governance. The government created the Special Crime Tribunal on corruption and economic crimes in 2012 to prosecute crimes related to the misappropriation of public funds of $100,000 or more. The Court specifically targets custodians of public funds as well as officials who have the authority to collect or spend money on behalf of the state. The Court reported it had tried 225 cases and recovered $323 million as of July 2020. Another institution, the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court, reports directly to the President and is charged with conducting audits and investigations of public funds. The National Anti-Corruption Commission also reports to the President and investigates corruption allegations. However, corruption and administrative mismanagement continue to hamper the business climate in Cameroon. Cameroon consistently ranks in the bottom half of the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (144 of 180 in 2021). In 2020, Cameroon ranked 167 of 190 on the Ease of Doing Business index.
Despite the active presence of state-owned companies in important sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government.
The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) was created in 2010 and is a state-owned entity with a mission of attracting investment to Cameroon in collaboration with other state institutions. The agency seeks also to foster an enabling environment for investments in Cameroon. As of 2021, CIPA had signed 172 investment agreements and generated the creation of over 60,000 jobs.
CIPA offers investment incentives covering existing and emerging economic sectors. The agency also serves as a one-stop-shop facilitator through the assistance it provides to foreign and domestic investors. It processes application files for approval in compliance with its investment charter and assists in the alignment of projects with the general tax code. It can support potential foreign investors for visa applications. The agency also follows up to monitor the implementation of commitments made by approved companies.
CIPA’s sector coverage
Sources: National Institute of Statistics, IMF, estimates 2019-2020
The government maintains dialogue with business associations such as the Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) and Enterprise Cameroon through the Cameroon Business Forum, which is sponsored by the World Bank. Over the past two years, GICAM has been critical of the government’s handling of the negative impacts of COVID-19 and global inflationary pressures on business.
There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Apart from the national defense and security areas, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements applied to foreign ownership and control. Despite an active government presence in most sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government.
Cameroon has no laws or regulations that expressly prohibit investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory intellectual property/technology transfer requirements. Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments. This screening process ensures that investors meet the criteria, such as employment and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.
The IMF approved a three-year, $689.5 million hybrid Extended Credit Facility-Extended Fund Facility arrangement in July 2021. The arrangements are built around five pillars: (i) mitigating the health, economic, and social consequences of the pandemic while ensuring domestic and external sustainability; (ii) reinforcing good governance and strengthening transparency and the anti-corruption framework; (iii) accelerating structural fiscal reforms to modernize tax and customs administrations, mobilize revenue, improve public financial management, increase public investment efficiency, and reduce fiscal risks from state-owned enterprises; (iv) strengthening debt management and reduce debt vulnerabilities; and (v) implementing structural reforms to accelerate economic diversification, boost financial sector resilience and inclusion, and promote gender equality and a greener economy. The IMF completed a First Review of the program on February 23, 2022 and found Cameroon’s overall program performance to be mixed. While macroeconomic performance is broadly satisfactory, and efforts to promote good governance and transparency are gaining momentum, progress on structural reforms is slow. Copies of the review can be found on the IMF website.
Civil society organizations and business associations have provided investment related policy recommendations. Following the introduction of an electronic payment tax, which includes mobile money, in the 2022 finance law, Cameroon’s largest business association GICAM noted “mobile money taxes can have a negative impact on excise tax receipts as consumers are pushed into non-traceable cash transactions, and on the size of remittances from abroad.” GICAM recommended the government enhance consumer purchasing power by reducing some taxes, reviewing remuneration policy, and amending its price regulation policies. Following reform proposals from the road transport syndicate on freight conditions on the Douala-Bangui Corridor, the government approved the construction of rest areas along the corridor as well as the reduction of police checkpoints in 2021.
Entrepreneurs obtain a unique tax identifying number when they open a company in Cameroon. Within 15 days after the registration for a new business, the Directorate General of Taxation issues a permanent taxpayer identification number, known as the UniqueIdentification Number (UIN).
According to the World Bank, it takes 14 procedures and 82 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city and economic capital. This process is longer and more complex than regional and global averages. For foreign investors, a declaration of foreign investment to the Ministry of Finance is mandatory 30 days prior to the beginning of operations. In addition, if the company wants to engage in international trade, registration in the importers’ file is required to obtain an automated customs systems number (Système Douanier Automatisé, or “sydonia”). This number facilitates the entry and exit of goods produced by the company. The authentication of the parent company’s documentation abroad is required only to establish a subsidiary. Foreign-owned resident companies that wish to maintain foreign currency bank accounts must obtain prior approval. The Minister of Finance issues such authorization, which is subject to approval from the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) as per Section 24 of the exchange control regulations. This approval takes on average 38 days to obtain. There is a minimum paid-in capital requirement of CFA 1,000,000 (~$1,800) for establishing LLCs.
In Cameroon, business registration is most often manual, although the Ministry of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises launched an electronic registration portal designed to automate the process at https://cameroun.eregistrations.org/. Due to internet access challenges, the website is not always operational. To manually register, entrepreneurs must go to a Ministry of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises regional center for the creation of enterprises, which can complete the registration procedure within one week.
The Cameroonian government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
3. Legal Regime
Cameroon’s laws are consistent with international business and legal norms. Cameroon’s legal architecture is made up of national, regional CEMAC, and supra-national regulations, most of which are applicable to domestic and foreign businesses. Weak implementation and investigative capacity, a lack of understanding of international business practices, and corruption in the judiciary limit the effectiveness of the rule of law. In many circumstances, judicial loopholes persist, leading to arbitrary interpretations of the texts.
Some government ministries, though not all, consult with public and private sector organizations through targeted outreach with stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. There is no formal process for such consultations. Ministries do not report the results of consultations, but there is no evidence that such processes disadvantage U.S. or other foreign investors.
Cameroon’s National Assembly and Senate pass laws. The Executive proposes bills and then executes laws. Though there is technically a separation of powers, the Presidency is the supreme rule-making and regulatory authority. Decentralized institutions in the regions and municipalities have little additional regulatory authority. Draft bills and regulations are not made available for public comment. The website for the Office of the Prime Minister (www.spm.gov.cm) contains PDF versions of most new regulatory actions published in the Cameroon Tribune, the country’s newspaper of record.
Ministries and regulatory agencies do not have a list of anticipated regulatory changes or proposals intended to be adopted/implemented within a specified period. Ministries do not have a legal obligation to publish the text of proposed regulations before their enactment. There is no period set by law for the text of the proposed regulations to be publicly available. There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies.
Cameroon has administrative courts that specialize in the application and enforcement of public laws. From a strictly legal perspective, the Supreme Court has oversight on enforcement mechanisms, but a lack of separation of powers prevents the judiciary from carrying out its responsibilities. There have been no new regulatory or enforcement reforms announced since the 2021 Investment Climate Statement.
Cameroon does not meet the minimum standards of fiscal transparency. This is partly because many of the state-owned enterprises do not have public accounts. Companies that are listed or aspire to be listed on the Central African Stock Exchange (CASE) have more stringent transparency requirements. There are only four publicly listed companies on the CASE. All four use the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA) accounting system, which does not align completely with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Cameroon is a member of CEMAC and is thus subject to its regulations, though implementation remains weak. CEMAC’s central bank, the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), controls monetary policy and is the de facto finance sector regulator, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.
The National Institute of Statistics (INS) conducts surveys and produces statistics, which are meant to inform policy decisions. Some of these statistics are cited in government documents when ministries are drafting legislative proposals or during parliamentary debates. Quantitative analysis conducted by the INS has often been used by multilateral lenders such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank. However, empirical evaluation and data-driven assessments of the impact of new and existing regulations are limited.
Similarly, public comments are not the main drivers of regulations. However, some consultations take place for the national budget, which is produced each year, but there is little oversight to ensure adherence to the document.
The government does not require companies to have environmental, social, or governance disclosures.
Cameroon is a CEMAC member state. CEMAC regulations supersede those of individual members, though areas such as the free movement of people, goods, and services are not respected by some states. Recent reforms by CEMAC’s central bank, BEAC, have met stiff resistance and delays in their application by individual member states, including Cameroon.
The government requires use of OHADA accounting standards, which are used by 14 African nations. No other norms or standards are referenced in the country’s regulatory system.
Cameroon joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 13, 1995 and was previously a member of the General Agreement on Taxes and Tariffs. Cameroon did not notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) in 2020 and submitted eight notifications between 1995 and 2020.
The Cameroonian legal system is a legacy of French (Civil Law), German (Codified Laws), English (Common Law), and domestic national customs, which vary for each ethnic group. The government wants to harmonize these different legal traditions to equip Cameroon with laws that are applicable across the country and to reduce the need to navigate different legal opinions. This project, however, is being met with stiff resistance from English-speaking lawyers, who believe that the initiative will undermine the English system to which they are accustomed.
In terms of standards, Cameroon’s commercial legal system follows the OHADA rules, which are supposed to be aligned with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Enforcement is weak, partly because of lack of capacity. There are not enough specialized judges in the commercial and economic fields. Consequently, poor enforcement of laws and accounting standards tend to create confusion for foreign investors. Despite efforts to align OHADA standards to international norms, government accounting regulations remain obsolete in the context of rapid developments in international finance and capital markets. To circumvent the problem, U.S. enterprises and investors often maintain two sets of accounting records, one in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or suitable international standards, and another set to address the OHADA standards and government reporting requirements.
Arbitration is becoming the solution of choice to solve business disputes in Cameroon. Arbitration is in the OHADA corporate law and business associations can choose to use OHADA law to run arbitration councils. Since OHADA is a supra-national law, Cameroon is bound by its decisions. In OHADA, regulations and enforcement actions are appealable, and they can also be adjudicated in the national court system. In Cameroon, businesses mostly use the GICAM and Abidjan Arbitration Councils.
Foreign direct investments are governed by Law No. 2013/004 of April 18, 2013, which defines incentives for private investment in Cameroon, while proposing generic and special incentives and affirming the government’s responsibilities towards private investors. The law applies to both domestic and foreign investors. Additional laws and regulations that refer to specific economic sectors are available on the website of the Ministry of Finance (http://www.minfi.gov.cm/index.php/en/documents).
The 2022 finance law is the newest legal instrument to have been published in the past year. The 2021 finance law created new taxes, while maintaining some existing exonerations, notably on value-added taxes and life insurance savings. The 2022 law created new taxes as well, including a tax on electronic payments. CIPA maintains a list of relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors (https://www.investincameroon.net/language/en/).
The National Competition Commission handles anti-competition and anti-trust disputes. In some cases, the regulator of a specific economic sector can play the anti-trust role. State-owned enterprises tend to have quasi-monopoly or monopsony status in their markets.
Decree No.85-9 of July 4, 1985 and the subsequent implementation of Decree N°.87-1872 of December 16, 1987, outline the procedures governing expropriation for public purposes and conditions for compensation. Some of the provisions of these legal texts were repealed by Instruction No. 005/I/Y.25/MINDAF/D220 of December 29, 2005. Essentially, for the public interest, the state may expropriate privately-owned land. The laws also explain the formalities to be observed within the context of the procedure, both at the central and local levels.
In recent years, the government of Cameroon has expropriated large infrastructure road and hydroelectric dam projects. The government has a compensation process in place to meet the losses of those affected by such decisions.
Despite weakness in the actual implementation and execution of laws on the ground, compensation after expropriation generally follows a due process. There are no cases of indirect expropriation, confiscatory tax regimes, or regulatory actions that deprive investors of substantial economic benefits from their investments. However, serious allegations of corruption have plagued compensation procedures over the last decade. These incidents, often carried out by civil servants, have undermined trust in the process.
4. Industrial Policies
Cameroon’s investment incentives remain in place. The 2013 investment law lists several types of investment incentives for investors and specifies the conditions that they must meet to benefit from those incentives. This law specifies incentives available to Cameroonian or foreign legal entities, whether established in Cameroon, conducting business therein, or holding shares in Cameroonian companies, to encourage private investment and boost national production. For example, during the establishment phase (which cannot exceed five years), the code provides for exemptions from VAT and duties on key services/assets (including an exemption from stamp duties on the lease of immovable property). During the operation phase (which cannot exceed 10 years), further exemptions from, or reductions of, other taxes (including a corporate tax), duties (such as a stamp duty on loans), and other fees are granted. Overall, the law seeks to facilitate, promote, and attract productive investment to develop activities geared towards strong, sustainable, and shared economic growth as well as job creation. In a context where businesses must navigate between national and regional incentives, U.S. companies and investors must seek local and regional expertise if they plan to operate in the CEMAC region.
Common incentives are granted to investors during the establishment and operation phases. During the operation phase, which may not exceed 10 years, the investor may enjoy exemptions from or reductions of payment of several taxes, duties, and other fees including corporate tax, tax on profit and stamp duties on loans. In addition, any investor may benefit from a tax credit provided he or she meets one of the following criteria: (1) employs at least five graduates each year, (2) combats pollution, or (3) develops public interest activities in rural areas.
BEAC foreign exchange regulations govern how investors in Cameroon open foreign currency accounts and carry out transactions on such accounts. The regulations also stipulate how funds are transferred abroad. Notwithstanding BEAC regulations, the investor shall enjoy the following benefits during establishment phase, which may not exceed five years, with effect from the date of issuance of the approval:
Exemption from stamp duty on establishment or capital increase;
Exemption from stamp duty if immovable property used exclusively for professional purposes and that is part of an integral part of the investment program;
Exemption from transfer taxes on the acquisition of immovable property, land, and buildings essential for the implementation of the investment program;
Exemption from stamp duties on contracts for the supply of equipment and construction of buildings and installations that are essential for the implementation of their investment program;
Full deduction of technical assistance fees in proportion to the amount of the investment made, calculated on the basis of the total amount of the investment;
Exemption from VAT on the provision of services related to the execution of the project and obtained from abroad;
Exemption from stamp duty on concession contracts;
Exemption from business license tax;
Exemption from taxes and duties on all equipment and materials related to the investment program;
Exemption from VAT on the importation of equipment and materials;
Immediate removal of equipment and material related investment program during clearance operations;
The right to freely keep abroad dividends and proceeds of any kind from capital invested, as well as proceeds from the liquidation or sale of their assets;
The right to directly pay abroad non-resident suppliers of goods and services essential for conduct of business; and,
Free transfer of dividends and proceeds from the sale of shares in case of disinvestment.
With respect to foreign staff employed by the investor and resident in Cameroon, they shall enjoy free conversion and free transfer to their country of origin of all or part of amounts due them, subject to prior payment of various taxes and social security contributions to which they are liable in compliance with the regulations in force. Finally, the government shall institute facilities necessary for the establishment of a specific visa and a reception counter at all airports throughout the national territory for investors, subject to their presentation of a formal invitation from the body in charge of investment promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises. There are additional incentives in priority economic sectors. In addition to the above-mentioned incentives, specific incentives may be provided to enterprises, which carry out investments that contribute to the attainment of the following priority objectives:
Development of agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and plant, animal or fishery product packaging activities;
Development of tourism and leisure facilities, social economy, and handicrafts;
Development of housing, including social housing;
Promotion of agroindustry, manufacturing industries, industry, construction materials, iron and steel industry, construction, maritime and navigation activities;
Development of energy and water supply; encouragement of regional development and decentralization;
The fight against pollution and environmental protection;
Promotion and transfer of innovative technologies and research and development;
Promotion of exports; and,
Promotion of employment and vocational training.
The government does not offer incentives for businesses owned by underrepresented investors such as women. The government does not offer incentives for clean energy investments.
In Cameroon, Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ) are demarcated and fenced geographic areas, with controlled access, where some standard trade barriers, tariffs, quotas, or other bureaucratic requirements are lifted or lowered to attract investments. Cameroon passed a special law instituting FTZs in 1990. An Industrial Free Zone (IFZ) is a type of FTZ in Cameroon. Applications for an authorization to establish an IFZ are submitted to the National Office for Industrial Free Zones. The Minister in Charge of Industrial Development grants authorization to establish an IFZ. To qualify for industrial free zone status, a company must export 80 percent of its products. The status of FTZs has not changed since the last reporting period. Additionally, Law No. 2013/11 of December16, 2013 defines an economic zone as an area made up of one or more geographical areas that are serviced, developed, and equipped with infrastructure, with a view to enabling the entities located there to produce goods and services in optimal conditions. Decree No. 2019/195 of April 17, 2019, also establishes the modalities for the creation and management of economic zones in Cameroon. The ports of Douala and Kribi have economic zones.
The government of Cameroon does not mandate local employment except as an incentive to entice foreign investment. It encourages investors to create jobs and employ local labor. There are no compulsory or legal requirements on senior management and boards of directors either, although local managers can facilitate the understanding of the domestic business environment. Prospective investors and their employees can travel to Cameroon on standard international visas. The fees may vary per country of application. Once they settle in Cameroon, they can apply for long-term residence permits. The government of Cameroon applies the visa reciprocity rules to a limited extent, but companies have in the past complained about the difficulty of obtaining work permits or the fact that work visas expire after six months and frequently are single entry. Longer term work permits are now said to be available, but they have not been issued to U.S. Embassy Yaoundé’s interlocutors unless included as residency work permits, a different category with more complicated application procedures.
The government does not impose conditions on permission to invest in Cameroon. It gives incentives to investors to transform local raw materials, goods, and services in their production or their projects. There is no “forced localization” policy. Enforcement procedures for performance requirements are not yet standardized, but the government generally develops terms of reference on a case-by-case basis for contract performance. The government has not stated intentions to maintain, increase, or decrease performance requirements.
Investment incentives, described above, are available to both domestic and foreign investors. Foreign information technology providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption, but they can be required to provide them in cases of cybercrime under the national cybercrime law. U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of any measures designed to prevent or impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside of Cameroon.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights are recognized by law, but Cameroon’s weak judiciary makes enforcement sporadic. For mortgage transactions between two private parties, a proper contract is required for the agreement to be binding and enforceable in the courts. Liens must be recorded in the contract. A registry of land title exists in Cameroon. The land rights of indigenous peoples, tribes, and farmers are recognized in the Constitution. Existing legislation does not discriminate against foreign landowners.
Records from the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure indicate that land registration rates have not significantly increased since colonial times. Between 1884 and 2005, only 125,000 title deeds were issued. On average, this represents approximately 1,000 titles per year, covering less than two percent of the land in Cameroon. In 2009, a study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) identified other distinctive patterns in land ownership. For example, formal land registration is more common in urban (60 percent) than in rural areas. According to the World Bank, the registration process can cost up to 13.7 percent of the property value.
Land disputes are common among Cameroonian citizens. The disputes are generally caused by non-respect of commercial sales contracts or by informal sales of land. Illegal occupations of property are also common. Globally, Cameroon ranked 175th out of 190 economies on the ease of registering property in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020.
The legal structure for intellectual property rights (IPR) and corresponding enforcement mechanisms are weak. IP infringement and theft are especially common in the media, pharmaceuticals, software, and print industries. To secure a trademark registration right, a Cameroonian attorney must prepare and file a trademark application with the African Organization for Intellectual Property (OAPI), which is headquartered in Yaoundé. The courts are responsible for enforcement.
There were no new IPR-related laws or regulations enacted during the previous year. The government seizes and publicly burns counterfeit goods. These actions are not documented systematically, and no cumulative data exist on the seizures. Cameroon is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
6. Financial Sector
The Cameroonian government is open to portfolio investment. With the encouragement of the IMF and BEAC, Cameroon and other members of the CEMAC region have designed policies that facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.
The Financial Markets Commission of Cameroon merged operations with the Libreville-based Central African Financial Market Supervisory Board in February 2019. The merger has led to the establishment of a unique regional stock exchange called the Central African Stock Exchange (CASE). Cameroon’s financial sector is underdeveloped, and government policies have limited bearing on the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets. Foreign investors can get credit on the local market and the private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. In 2016, Cameroon sought to encourage the development of capital markets through Law No 2016/010 of July 12, 2016, governing undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities in Cameroon.
Cameroon is connected to the international banking payment system. The country is a CEMAC member, which maintains a central bank, BEAC. CEMAC’s central bank works with the IMF on monetary policies and public finance reform. BEAC respects IMF Article VIII by refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions. Despite generally respecting Article VIII, BEAC has instituted several restrictions on payments to boost foreign exchange reserves. Financial institutions and importers complain of a backlog of requests for foreign exchange. BEAC is currently negotiating with several international oil companies on repatriation of revenues before external payments. Investors should be aware that timely repatriation of profits may be a stumbling block.
In 2020, with the support of the IMF, BEAC took steps to address the economic impact of COVID-19 in the region. The central bank eased monetary policy and introduced accommodative measures to ensure adequate liquidity in the banking system to supporting internal and external stability. Concomitantly, the regional banking sector controller (Commission Bancaire de l’Afrique Centrale or COBAC) eased prudential regulations to help banks delay pandemic-related losses.
Less than 20 percent of Cameroonians have access to formal banking services. The Cameroonian government has often spoken of increasing access, but no coherent policy or action has been taken to alleviate the problem. Mobile money, introduced by local and international telecom providers, is the closest tool to banking services that most Cameroonians can access. In its 2022 finance law, the government introduced a tax on electronic payment transfers, including the ubiquitously used “Mobile Money.”
The banking sector is generally healthy. Large, international commercial banks do most of the lending. One local bank, Afriland, operates in Cameroon and multiple other countries. Most smaller banks deal in small loans of short duration. Retail banking is not common. According to the World Bank, non-performing loans were 10.31 percent of total bank loans in 2016. The Cameroonian government does not keep statistics on non-performing assets. According to Cameroon’s National Credit Council, Afriland First Bank, Societe General Cameroun (SGC), Banque Internationale du Cameroun pour l’Epargne et le Credit (BICEC), and Societe Commerciale de Banque Cameroun (SCB) are the most important banks in the national banking system, accounting for 52 percent of the banking system’s total consolidated balance sheet, 54 percent of total loans, and 54 percent of customer deposits in 2020.
Foreign banks can establish operations in Cameroon. Most notably, Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank have operated in Cameroon for more than 20 years. They are subject to the same regulations as local banks. U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of any lost correspondent banking relationships within the past three years. There are no restrictions on foreigners establishing bank accounts, credit instruments, business financing, or other such transactions.
The country has 412 registered microfinance institutions, 19 insurance companies, four electronic money institutions, and one Post Office bank. Two major money transfer operators are also present, essentially offering over-the-counter services. The Cameroon market is at the startup stage for its digital financial system. This emerging market segment is currently provided by banks in partnership with telecom operators. According to a 2021 BEAC report on the state of electronic payments in the CEMAC zone, electronic money payments in the CEMAC region increased 21.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, totaling approximately $51 million in 2020 compared to $42 million in 2019. Cameroon represented the largest amount of electronic payment transfers, accounting for 73 percent of all CEMAC transactions and totaling over $20 million in 2020.
Financial inclusion is low despite some progress brought about by mobile telephony. The World Bank estimates there were 25 million mobile cellular subscriptions in Cameroon in 2020. Putting aside the multi-SIM effect, the penetration rate in terms of unique subscribers was about 50 percent at the end of 2019, which puts Cameroon in the lower end in the Central African region.
Cameroon does not have a sovereign wealth fund.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of a formal definition of responsible business conduct (RBC) within the Cameroonian government. It does not have a national ombudsman for stakeholders to get information or raise concerns about RBC. The government has not conducted a national action plan on RBC nor does it factor RBC into its procurement decisions. U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are not aware of any recent high-profile instances of private sector impact on human rights. Cameroon does not have laws that regulate responsible business conduct. However, the government of Cameroon has enacted laws that cover issues related to what is locally considered corporate social responsibility. There are additional initiatives in the private sector to foster a corporate social responsibility culture.
All major infrastructure projects in Cameroon are compelled to conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to establish the impact of projects on people and nature. Cameroon’s ESIA law strives to follow World Bank standards. An August 1996 master law related to environmental management prescribes an environmental impact assessment for all projects that can cause environmental degradation.
The Cameroonian government struggles to enforce laws in relation to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protection. There is little corporate governance law in Cameroon, mostly since very few companies are open to portfolio investment. The Business Council for Good Governance, the American Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International, and Transparency International promote RBC in Cameroon, though their ability to monitor RBC is limited. U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of any government efforts to adhere to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. Cameroon participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Domestic transparency measures requiring the disclosure of payments made to governments are lacking.
The economy of Cameroon is modernizing, but most sectors experience disruptions from informal activities. The informal sector provides crucial livelihoods to the most vulnerable in urban environments; however, labor conditions are generally precarious. In the agricultural sector, the government estimates that 70 percent of labor is informal with instances of child labor in subsistence agriculture. In other sectors, for example mining, allegations of human or labor rights abuses by Chinese mining companies have surfaced in the recent past. Indigenous forest communities also complain the government does not enforce logging concession laws.
Cameroon revised its nationally determined contributions in November 2021. Cameroon’s mitigation target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2035. Mitigation targets are focused on forest management, energy, agriculture, and waste. Cameroon developed a National Adaptation Plan in 2015. Cameroon’s adaptation strategies include integrating adaptation planning into national sectoral strategies and policies, reducing the vulnerability of major economic sectors and agro-ecological zones to climate change, and raising awareness among the population. Cameroon does not yet have a national climate strategy or strategy for monitoring its natural capital, although the U.S. government is supporting Cameroon to build capacity to collect, monitor, and analyze climate data. With U.S. government support, Cameroon published its first atlas of land coverage in 2021. Cameroon developed a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in 2012 to integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programs, and policies.
Cameroon does not have policies to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but the government recognizes the huge role its forests, which are in the Congo Basin Forest region, will play as a carbon sink and focused mitigation targets on the forestry sector. Cameroon does not specify expectations on private sector contributions to achieving relevant climate targets. There are currently no climate-related regulatory incentives for private sector. All infrastructure projects are compelled to conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment to establish the impact of projects on people and nature. The National Development Strategy has integrated environmental protection into its objectives.
Corruption is punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Pena1 Code of Cameroon. Despite these rules, corruption remains endemic in the country. In 2021, Cameroon ranked 144 of 180 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Anti-corruption laws are applicable to all citizens and institutions throughout the national territory. Article 66 of the constitution requires civil servants and elected officials to declare their assets and property at the beginning and at the end of their tenure of office, but it has never been enforced, since the adoption of the constitution in 1996. Similarly, the Civil Service Statute contains provisions and the procedures to be followed in the event of a conflict of interest. These provisions are enshrined in Law No. 003/2006 of April 25, 2006, which also created the Commission for the declaration of property and assets. Other codes of conduct in different public institutions have created gift registers to prevent bribes, but they are not implemented. In terms of public contracts, Decree No. 2018/0001/PM of January 5, 2018 created a portal called Cameroon Online E-procurement System (Coleps) for the digitalization, including application processing, award, and monitoring and evaluation of all tenders. Since the launch of the portal, technical issues and disregard by civil servants have curbed its effectiveness, leading to the parallel continuation of the bribe-prone paper-based procurement system. U.S. firms indicate that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, award of licenses or concessions, transfers, performance requirements, dispute settlement, regulatory system, customs, and taxation.
Since its inception in 2006 (Presidential Decree No. 2006/088 of March 11, 2006), the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) has encouraged private companies to establish internal codes of conduct and ethics committees to review practices. U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of how many companies have instituted either program. Bribery of government officials remains common. While some companies use internal controls to detect and prevent such bribery, U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of how widespread these internal controls are.
Cameroon is signatory to the United Nations and the African Union anti-corruption initiatives, but the international initiatives have limited practical effects on the enforcement of laws in the country. U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of any NGO’s involvement in investigating corruption. The government prefers the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) to investigate potential cases. U.S. companies cite corruption as among the top obstacles to investing in Cameroon and report its being most pervasive in government procurement, the award of licenses and concessions, customs, and taxation.
Rev. Dieudonné MASSI GAMS
National Anti-Corruption Commission
B.P. 33200 Yaoundé Cameroon
(+237) 22 20 37 32
Cameroon faces several security challenges. Violence by non-state armed groups against security forces and the local population is in its sixth year in the primarily English-speaking Southwest and Northwest Regions. Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa continue to attack civilians and security forces in the Far North Region. In the Adamoua and East Regions, a wave of kidnappings and the presence of refugees from the Central African Republic has led to increased military presence. Terrorists and separatists alike have targeted economic assets and public infrastructure to effect political change.
In the Northwest and Southwest regions, leaders of non-state armed groups have claimed responsibility on social media for the killing of government officials, arsons that destroyed hospitals, schools, bridges, roads, and the seizure of state-run utilities. Non-state armed groups have also posted videos on social media of executions and beheadings of security officers while also claiming responsibility for multiple kidnappings for ransom of persons perceived to be against their cause. Human rights organizations and local citizens have accused soldiers and separatists of grave human rights abuses. In the Far North of Cameroon, Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa fighters have looted villages and cattle, kidnapped, and abused women. Consequently, several infrastructures projects have ground to a halt.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the labor market. Data from the National Institute of Statistics show that a large proportion of workers have seen a drastic reduction in wages (68 percent) and temporary job suspension (31.6 percent). Also, the unemployment rate reached 6.1 percent in 2021 according to the National Institute of Statistics. Most of the youth who possess skills that could be used in the economy are under-employed in the informal sector. Under-employment, which is generally under-reported, has continued to hover around 75 percent for youth under 30. Most Cameroonians find occupation in the informal sector, where unskilled labor is prevalent, especially in the agricultural and service sectors, manufacturing, commerce, technical trades, and mid-management jobs.
Other structural problems in the labor market include the chronic shortage of technical trade skills, for example for maintenance and repair of industrial machinery, in every sector of the economy. Truck and automotive maintenance are widely practiced in the informal sector, while
rudimentary or artisanal agriculture, fishing, and textile manufacturing continue to hamper industrialization with unskilled labor.
The government of Cameroon does not require foreign companies to hire Cameroonian nationals. Foreign nationals are required, however, to obtain work permits prior to formal employment. While foreign nationals are automatically issued work permits for companies of the Industrial Free Zones regime, their number may not exceed 20 percent of the total work force of a company after the fifth year of operation in Cameroon.
Although union and contract agreements vary widely from sector to sector, in general, Cameroon functions as an “employment at will” economy, and labor laws differentiate between layoffs and firing. Layoffs are not caused by the fault of the employees and are often considered as alternative solutions to dismissing workers based on performance fault or economic grounds. There is no special treatment of labor in special economic zones, foreign trade zones, or free ports.
While the Labor Code applies to enterprises of the Industrial Free Zone regime, some matters are governed by special provisions under the 1990 law establishing Industrial Free Zones. These include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign workers. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security monitors labor abuses, health and safety standards, and other related issues, but enforcement is poor. Labor laws are waived within the framework of Industrial Free Zones to attract or retain investment. The waivers include the employer’s right to determine salaries according to productivity, free negotiation of work contracts, and automatic issuance of work permits for foreign nationals.
There are independent labor unions and others affiliated with the government that operate under existing laws and regulations. Over 100 trade unions and 12 union confederations are active in the country. However, the labor union movement is highly fractured and somewhat ineffective in promoting workers’ rights. Some union leaders accuse the government and company managers of promoting division within trade unions to weaken them, as well as protecting non-representative trade union leaders with whom they can negotiate more easily.
Cameroon’s labor dispute resolution mechanisms are outlined in the labor code. The procedure differs depending on whether the dispute is individual or collective. Individual disputes fall under the jurisdiction of the civil court dealing with labor matters in the place of employment or residence of the worker. The legal procedure is initiated after the labor inspector fails to settle the dispute amicably out of the court system. Settlement of collective labor disputes is subject to conciliation and arbitration, and any strike or lock-out started after the procedures have been exhausted and have failed is deemed legitimate. While the conciliation procedure is conducted by the labor inspector, arbitration of any collective dispute that has not been settled by conciliation is handled by an arbitration board, chaired by the competent judicial officer of the competent court of appeal. Workers who ignore procedures to conduct a legal strike can be dismissed or fined.
Strikes occur regularly and are generally repressed by the police, though they are often due to lack of payment by the employer (including when the employer is the government) and are resolved quickly. Recent strikes involved public sector employees. The National Potable Water Employee Union launched a strike in February 2022, citing management concerns of the state-owned water utility, CAMWATER. The union also cited concern about the absence of a plan for the construction of new water infrastructure, and a maintenance and rehabilitation plan for existing networks. In response, the Minister of Energy and Water Resources, who supervises CAMWATER, engaged the union directly in negotiations. In another public sector strike, teachers launched a broad, nation-wide strike in February 2022 to demand better working conditions and compensation for unpaid wages and benefits, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. The government has called for dialogue and offered to pay a portion of the amount teachers demanded.
Cameroonian labor code lays down principles of labor laws regarding employment, dismissal, remedies for wrongful dismissal, compensation for industrial injuries, and trade unions. But most jobs do not have binding contracts, and employers generally seem to have the upper hand in labor disputes. There is informality even in the formal sector, which is against the law. Because of this landscape, it is important for U.S. companies to ensure compliance with the local labor laws and to abide by international best practices. There were no new labor-related laws or regulations enacted during the last year. U.S. Embassy Yaoundé officials are unaware of any pending draft bills.
The Cameroon National Institute of Statistics estimates that every sector has a level of informality. Likewise, the IMF estimates the informal economy contributes 20-30 percent to Cameroon’s GDP every year and provides jobs to 84 percent of the active working population. Additionally, informal employment comprises over 90 percent of the agricultural sector.
Prevalence of informality in the economy of Cameroon
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.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
The government actively encourages FDI and is committed to increasing it. The preparation of the 2021-2025 PND was informed by a comprehensive review of the previous 2016-2020 PND to identify the main achievements, remaining challenges and additional strategic priorities. The 2021-2025 PND process was collaborative, including consultations with civil society, private sector, local government, and development finance institutions (DFIs). The government recognizes it cannot achieve its ambitious PND investment goals without increasing foreign investment and private investment to a target of 72 percent of total investment. Prime Minister Achi’s March 2022 visit to the U.S. profiled CDI as an attractive trade and investment partner that offers a conducive environment to accommodate foreign companies. Achi broadcast the government’s objective to use the private sector as a principal element of development, urging U.S. companies to invest in Côte d’Ivoire. He highlighted CDI’s success in delivering peace and stability through its commitment to political dialogue. Part of CDI’s vision by 2030 is to process domestically at least 50 percent of its raw export commodities.
Foreign companies are free to invest and list on the Regional Stock Exchange (BVRM – Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières), which is based in Abidjan and covers the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). WAEMU members are part of the Regional Council for Savings and Investment (CREPMF – Conseil Régional de l’Épargne Publique et des Marchés Financiers), a West African securities regulatory body. BRVM has only 46 companies, 34 of which are Ivorian. Looking ahead, the market is slowly going digital, with online trading platforms. Licensed stock broking companies already execute most investors’ trades through an automated trading system. Nevertheless, investor and corporate sentiment remain low. Companies are reluctant to list, and investors do not yet see the market as an alternative way to make profit. There is a need to expand and deepen markets to support international trade, including forward and futures markets.
In most sectors, there are no laws that limit foreign investment. There are restrictions, however, on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies (see the section below).
The Ivoirian government’s investment promotion agency, the Center for the Promotion of Investment in Côte d’Ivoire (CEPICI), promotes and attracts national and foreign investment. Its services are available to all investors and are provided through a one-stop shop intended to facilitate business creation, operation, and expansion. CEPICI ensures that investors receive incentives outlined in the investment code and facilitates access to industrial land. More information is available at http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/. In 2019, the government added a Ministry of Investment Promotion and Private Sector Development, charged with investment promotion activities and development of industrial zones, including economic and free zones. The Ministry oversees the CEPICI and the Ivoirian Enterprise Institute (INIE – Institut Ivoirien de l’Entreprise), charged with programs targeting Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development. This overlaps with the mandate of the Ministry of SMEs (Ministère de la Promotion des PME, de l’artisanat et de la Transformation du Secteur informel).
Côte d’Ivoire maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors through various business networks and platforms, such as the CEPICI, the Ivoirian Chamber of Commerce (CCI-CI), the association of large enterprises (CGECI), and the bankers’ association. CGECI regularly proposes reforms to be adopted by the government regarding private sector financing and investment. CGECI workshops and conferences are venues to discuss issues ranging from tax to access to debt issues.
Foreign investors generally have access to all forms of remunerative activity on terms equal to those enjoyed by Ivoirians. The government encourages foreign investment, including investor participation in state-owned firms that the government is privatizing, although in most cases of privatization the state reserves an equity stake in the new company.
There are no general, economy-wide limits on foreign ownership or control, and few sector-specific restrictions. There are no laws specifically directing private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control in those firms, and no such practices have been reported. Non-citizens and foreign entities can buy stocks listed on the regional stock exchange located in Abidjan.
Banks and insurance companies are subject to licensing requirements, but there are no restrictions designed to limit foreign ownership or to limit establishment of subsidiaries of foreign companies in this sector. Investments in health, law and accounting, and travel agencies are subject to prior approval and require appropriate licenses and association with an Ivoirian partner. The Ivoirian government has, on a case-by-case basis, mandated using local providers, hiring local employees, or arranging for eventual transfer to local control. The government has implemented local content requirement for companies in the oil and gas sectors. Local content includes an obligation to employ local employees and to work with local SMEs.
The government does not have an official policy to screen investments; its overall economic and industrial strategy does not discriminate against foreign-owned firms. There are indications in some instances of preferential treatment for firms from countries with longstanding commercial ties to CDI. In some sectors, such as cocoa and cashew processing, the government gives preferential treatment to Ivoirian companies. For instance, 20 percent of the national cocoa production is exclusively granted to local cocoa exporting companies.
The Government of CDI provides information about sector policies and business opportunities in publicly available reports. More information can be found at: https://www.cepici.gouv.ci/. The National Development Plan 2021-2025 outlines the key sectors and priorities of the government regarding investment.
The CEPICI manages CDI’s online information portal containing all documents dedicated to business creation and registration (https://cotedivoire.eregulations.org/). All the necessary documentation for registration is available online, however actual registration must be done in person. Further information on business registration is also available on CEPICI’s website (http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/).
Businesses can register at the CEPICI’s One-Stop Shop (Guichet Unique) in Abidjan. The One-Stop Shop allows businesses to register with the commercial registrar (Registre du Commerce et du Crédit Immobilier), the tax authority (Direction Générale d’Impôts) and the social security institute (Caisse Nationale de Prévoyance Sociale). The One-Stop Shop also publishes the legal notice of incorporation on CEPICI’s website. All necessary documents for registration are also available on the website. Registration takes between one and three days, while preparation of necessary documents can take more time. The business licensing process, controlled by sector-specific governing bodies, is separate from the registration process.
Women have equal access to the registration process. There have not been any reports of discrimination in that regard.
International financial institutions are recommending that government authorities better and more transparently address concerns from the private sector in the following general areas:
1) enhancing the regulatory framework, reducing bureaucratic red tape, and improving the provision of public sector services, for example by simplifying and harmonizing the process for issuing business licenses and approvals;
2) promoting digitalization, both in the provision of public services and in public finance management;
3) reducing labor market rigidities by broadening professional training programs;
4) safeguarding property rights, particularly with respect to ownership and transfer of land;
5) deepening financial inclusion and facilitating access to financial markets, also via mobile systems and digital platforms; and
6) reducing uncertainty in the timing of government payments.
Government authorities are stepping up efforts to strengthen macroeconomic statistics. The National Strategy for the development of statistics aims to broaden the competencies of the National Institute of Statistics, reinforce its independence, and create a national fund for the development of statistics.
Côte d’Ivoire does not promote or incentivize outward investment. However, the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
3. Legal Regime
The government aims for transparency in law and policy to foster competition and provide clear rules of the game and a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors. However, at the operational level, lack of regulatory transparency is a concern. Publication of draft legislation and regulations is not required. Foreign and Ivoirian companies complain that new regulations are issued with little warning and without a period for public comment. For instance, new duties and taxes on products are generally reported in the fiscal annexes towards the end of the year and take immediate effect at the beginning of the next year. The Ministry of Commerce supports introducing a period for public comment on new regulations and changes in regulation before they are implemented, and government often holds ad hoc public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations. Further work in this area would boost investor confidence.
Regulatory actions, once adopted, are published on the government website at enforcement stage. They are also published in the Official Journal of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (Journal Officiel de la République de Côte d’Ivoire) , which is available for purchase at newsstands and by subscription on the Journal’s website http://www.sgg.gouv.ci/jo.php and at https://abidjan.net/.
The National Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement (ANRMP – Autorité Nationale de Régulation des Marchés Publics) polices transparency in public procurement and private sector compliance with public procurement rules. Consumers, trade associations, private companies, and individuals have the right to file complaints with ANRMP to hold the government to its own administrative processes. Since 2019, public tenders’ audits have not been published on the ANRMP official website.
Regulatory bodies regularly publish and promote access to their data for the business community and development partners, allowing for scientific and data-driven reviews and assessments. Quantitative analysis and public comments are made available.
Regulatory authority and decision-making exist only at the national level. Sub-national jurisdictions do not regulate business. For most industries or sectors, regulations are developed through the ministry responsible for that sector. In the telecommunications, electricity, cocoa, coffee, cotton, and cashew sectors, the government has established control boards or independent agencies to regulate the sector and pricing. Companies have complained that rules for buying prices determined by the agriculture commodity regulatory agencies tend to be opaque and local prices are set arbitrarily without reference to world prices.
Côte d’Ivoire’s agency regulating cocoa and coffee (CCC – Conseil Café et Cacao) has identified the need for a single mechanism to control traceability to prevent child labor and deforestation. The private sector and non-governmental stakeholders agree on the need for increased accountability and traceability, but generally prefer a multi-prong approach which incorporates the work already being done in this area outside of government. Growing international awareness of child labor and environmental challenges in CDI, and the possibility that this could impact exports, are catalysts for action.
The government publishes tender notices in the local press and sometimes in international magazines and newspapers. On occasion, there is a charge for the bidding documents. Côte d’Ivoire has a generally decentralized government procurement system, with most ministries undertaking their own procurements. The National Bureau of Technical and Development Studies, the government’s technical and investment planning agency and think tank, occasionally serves as an executing agency in major projects to be financed by international institutions.
The Public Procurement Department is a centralized office of public tenders in the Ministry of Finance tasked with ensuring compliance with international bidding practices. Côte d’Ivoire’s update to its public procurement code in 2019 introduced electronic procurement bidding, provisions for sustainable public procurement, and promotion of socially responsible vendors as a bidding qualification. While the public procurement process is open by law, in practice it is often opaque and government contracts are occasionally awarded outside of public tenders. During negotiations on a tender, the Ivorian Government at times imposes local content requirements on foreign companies. There are specific regulations governing the government’s use of sole source procurements and the government has awarded sole source bids without tenders, citing the high technical capacity of a firm or a declared emergency. Many firms continue to cite corruption as an obstacle to a transparent understanding of procurement decisions.
The National Authority for Regulation of Public Procurement (ANRMP) regulates public procurement with a view to improving governance and transparency. It has the authority to audit and sanction private-sector entities that do not comply with public-procurement regulations, and to provide recommendations to ministries to address irregularities.
Côte d’Ivoire’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are consistent with international norms, though both foreign and Ivoirian businesses often complain about the government’s poor communication. Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA), which is common to 16 countries and adheres to the WAEMU accounting system. In accounting, companies use the WAEMU system, which complies with international norms and is a source of economic and financial data.
Banking regulation follows the Central Bank (BCEAO) monetary policy covering the eight countries of WAEMU. Ivoirian authorities have limited power to conduct monetary policy. The Central Bank regulates interest rates to control the money supply. IMF assessments confirm CDI’s creditworthiness, with strong financial oversight. The Ivoirian government promotes transparency of public finances and debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) with the publication of this information through the following websites:
The Ivoirian government incorporates WAEMU directives into its public procurement bidding policy, processes, and auditing. This includes separating auditing and regulatory functions and increasing advance payment for the initial procurement of goods and services from 25 to 30 percent.
Côte d’Ivoire is part of the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), whose mandate is to protect economies, reinforce cooperation among member states, harmonize measures, and evaluate current strategies against money laundering and terrorism financing. The government hopes to adopt the draft national strategy to combat money laundering and terrorism financing in 2022. Once adopted, this strategy will put in place regulations and institutions that protect the Ivoirian financial system against money laundering and the financing of terrorism . CDI’s National Financial Information Processing Unit (CENTIF – Cellule nationale de Traitement des Informations financières) analyzes, processes, exploits, and circulates information from atypical financial transactions transmitted by professions subject to the law, in the form of “suspicious transaction reports.”
Ivoirian laws, codes, professional-association standards, and regional-body membership obligations are incorporated in the country’s regulatory system. The private sector often follows European norms to take advantage of the Ivoirian trade agreement with the EU – CDI’slargest market.
Côte d’Ivoire has been a WTO member since 1995 but has not notified all the draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. Côte d’Ivoire signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in December 2013 and ratified it in December 2015. The National TFA Committee (NTFC) coordinates TFA implementation. Consistent with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Côte d’Ivoire applies a Common External Tariff (CET) on goods importations.
The Ivoirian legal system is based on the French civil-law model. The law guarantees to all the right to own and transfer private property. Rural land, however, is governed by a separate set of laws, which makes ownership and transfer very difficult. The court system enforces contracts.
The Commercial Court of Abidjan adjudicates corporate law cases and contract disputes. Mediation is also available through the Ivoirian legal framework in addition to the Commercial Court and the Arbitration Tribunal. The Commercial Court of Abidjan retains jurisdiction for the entire country.
The Ivoirian judicial system is ostensibly independent, but magistrates are sometimes subject to political or financial influence. Judges sometimes fail to prove that their decisions are based on the legal or contractual merits of a case and often rule against foreign investors in favor of entrenched interests. A frequent complaint from investors is the slow dispute-resolution process. Cases are often postponed or appealed without a reasonable explanation, moving from court to court for years or even decades. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and adjudicated through the national court system.
The 2018 Investment Code is the primary governing authority for investment conduct. The Code does not restrict foreign investment or the repatriation of funds. The Code offers a mixture of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration, patents and licenses contribution and tax credits to encourage investment. The government also offers incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurs, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s economic development. Concessionary agreements that exempt investors from tax payments require the additional approval of the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The clearance procedure for planned investments, if the investor seeks tax breaks, is time consuming and confusing. Even when companies have complied fully with the requirements, the Tax Office sometimes denies tax exemptions with little explanation, giving rise to accusations of favoritism.
Some sectors have additional laws that govern investment activity in those sectors. In mining, for example, the Mining Code allows for a ten-year holding period for permits with an option to extend for an two additional years on a limited permit area of 400 square kilometers. The government drafted not yet passed in the National Assembly that would impose local-content requirements in the oil and gas sector such as the requirement that companies hire locals, finance personnel training, and support local SMEs.
The government is actively seeking to increase the share of local processing of raw agricultural commodities for export from 10 percent to 50 percent by 2025 and is looking for private investments to help reach this goal.
Côte d’Ivoire was once a net energy exporter and it is making investments to retake that position as the sub-region’s energy hub. According to 2020 data, the country produces 38,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) of oil from four blocks and 213 million cubic-feet-per-day of gas. The country has divided its offshore Exclusive Economic Zone into 51 hydrocarbons blocks, of which 18 blocks remain available for bid. Currently, the production of gas is entirely used for electricity production. The government seeks to attract more foreign companies to invest in the oil and gas sector. In 2021, the large Italian oil company ENI discovered oil and gas at an offshore well site called “Baleine.”
The CEPICI provides a one-stop shop website to assist investors. More information on Côte d’Ivoire’s laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements can be found at:
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Small Business Promotion, through the Commission on Anti-Competition Practices, is responsible for reviewing competition–related concerns under the 1991 competition law, which was updated in 2013. ANRMP is responsible for reviewing the awarding of contracts.
No significant competition cases were reported over the past year.
The Ivoirian constitution guarantees the right to own property and freedom from expropriation without compensation. The government may expropriate property with due compensation (fair market value) at the time of expropriation in the case of “public interest.” Perceived corruption and weak judicial and security capacity, however, have resulted in poor enforcement of private property rights, particularly when the entity in question is foreign and the plaintiff is Ivoirian or a long-established foreign resident.
Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 85 out of 190 countries for ease of resolving insolvency, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. As a member of OHADA, CDI has both commercial and bankruptcy laws that address the liquidation of business liabilities. OHADA is a regional system of uniform laws on bankruptcy, debt collection, and rules governing business transactions. OHADA permits three different types of bankruptcy liquidation: an ordered suspension of payment to permit a negotiated settlement; an ordered suspension of payment to permit restructuring of the company, like Chapter 11; and the complete liquidation of assets, similar to Chapter 7. Creditors’ rights, irrespective of nationality, are protected equally by the Act. Bankruptcy is not criminalized. Court-ordered monetary settlements resulting from declarations of bankruptcy are usually paid out in local currency.
The joint venture Credit Info – Volo West Africa manages regional credit bureaus in WAEMU.
4. Industrial Policies
The 2018 Investment Code offers a mixture of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration and tax credits focusing on agriculture, agri-business, tourism, health, and education. These may include a full exoneration of customs duties or suspended VAT, and tax exemptions to business operations in some remote areas, with incentives based on the type of investment, phase of operation, local content, and participation. There are also incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurship, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s broad-scale economic development. The Investment Code, the Petroleum Code and the Mining Code delineate incentives available to new investors in Côte d’Ivoire.
Bloomfield Investment stated that, in 2021, the Ivoirian government implemented subsidies and incentives to enhance the performance of the rubber industry. The government provided fiscal incentives for investments regarding rubber transformation.
Following the peak of the COVID-pandemic, the government subsidized the construction sector by easing access to bank loans, reducing taxes on cement, capping cement prices, reducing the time needed to register land, and encouraging foreign investors to take up social housing projects by providing loan guarantees.
Though not a common practice, the government occasionally guarantees loans or jointly finances foreign direct investment projects.
Created in 2008, the Ivoirian free trade zone (FTZ) for information technology and biotechnology (VITIB) is in the town of Grand Bassam in the greater Abidjan area. In 2014, VITIB established the Mahatma Gandhi Technology Park at Grand Bassam. Bonded warehouses exist, and bonded zones within factories are allowed. High port costs and maritime freight rates have inhibited the development of in-bond manufacturing or processing, and there are consequently no general foreign trade zones.
A FTZ exists at the Port of Abidjan specifically for fish processing. In force since December 2005, this FTZ is reserved for companies that earn at least 90% of their turnover from exports. Eligible companies are exempt from all duties and taxes, including on imported and exported goods and services. They also enjoy preferential rates for water, electricity, telephone, and fuel supplied by public or semi-public establishments. A fee applies to FTZ companies, the amount of which is fixed by decree.
Côte d’Ivoire’s ports (the Autonomous Port of Abidjan and the Autonomous Port of San-Pedro) follow the ISPS security code (International Ship and Port Facility Security Code). In November 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard assessed Ivorian ports to be a trusted maritime security partner, having achieved overall progress and maturity in port operations.
The government strongly encourages investors and firms to hire Ivoirian employees via incentives outlined in the Investment Code, but this is not a requirement. In March 2021, the government implemented the law on local content in the oil and gas sector. This law gives preference to Ivoirian companies and Ivoirian employees. The country aims to build “National Champions” in the oil and gas sector, while transferring knowledge and technical know-how to local employees. It also provides incentives and access to financial services and local insurance.
The 2018 Investment Code guarantees the freedom to designate senior management and board members.
Citizens of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries can legally work in Côte d’Ivoire without additional permissions and do not need a residency permit. For other nationalities, visas and permits for work and residency are required. The investment promotion agency CEPICI facilitates the visa and permit process. The process is not onerous and does not inhibit the ability of foreign investors and their employees to enter and exit the country.
There are no government-imposed trade restrictions on investment, including tariff and non-tariff barriers. However, all imports are subject to the External Common Tariff for all ECOWAS countries.
The government does occasionally place conditions on location, local content, equity ownership, import substitution, export requirements, host country employment, and technology. For example, the Ivoirian government required that one U.S. fast food franchise use locally sourced key ingredients, which it can do. The government also makes use of tax exemptions and customs exonerations to incentivize companies to do more value-added processing in CDI. There are no performance requirements for investments.
Cellular telephone companies must meet technology performance requirements to maintain their licenses. The U.S. government does not know of any requirements that CDI imposes on foreign information technology firms to give the government source code or provide access to encryption. Sometimes, the government advocates for fair competition between companies.
ART-CI is responsible for the oversight of local data storage.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The Ivoirian civil code provides for the enforcement of private property rights, and the government has undertaken reform efforts to secure property rights. The cost of capital is high, and mortgages are costly, which inhibits investment. Secured interests in property are enforced by the Land Registry Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report, Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 112 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property.
Land tenure is a complicated and sensitive issue. Land tenure disputes exist all over the country owing to multiple forms of traditional collective tenure and the lack of formal private land ownership in most areas. Companies wishing to purchase land must have the property surveyed before obtaining title and obtaining construction authorization. Surveying is tightly controlled by a small group of companies and can often cost more than the value of the parcel of land. This has led to corrupt back-channel authorizations, which, together with improper inspections, has resulted in shoddy construction and building collapses. In 2021, the government began streamlining and regularizing this process to accelerate construction authorizations and ensure quality construction. The Ministry of Construction has established a department to help individuals obtain land title and resolve disputes. Freehold land tenure in rural areas remains difficult to negotiate, however, and can inhibit foreign investment. Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, circumvent the complicated land purchase process by acquiring long-term leases instead. There are regulations designed to control land speculation in urban areas, but they do not prevent foreigners from owning land.
Foreign and/or nonresident investors who wish to lease land must obtain a permit for the development of the site, as well as a prefectural or sub-prefectural order recognizing occupation of the site.
The Audace Institute, an independent Ivoirian think tank, estimates that 96 percent of land does not have a clear title. The World Bank estimates that only 30 percent of property owners have clear title. There have been several attempts by the government to require rural landowners register their lands, the most recent set a deadline of 2023 with a consequence that unregistered lands will be transferred to government ownership. However, land registration is onerous and many owners are unable to afford the complex process. As with other aspects of Ivoirian law, follow-up and enforcement is uneven.
The Ivoirian Civil Code includes measures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR), but the government has limited capacity to enforce them. Inadequate enforcement of intellectual property rights remains a serious problem. The government’s Office of Intellectual Property (OIPI – Office ivoirien de la propriété intellectuelle) is charged with ensuring the protection of patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and commercial names. Patents are valid for 10 years, with the possibility of two extensions of five years each. Trademarks are valid for 10 years and are renewable indefinitely. Copyrights are valid for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. The Ivoirian Copyright Office (BURIDA- Bureau ivoirien du droit d’auteur) has a labeling system in place to prevent counterfeiting and to protect audio, video, literary, and artistic property rights in music and computer programs. A new cell charged with IPR and combating counterfeiting was inaugurated in November 2021. This cell gathers large and small enterprises around counterfeiting practices and best methods to fight them. While Ivoirian IPR law is in conformity with standards established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the country lacks adequate customs inspections at its porous borders, limiting the law’s impact.
The government has not adopted any IPR-related laws or regulations in 2021. In 2020, the Ministry of Culture, Art, and Entertainment Business established committees that study and make recommendations for the reform and restructuring of BURIDA.
The National Committee to Combat Counterfeiting (CNLC – Comité national de la lutte contre la contrefaçon) coordinates national efforts against counterfeit and pirated goods. By law, the government must protect intellectual property on both exported and imported goods. Customs has the power to seize imported products that violate IPR laws even if installed with other equipment, including equipment detained, marketed, or illegally supplied. Such seizures, generally of counterfeit consumer goods (increasingly medicines), are routinely publicized on government websites and media outlets, although statistics on seizures are unavailable. IPR violations are prosecuted, and penalties vary from imprisonment of three months to two years and fines from 100,000 to 5,000,000 CFA (approx. $166 to $8,333 based on an average exchange rate of 600 CFA to one dollar).
Côte d’Ivoire is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.
Government policies generally encourage foreign portfolio investment.
The Regional Stock Exchange (BRVM) is in Abidjan and the BRVM lists companies from the eight countries of the WAEMU. The existing regulatory system effectively facilitates portfolio investment through the West African Central Bank (BCEAO). The Regional Council for Savings Investments (CREPMF) sets the rules and regulations regarding the market participants and market structure. There is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. However, the market follows a limit-order mechanism. Besides traditional foreign trade risk management tools offered by commercial banks (i.e., export credits, trade bills), the stock exchange does not provide markets for forwards, futures, or options derivative instruments. Market volatility is low. The market benchmark BRVM Composite rose to 6.63 percent in 2021.
Government policies allow the free flow of financial resources into investing in financial assets.
The BCEAO respects IMF Article VIII on payment and transfers for current international transactions.
Credit allocation is based on market terms and has increased to support the private sector and economic growth, specifically for large businesses. The Central Bank monitors inflation, money supply, and business cycles to ensure efficient monetary policy. The average interbank interest rate was 2.61 percent compared to 3.01 percent in 2021, demonstrating the will of WAEMU nations to boost commercial banks’ liquidity and support private sector investment. Foreign investors can acquire credit on the local market. This year the government facilitated access to capital, lowering borrowing interest rates for real estate companies.
As of December 2021, there were 29 commercial banks and two credit institutions in Côte d’Ivoire. Banks are expanding their national networks, especially in the secondary cities outside Abidjan, as domestic investment has increased up-country. The total number of bank branches has more than doubled from 324 in 2010 to 725 branches in 2019 (latest data available). According to the World Bank, in 2017 (latest data available) 41 percent of the population over the age of 15 have a bank account. Alternative financial services available include mobile money and microfinance for bill payments and transfers. Many Ivoirians prefer mobile money over banking, but mobile money does not yet offer the same breadth of financial services as banks.
Most Ivoirian banks are compliant with the BCEAO’s minimum capital requirements. The government facilitated mortgages for foreign investors in housing in Côte d’Ivoire.
Foreign banks are allowed to operate in Côte d’Ivoire; at least one has been in Côte d’Ivoire for decades. They are subject to the WAEMU Banking Commission’s prudential measures and regulations. There have been no reports of Côte d’Ivoire losing any correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. No correspondent banking relationships are known to be in jeopardy.
Côte d’Ivoire does not have a sovereign wealth fund. Rothschild Bank was reported in the press to have been awarded the contract to create one.
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.
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.
The government has been pursuing SOE privatization for decades the most recent of which was in 2018. That year, the government sold 51 percent of the Housing Bank of Côte d’Ivoire (BHCI – Banque d’Habitat de Côte d’Ivoire). See previous Investment Climate Statements for past privatization efforts.
Contracts for participation in SOE privatization are competed through a French-language public tendering process, for which foreign investors are encouraged to submit bids. The Privatization Committee, which reports to the Prime Minister, maintains a website. The 2019 (latest) report is available at: http://privatisation.gouv.ci.
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.
In 2000, Conservation International designated the tropical Guinean forests of West Africa, an area which includes CDI’s forests, as one of 36 biodiversity hotspots – the most biologically rich, yet threatened terrestrial regions on Earth. Half a century ago, tropical forest covered 16 million hectares in CDI. Today, less than 2.9 million hectares of forest remain, mainly the result of land conversion for agricultural crops (primarily cocoa) and logging.
The government accords priority to investment that enhances environmental sustainability. It has developed policies to combat forest degradation, namely the National Policy on Forest Preservation, Rehabilitation, and Expansion in 2018 and the new Forest Code in 2019. These create an economically viable route to promote reforesting. Further progress will require the government to define carbon rights in the Ivoirian legal code and address crucial legal issues such as time limits for the land certificate registration process, guidelines for lumber sales by legitimate owners, and how to relocate people who have settled illegally in the protected forests.
In 2021, the European Commission proposed to the European Parliament new legislation that would prohibit products that contributed to deforestation in their countries of origin from entering the EU market. The proposed legislation would prohibit products associated with forested areas from entering the EU market unless they are certified “zero deforestation,” are in line with country-specific legislation, and meet additional due-diligence requirements laid out in the draft legislation. According to the Ivoirian government’s analysis, CDI’s most affected products (cocoa, coffee, wood, palm oil) total about 76 percent of the value of Ivoirian exports to the EU.
Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Paris Agreement and has submitted its revised nationally determined contributions (NDCs), committing to action both on adaptation to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (30 percent by 2030). Côte d’Ivoire is also involved in a multi-country effort coordinated by the World Bank to develop a national climate-smart agricultural investment plan (CSAIP). The national plan prioritizes a set of 12 investments and actions needed to boost crop resilience and enhance yields.
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.
High Authority for Good Governance (Haute Autorité pour la Bonne Gouvernance)
Mr. N’Golo Coulibaly
TELEPHONE: +225 272 2479 5000
FAX: +225 2247 8261 https://habg.ci/
Police Anti-Racketeering Unit (Unité de Lutte Contre le Racket –ULCR)
Mr. Alain Oura
TELEPHONE: +225 272 244 9256 email@example.com
Social Justice (Initiative pour la Justice Sociale, la Transparence et la Bonne Gouvernance en Côte d’Ivoire)
Ananeraie face pharmacie Mamie Adjoua
TELEPHONE: +225 272 177 6373 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment
Outward Direct Investment
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy Abidjan
Cocody Riviera Golf
BP 730 Abidjan Cidex 03
Republic of Côte d’Ivoire
Phone: (+225) 27-22-49-40-00
Senegal’s stable democracy, relatively strong economic growth, and open economy offer attractive opportunities for foreign investment. Senegal’s macroeconomic environment remains generally stable, although aggressive measures to counter the economic impact of COVID-19 and rising commodity costs are pushing public debt to nearly 70 percent of GDP, the internal debt distress threshold of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The currency – the CFA franc used in eight West African countries – is pegged to the Euro and remains stable.
The Government of Senegal (GOS) welcomes foreign investment and has prioritized efforts to improve the business climate, and many companies choose Senegal as a base for operations in Francophone Africa. Since 2012, Senegal has pursued an ambitious development program, the Plan Senegal Emergent (Emerging Senegal Plan, or “PSE”), to improve infrastructure, achieve economic reforms, increase investment in strategic sectors, and strengthen private sector competitiveness. The GOS expanded the “single window” system to provide services to companies, opening new service centers across the country, harmonizing more than 60 GOS websites, and digitizing dozens of government services and payment mechanisms. The national digital agency, ADIE, plans to lay 4,500 kilometers of additional fiberoptic cable to increase internet access. Senegal has plans to transition power plants from fuel oil to domestic natural gas starting in 2023, when two recently discovered oil and gas fields come online. A new Public-Private Partnership (PPP) law entered into force in November 2021, modernizing and clarifying PPP procedures and encouraging local content.
With good air transportation links, a modern airport, expanding seaports, availability of mobile money and other financial technologies, and improving ground transportation, Senegal aims to become a regional commercial and services hub. Three Special Economic Zones offer investors tax exemptions and other benefits. Repatriation of capital and income is generally straightforward, although the regional central bank sometimes limits the number of “offshore accounts” for companies registered in Senegal and engaged in project finance. Although some companies report problems, Senegal scores favorably on corruption indicators compared to other countries in the region.
Despite Senegal’s many advantages, significant challenges remain. Investors at times cite burdensome and unpredictable tax administration, complex customs procedures, bureaucratic hurdles, opaque public procurement practices, an inefficient judicial system, inadequate access to financing, and a rigid labor market as obstacles. High real estate and energy costs, as well as high costs of inputs for manufacturing, also constrain Senegal’s competitiveness. High levels of unemployment and underemployment, especially among the country’s large youth population, represent a long-term macroeconomic challenge.
A U.S.-Senegal Bilateral Investment Treaty went into effect since 1990. Senegal’s stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) increased from $3.4 billion in 2015 to $6.4 billion in 2019, according to UNCTAD data. U.S. investment in Senegal has expanded since 2014, including investments in power generation, renewable energy, industry, and offshore oil and gas. The IMF reports that U.S. FDI stock in Senegal was approximately $114 million in 2019 (Table 1; up from $91 million in 2018). Although France is historically Senegal’s largest source of FDI, China overtook France as Senegal’s largest bilateral trade partner in 2019. Turkish economic influence is also rising, particularly in construction. Other important investment partners include Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf States, as well as the EU. Sectors attracting substantial investment include petroleum and natural gas, agribusiness, mining, tourism, manufacturing, and fisheries.
Investors can consult Senegal’s investment promotion agency (APIX) at www.investinsenegal.com for information on opportunities, incentives, and procedures for foreign investment, including a copy of Senegal’s investment code.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
The GOS welcomes foreign investment. The investment code provides for equitable treatment of foreign and local firms. There is no restriction on ownership of businesses by foreign investors in most sectors. Foreign firms generally can invest in Senegal free from systematic discrimination in favor of local firms. However, some U.S. and other foreign firms have noted that, in practice, Senegal’s investment environment favors incumbents and insiders – often other foreign firms – at the expense of new market entrants. Common complaints include excessive and inconsistently applied bureaucratic processes; nontransparent, slow judicial processes; and an opaque decision-making process for public contracts. Financial and capital markets are open, attracting domestic, regional, and international capital. In the wake of COVID-19, President Sall called for greater “economic sovereignty” in strategic sectors such as food production, pharmaceuticals, and digital technology to strengthen the country’s resilience to external shocks.
The GOS consults with the private sector through the Conseil Presidentiel del’Investissement (Presidential Council on Investment, or “CPI”). Among other activities, the CPI for investor-government dialogue. Another important venue for dialogue is the annual Assises de l’Entreprises (Company Meetings) sponsored by the Conseil National du Patronat(www.cnp.sn), the national employers’ association. Senegal does not have a business ombudsman or other official charged with resolving business disputes. In practice, investors must often engage directly at the minister level to resolve business climate concerns. Senegal’s investment promotion agency, APIX, facilitates government review of investment proposals and the project approval process. APIX is also the exclusive administrator of all special economic zones in Senegal.
There are no barriers to ownership of businesses by foreign investors in most sectors. Exceptions include strategic sectors such as water, electricity distribution, and port services, where the government and state-owned companies maintain responsibility for most physical infrastructure but allow private companies to provide services. Senegal allows foreign investors equal access to ownership of property and does not impose any general limits on foreign control of investments. Senegal’s Investment Code includes guarantees for equal treatment of foreign investors, including the right to acquire and dispose of real property.
GOS Ministries offer guidance on large projects, primarily to verify compatibility with the country’s overall development goals and compliance with environmental regulations. The Ministry of Finance and Budget reviews project financing arrangements for projects requiring public funds to ensure compatibility with budget and debt policies.
In October 2017, Senegal, along with other members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) underwent a Trade Policies Review by WTO.
In January 2020, the Executive Board of the IMF approved a new three-year Policy Coordination Instrument (PCI) for Senegal. The IMF published its Second Review under the PCI (IMF PCI) on January 19, 2021.
The point of entry for business registration is Senegal’s Investment Promotion Agency, APIX, www.investinsenegal.com, which provides a range of administrative services to foreign investors. The World Bank estimates it takes six days to register a firm. In addition to other bureaucratic and documentary requirements, registering a business requires certification of certain documents by a public notary registered in Senegal. Senegalese law provides special preferences to facilitate investment and business operations by medium-sized and small enterprises, including reduced interest rates for Senegalese-owned companies. The GOS continues to expand its “single window” system, offering one-stop government services for businesses and opening new service centers. Since 2019, the GOS has made 25 government processes available online, including applications for construction permits, tax information searches, and tax and customs payments. In 2020, the GOS continued to expand its eGovernance program, harmonizing 60 government websites and creating 30 online service platforms. In 2019, APIX launched an online portalcontaining extensive information regarding regulations applicable to businesses and investments in Senegal.
Senegal’s Agency for the Development and Supervision of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (ADEPME) supports small and medium-sized enterprises (defined as having fewer than 50 employees and annual revenues less than 5 billion CFA (about $9 million)). These include tax incentives, grants for capacity building and feasibility studies, and technical assistance to help firms operating in the informal sector formalize and register. ADEPME has also launched a program to certify the creditworthiness of SMEs, making them eligible for loans at preferential rates.
Senegal’s budget and information on debt obligations are generally accessible to the public, including online. Although Senegal included state-owned enterprise (SOE) debt in its overall debt figures, detailed information on the debt of individual SOEs was not available to the public. The budget was substantially complete and considered generally reliable. Senegal’s supreme audit institution reviews the government’s accounts, and its reports are published online. However, the GOS has not released an audit report since 2017. Senegal is the first Francophone country in sub-Saharan Africa to submit to a fiscal transparency evaluation (FTE) by the IMF. In its January 2019 FTE, the IMF rated Senegal “average” overall for countries of similar income and institutional capacity. Senegal was rated “advanced” or “good” on fiscal forecasting, budgeting, and fiscal reporting. It was rated “basic” on monitoring risks triggered by subnational governments.
The process for allocating licenses and contracts for natural resource extraction was outlined in law and appeared to be followed in practice. In 2019, Senegal approved a new Petroleum Code, clarifying investment terms and local content requirements for foreign investment. Senegal is currently offering new offshore exploration blocks through an open tender process conducted in accordance with international standards. In February 2020, Senegal finalized a new Gas Code to govern development of a mid-stream gas distribution network. Basic information on natural resource extraction awards is publicly available, and the government participated actively in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
The government neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.
3. Legal Regime
Senegal has made some progress towards establishing independent regulatory institutions, having set up regulators for energy, telecommunications, and finance. While Senegal lacks established procedures for a public comment process for proposed laws and regulations, the GOS sometimes holds public hearings and workshops to discuss drafts. Suggested regulations are not always made available to the public in a timely manner, however. Although Senegalese law requires proposed legislation to be published in advance in the government’s official gazette, the GOS does not consistently update its website. The government does not promote or require companies’ environmental, social, and governance disclosure to facilitate transparency or help investors and consumers distinguish between high- and low-quality investments.
Authority to make and enforce rules rests with the relevant government ministry unless there is a separate regulatory authority. Local government bodies do not have a decisive role in regulatory decisions.
The Commission de Régulation du Secteur de l’Electricité (Electricity Sector Regulatory Commission, CRSE) was established in 1998 to regulate the electricity sector and set electricity tariffs. Although the CRSE is by law an independent agency, observers note that the government frequently exercises influence over its decisions. Under the Millennium Challenge Corporation Senegal Power Compact, the GOS has committed to reforms, including adopting a new electricity code in 2021 and strengthening the CRSE’s capacity and independence.
The Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications et des Postes (Telecommunications and Postal Regulatory Authority, ARTP) is responsible for licensing and regulating telecommunications and postal services in Senegal. The Dakar-based Central Bank of West African States (known by its French acronym, BCEAO) regulates banking.
There is no legal requirement to conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations, and regulatory agencies rarely do so. There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impacts. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems closely follow French models. Financial statements must be prepared in accordance with the SYSCOHADA system, based on generally accepted accounting principles in France.
As a member of ECOWAS, Senegal generally adheres to regional requirements concerning the movement of people and goods. Similarly, fiscal policy directives of WAEMU are enforced in Senegal, as are regulations issued by the BCEAO. Senegal is a WTO member and generally notifies draft regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. However, since 2005, Senegal has banned imports of uncooked poultry and poultry products without notifying the WTO. In March 2019, Senegal ratified the AfCFTA, which went into effect in January 2021.
Senegal’s legal system is based on French civil law and has well-developed commercial and investment laws. Although settlement of commercial disputes has historically been cumbersome and slow, Senegal launched a new commercial court system in 2018 with jurisdiction over commercial matters and a mandate to resolve cases within three months. The business community welcomed the move, and in the past two years, the court has heard 11,054 cases with a combined value of nearly $500 million.
While Senegal’s constitution mandates that the judiciary operate independently of the legislature and executive, the executive frequently exerts influence, particularly in high-profile criminal cases. This type of influence is rare in strictly commercial matters. Some foreign investors, however, report discriminatory treatment by local courts. Investors may consider including binding arbitration in their contracts to avoid prolonged legal entanglements. Companies may seek judicial redress against regulatory decisions. Regulatory appeals are heard in administrative tribunals that specialize in adjudicating claims against the state.
Senegal is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Berne Copyright Convention, and in 2019 hosted a regional workshop on protecting intellectual property in the pharmaceutical and pesticide industries that gathered prosecutors, customs, and law enforcement officers. Nevertheless, the country has insufficient capacity to reliably protect intellectual property rights.
Senegal’s 2004 Investment Code provides basic guarantees for equal treatment of foreign investors and repatriation of profit and capital. It also specifies tax and customs exemptions according to investment volume and company size and location, with investments outside of Dakar eligible for longer tax exemptions. A law to enhance transparency in public procurement and public tenders entered into force in 2008, establishing a public procurement regulatory body, theAutorité de Régulation des Marchés Publics (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, ARMP), which publishes annual reviews of public procurement.
In February 2021, Senegal’s National Assembly signed into law the long-awaited update to the law governing public-private partnership (PPP) contracts, followed by the implementing decree in November 2021. The amended law includes several important innovations, including: a unified legal framework for private sector-led, GOS-supported projects; a streamlined institutional framework to simplify procedures and avoid incompatibilities; a strengthened monitoring and control system; and provisions about local content requirements. The GOS has stated that the new law will introduce a more flexible and attractive framework for blended finance projects. Some U.S. companies have raised concerns about the local content requirements included in the law.
BCEAO regulations proscribe the use of offshore accounts in project finance transactions within the WAEMU, except when approved by ministries of finance with the express consent of the BCEAO. According to BCEAO, these restrictions allow visibility over international transactions, deter money laundering, and help it maintain adequate foreign currency reserves. BCEAO emphasizes the importance of these rules in enabling it to fulfill its mandate of maintaining the stability of the CFA franc’s peg to the Euro.
Since 2018, the BCEAO and Senegalese Ministry of Finance and Budget have tightened their approach to the approvals of offshore accounts. Although there is no “maximum” number of accounts permitted, informal guidelines suggest that transactions using one to three accounts have the greatest chance of being approved. According to the BCEAO, the intent is to encourage the minimum number of such accounts necessary to legitimately conduct the transaction. Managers and lenders should raise the subject of offshore accounts with the Ministry of Finance as early in the process as possible and should be prepared to submit a functional justification for each requested account. All offshore accounts must be “reauthorized” annually.
The Investment Code, the Mining Code, the Petroleum Code, and a government services one-stop can be found at the following:
Senegal’s national competition commission, the Commission Nationale de la Concurrence, is responsible for reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns.
Senegal’s Investment Code includes protection against expropriation or nationalization of private property, with exceptions for “reasons of public utility” provided there is “just compensation” in advance. In general, Senegal has no history of expropriation or creeping expropriation against private companies. The government may sometimes use eminent domain justifications to procure land for public infrastructure projects, with compensation provided to landowners. The U.S.-Senegal BIT specifies that international legal standards are applicable to any cases of expropriation.
Senegal is a member of the International Convention for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”). Senegalese law recognizes the Courd’Appel(Appeals Court)as the competent authority for the recognition and enforcement of awards rendered pursuant to ICSID. Senegal is also a signatory to the Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa Treaty (OHADA). This agreement supports enforcement of awards under the New York Convention. TheAutorité de Régulation des Marchés Publics (Public Procurement Regulatory Authority or ARMP) manages a dispute-resolution mechanism for public tenders.
Senegal has growing experience in using international arbitration for resolution of investment disputes with foreign companies, including some cases involving tax disputes with U.S. firms. The government has also prevailed in some arbitration cases, including a 2013 arbitration decision in a high-profile case with a multinational company over an integrated mining/railway/port project, fostering greater confidence within the government in the arbitration process. Senegal’s BIT with the United States includes provisions to facilitate the referral of investment disputes to binding arbitration.
International firms have pursued a variety of investment disputes during the last decade, including at least two U.S. firms involved in tax and customs disputes. Other foreign companies in mining and telecommunications have pursued commercial disputes over licensing. These disputes have often been resolved through arbitration or an amicable settlement. Senegal has no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
The GOS has commercial courts and uses alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to expedite dispute resolution. Under the OHADA treaty, Senegal recognizes the corporate law and arbitration procedures common to the 16 member states in Western and Central Africa. Senegalese courts routinely recognize arbitration clauses in contracts and agreements. It is not unusual for courts to rule against SOEs in disputes involving private enterprises.
Senegal has commercial and bankruptcy laws that address liquidation of business liabilities. Foreign creditors receive equal treatment under Senegalese bankruptcy law in making claims against liquidated assets. Monetary judgments are normally in local currency. As a member of OHADA, Senegal permits three different types of bankruptcy: liquidation through a negotiated settlement; company restructuring; or complete liquidation of assets.
4. Industrial Policies
Senegal’s Investment Code provides for investment incentives, including temporary exemption from customs duties and income taxes, for investment projects. Eligibility for investment incentives depends upon a firm’s size and the type of activity, amount of the potential investment, and location of the project. To qualify for significant investment incentives, firms must invest above CFA 100 million (approximately $165,000) or in activities that lead to an increase of 25 percent or more in productive capacity. Investors may also deduct up to 40 percent of retained investment over five years. However, for companies engaged strictly in “trading activities,” investment incentives may not be available. Senegal does not provide incentives for underrepresented investors such as women, nor does it provide specific incentives for clean energy investments.
Eligible sectors for investment incentives include agriculture and agro-processing, fishing, livestock, and related industries, manufacturing, tourism, mineral exploration and mining, banking, and others. All qualifying investments benefit from the “Common Regime,” which includes two years of exemption from duties on imports of goods not produced locally for small and medium-sized firms, and three years for all others. Also included is exemption from direct and indirect taxes for the same period.
Exemption from the Minimum Personal Income Tax and from the Business License Tax can be granted to investors who use local resources for at least 65 percent of their total inputs within a fiscal year. Enterprises that locate in less industrialized areas of Senegal may benefit from exemption of the lump-sum payroll tax of three percent, with the exemption running from five to 12 years, depending on the location of the investment. The investment code provides for exemption from income tax, duties, and other taxes, phased out progressively over the last three years of the relief period. Most incentives are automatically granted to investment projects meeting the above criteria.
An existing firm requesting an extension of such incentives must be at least 20 percent self-financed. To qualify for these benefits, firms are required to create at least 150 full-time positions for Senegalese nationals, contribute the hard currency equivalent of at least 100 million CFA ($165,000), and keep regular accounts that conform to Senegalese standards. In addition, firms must provide APIX with details on company products, production, employment, and consumption of raw materials.
In 2017, Senegal passed legislation to create Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Enterprises approved under the SEZ regime may be granted tax and customs concessions for up to 25 years. Benefits may include exemptions from duties and taxes on imports of goods, raw materials and equipment (except for community levies); application of a reduced 15 percent corporate tax rate; and exemption from certain taxes and charges, such as business and property taxes. To qualify for these benefits, companies must make a minimum investment of CFA 100 million ($165,000), create at least 150 jobs during their first year, and generate at least 60 percent of their revenue from exports. In November 2018, President Sall inaugurated the country’s first SEZ in the Dakar planned suburb of Diamniadio. The GOS has since launched two additional SEZs; one in Sandiara, 80 kilometers from the capital city Dakar, and the other in Ndiass, in the vicinity of Dakar’s International Airport. According to Senegalese officials responsible for digital economy development, the GOS has installed more than 150 kilometers of high-speed fiberoptic cable throughout Diamniadio to boost access and speeds for investors locating there.
Senegal’s Data Protection Act was passed in 2008. Senegal has mandatory requirements to register mobile device SIM cards and is a signatory to the Economic Community of West African States Supplementary Act on Personal Data Protection from 2010. There is no requirement for foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption, nor are there measures that prevent or restrict companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside Senegal.
President Macky Sall inaugurated a 1,000 terabyte government data center in June 2021 with the intent to migrate all Senegalese government data and applications there and host them in the future. In March 2022, President Sall announced that national digital agency ADIE would become Société National Senegal Numerique (National Company for Digital Senegal, SEMUM) to accelerate Senegal’s digitalization.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The Senegalese Civil Code provides a framework, based on French law, for enforcing private property rights. The code provides for equality and non-discrimination against foreign-owned businesses. Senegal maintains a property title and a land registration system, but application is uneven outside of urban areas. Establishing ownership rights to real estate can be difficult. Once established, however, ownership is protected by law.
The GOS has undertaken several reforms to make it easier for investors to acquire and register property. It has streamlined procedures and reduced associated costs for property registration and developed new land tenure models intended to facilitate land acquisition by resolving conflicts between traditional and government land ownership. If the new models are widely adopted, the GOS and donors expect they will facilitate land acquisition and investment in the agricultural sector while providing benefits to traditional landowners in local communities.
The GOS generally pays compensation when it takes private property through eminent domain. Senegal’s housing finance market is under-developed, and few long-term mortgage-financing vehicles exist. There is no secondary market for mortgages or other bundled revenue streams. The judiciary is inconsistent when adjudicating property disputes. According to the World Bank, registering property requires an average of 41 days, compared to an average of 51.6 days in sub-Saharan Africa and 23.6 days in OECD countries. Five separate procedures are required.
Senegal maintains an adequate legal framework for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), but the country has limited institutional capacity to enforce IPR laws. Senegal has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since its inception. Senegal is also a member of the African Organization of Intellectual Property, a grouping of 15 Francophone African countries with a common system for obtaining and maintaining protection for patents, trademarks, and industrial designs. Local statutes recognize reciprocal protection for authors or artists who are nationals of countries adhering to the 1991 Paris Convention on Intellectual Property Rights. Patents may be registered with the AgenceSénégalaise pour la Propriétéindustrielle et l’Innovationtechnologique(Senegalese Agency for Industrial Property and Technical Innovation, ASPIT) and are protected for 20 years. An annual charge is levied during this period. Registered trademarks are protected for a period of 20 years. Trademarks may be renewed indefinitely by subsequent registrations. Senegal is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The Senegalese Copyright Office, part of the Ministry of Culture, protects copyrights. Bootlegging of music CDs is common and a source of concern for the local music industry. The Copyright Office has taken actions to combat media piracy, including seizure of counterfeit cassettes, CDs, and DVDs. In 2008, the government established a special police unit to improve enforcement of the country’s anti-piracy and counterfeit laws. The government has limited capacity to combat IPR violations or to seize counterfeit goods. Customs screening for counterfeit goods production is weak and confiscated goods occasionally re-appear in the market. Nevertheless, the GOS has raised awareness of the impact of counterfeit products on the Senegalese marketplace, especially regarding pharmaceuticals, and officers have participated in trainings offered by manufacturers to identify counterfeit products.
Senegal is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at WIPO country profiles.
6. Financial Sector
Senegalese authorities take a generally positive view of portfolio investment. Assisted by the debt management office of the BCEAO and thanks to a well-functioning regional debt market,
Senegal has historically issued regular debt instruments in local currency to manage its finances. Beginning in 2011, the government began accessing international debt markets, issuing U.S. dollar-denominated Eurobonds in 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2018. In June 2021, the authorities issued a 775-million-Euro Eurobond’ its first Euro-denominated obligation. Some observers, including the IMF, have expressed concern over the continued rise in Senegal’s public debt, which has more than doubled over the last decade, in part due to the country’s significant investments associated with the PSE. With the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and the consequences of the political turmoil of March 2021, Senegal’s 2021 debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 73 percent, compared to 52 percent in 2018. In late 2020, Senegal took advantage of the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative, receiving relief from $163 million in debt service payments (0.6 percent of GDP) through the end of 2021. The GOS aims to mitigate concerns about its public debt by containing energy subsidies, prioritizing concessional borrowing, and taking steps to increase government revenues.
Senegal does not have its own stock market. A handful of Senegalese companies are listed on the West African Regional Stock Exchange (BRVM), headquartered in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The BRVM also has local offices in each of the WAEMU member countries, offering additional opportunities to attract foreign capital and access diversified sources of financing.
In 2018, the BCEAO launched the region’s first certification program for dealers in securities and other financial instruments. Modeled on accreditation programs offered by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, the new program was supported by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance.
While Senegal’s banking system is generally sound, the financial sector is underdeveloped. Senegal’s 26 commercial banks, primarily based in France, Nigeria, Morocco, and Togo, follow conservative lending guidelines, with collateral requirements that most potential borrowers cannot meet. Few firms are eligible for long-term loans, and small and medium-sized enterprises have little access to credit. According to a 2016 government survey, about 17 percent of enterprises in the formal sector receive financing from commercial banks, compared to 6 percent for informal enterprises. Authorities have committed to implement the national financial inclusion strategy (2021-25) and achieve a financial inclusion rate of 65 percent of adults and 90 percent of SMEs. Senegal’s banking sector is regulated by the BCEAO and the WAEMU regional banking commission. Increasingly available mobile money services offer Senegalese consumers alternatives to traditional banking and credit services.
In 2012, Senegal established a sovereign wealth fund (Fonds Souverain d’InvestissementsStrategiques, FONSIS) with a mandate to leverage public assets to support equity investments in commercial projects supporting economic development objectives. FONSIS invests primarily in strategic sectors defined in the PSE, including agriculture, fishing, infrastructure, energy, mining, tourism, and services.
Senegal maintains several taxes and funds allocated for specific purposes such as expanding access to transportation, energy, and telecommunications, including the autonomous road maintenance fund and the energy support fund. For these funds, some information is included in budget annexes; these funds are subject to the same auditing and oversight mechanisms as ordinary budgetary spending. FONSIS reports that it abides by the Santiago Principles for sovereign wealth funds.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Senegal has generally reduced government involvement in SOEs during the last three decades. However, the GOS still owns full or majority interests in 24 SOEs, including the national electricity company (Senelec), Dakar’s public bus service, the Port of Dakar, National Post, the national rail company, and the national water utility. Senelec retains control over power transmission and distribution, but it relies increasingly on independent producers to generate power. The GOS has also retained control of the national oil company, PETROSEN, which is involved in hydrocarbon exploration in partnership with foreign oil companies and operates a small refinery dependent on government subsidies. The GOS has modest and declining ownership of agricultural enterprises, including one involved in rice production. In 2018, the government revived the state-owned airline, Air Senegal. The GOS also owns a minority share in Sonatel-Orange Senegal, the country’s largest internet and mobile communications provider.
The Direction du SecteurParapublic, an agency within the Ministry of Finance, manages the government’s ownership rights in SOEs. The GOS’s budget includes financial allocations to these enterprises, including subsidies to Senelec. SOE revenues are not projected in budget documents, but actual revenues are included in quarterly reports published by the Ministry of Finance. Senegal’s supreme audit institution (the Cour des Comptes) conducts audits of the public sector and SOEs.
The government has no program for privatizing the remaining SOEs.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Following the lead of foreign companies, some Senegalese firms have begun adopting corporate social responsibility programs and responsible business conduct standards. However, this movement is not yet widespread.
Senegal’s 2016 Mining Code specifies the criteria and procedures by which the government awards natural resource extraction contracts or licenses. The code requires mining companies to participate in transparency reporting following the guidelines of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The GOS appears to follow the Mining Code and its implementing regulations in practice, although unregulated artisanal mining is common in some areas. Basic information on awards was publicly available online through the government’s official journal, and included details regarding geographic areas, resources under development, companies involved, and the duration of contracts. In January 2019, the government adopted a new Petroleum Code, which clarifies mechanisms for reserving revenues from oil and gas projects to the government. Senegal has been an active member of the EITI since 2013. In May 2018, the EITI Board declared Senegal the first country in Africa to have made “satisfactory progress” in implementing EITI standards. In October 2019, Senegal hosted the 41st quarterly meeting of the EITI Board, along with a conference on EITI implementation in Africa. The government’s EITI committee reports directly to the President.
Senegal’s long-term national economic development policy – the Plan Senegal Emergent (PSE) – includes a green growth program known as “Green PSE” (PSE Vert). Launched in December 2021, the Green PSE is structured around six priority sectors: agriculture, energy, industry, water and sanitation, forestry, and construction. The Green PSE aims to build Senegal’s capacity to access financial resources from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and private sector investment. According to the PSE Operational Bureau within the Office of the President, the GOS will convene representatives from the six priority sectors in May 2022 to identify specific projects and a roadmap for their implementation.
In December 2020, the GOS published its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the 2015 Paris Agreement. Senegal’s NDC contains a greenhouse gas mitigation plan for transport, waste, energy, industry, forestry and agriculture and an adaptation plan for key climate impacts affecting Senegal, such as coastal erosion, declining agriculture, fishing, and livestock, risks to public health/biodiversity, and urban flooding. The NDC forecasts two emissions reduction scenarios: one accomplished with domestic resources (unconditional) and the other accomplished with a combination of domestic resources and foreign assistance (conditional). The unconditional scenario calls for a 5 percent reduction by 2025 and 7 percent by 2030, compared to business as usual. The conditional scenario calls for a 23 percent reduction by 2025 and a 29 percent reduction by 2030, compared to business as usual. Biodiversity is included in the adaptation plan of the NDC. The GOS has not formally instituted a net-zero carbon emissions policy. Senegal does not provide regulatory incentives or other policies to achieve policy outcomes that preserve biodiversity, clean air, or other desirable ecological benefits.
Senegal’s NDC addresses economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions, including private sector emissions. However, the NDC does not disaggregate public and private sector emissions. Senior GOS climate officials in associated with the National Climate Change Committee have told Post that during the first half of 2022 an inter-ministerial committee will meet to validate a monitoring, reporting, and verification mechanism for emissions. Senegal’s NDC states that the country will meet either its unconditional or conditional emissions reduction targets primarily through four principal means: i) increasing carbon sequestration through improved agroforestry and forest management; ii) transitioning from highly polluting fuel oil to cleaner burning fuels in the energy sector, as well as energy efficiency improvements; iii) improving the management of solid and liquid wastes; and iv) improving industrial processes. Each of these activities involves private sector participation. However, the NDC does not include specific sectoral emissions reductions targets attributable to private sector actors.
Bloomberg Markets ranks Senegal as the 13th most attractive market for energy transition investment among emerging markets and 40th globally: Climate Scope.
Senegalese law provides criminal penalties for corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (OFNAC) has a mandate to enforce anti-corruption laws. In January 2020, OFNAC released overdue reports on its activities for 2017 and 2018 and swore in six new executive-level officials, bringing its managing board to a full complement for the first time in several years. A 2014 law requires the President, cabinet ministers, speaker and chief financial officer of the National Assembly, and managers of public funds more than one billion CFA francs (approximately $1.8 million) to disclose their assets to OFNAC. In 2020, all but one of these government officials complied with these disclosure requirements.
The GOS has made limited progress in improving its anti-corruption efforts. The current administration has mounted corruption investigations against several public officials (primarily the President’s political rivals) and has secured several convictions. In July 2020, President Sall launched an initiative to enforce a requirement that cabinet members and other high-level officials disclose their assets and issued a report disclosing his own personal assets.
The GOS has also taken steps to increase budget transparency in line with regional standards. Senegal ranked 73 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index. Notwithstanding Senegal’s positive reputation for corruption relative to regional peers, the government often did not enforce the law effectively, and some officials continued to engage in corrupt practices with impunity. Reports of corruption ranged from rent-seeking by bureaucrats involved in public approvals to opaque public procurement to corruption in the police and judiciary. Allegations of corruption against President Sall and his brother related to the development of oil and gas emerged in the press in 2019. While a subsequent investigation did not uncover wrong-doing, suspicions of high-level government corruption remain among many in civil society and the political opposition.
Senegal’s financial intelligence unit, Cellule Nationale de Traitement des InformationsFinancières (National Financial Information Processing Unit, CENTIF), is responsible for investigating money laundering and terrorist financing. CENTIF has broad authority to investigate suspicious financial transactions, including those of government officials. In February 2019, the regional FATF body – the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering (GIABA) – issued a Mutual Evaluation Report of Senegal’s anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing (AML/CTF) performance, measured by FATF standards. Although GIABA found the GOS’s understanding of AML/CTF standards and risks adequate, it gave Senegal non-compliant or partially compliant ratings on 26 of FATF’s 40 AML/CTF legal standards. Senegal also received ten low ratings and one moderate rating on the FATF’s 11 indicators measuring efforts to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, and weapons of mass destruction proliferation financing. Key weaknesses included: lack of domestic legislation implementing BCEAO AML/CTF directives; inadequate monitoring of nonprofits and non-financial professions, such as lawyers and accountants, who engage in financial transactions; inadequate inspections and sanctions of financial institutions; weak interagency cooperation; and poor AML/CTF capacity among police, judiciary, and customs. As a result, and in the absence of improvements, in February 2021, FATF added Senegal to its “gray list.” The GOS has committed to an action plan to address its deficiencies.
It is important for U.S. companies to assess corruption risks and develop an effective compliance program to prevent corruption, including bribery. U.S. firms operating in Senegal can underscore to partners that they are subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and may seek legal counsel to ensure full compliance with anti-corruption laws. The U.S. Government seeks to level the global playing field for U.S. businesses by encouraging other countries to take steps to criminalize all corruption, including bribery of officials, and requiring governments to uphold their obligations under relevant international conventions. A U.S. firm that believes a competitor is using bribery to secure a contract may convey this to U.S. officials.
Senegal is a signatory of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption but is not a signatory of the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery.
Contact at the government agencies responsible for combating corruption:
Mrs. Seynabou Ndiaye Diakhaté
Office National de Lutte Contre La Fraude et la Corruption (OFNAC)
Lot 72-73, Cité Keur Gorgui à Mermoz-Pyrotechnie
Telephone: 800 000 900 / +221 33 889 98 38 www.ofnac.sn
Senegal has long been regarded as an anchor of stability in politically unstable West Africa. It is the only regional country that has never had a coup d’état. International observers assessed the February 2019 presidential election, in which President Sall won a second term, as free and fair, despite a few instances of campaign violence. Public protests occasionally spawn isolated incidents of violence when unions, opposition parties, merchants, or students demand better salaries, working conditions, or other benefits.
The March 2021 arrest of opposition figure Ousmane Sonko on alleged rape charges led to several days of intense protests that spiraled into widespread riots and looting. The unrest, Senegal’s worst in decades, was fueled by pandemic-related hardship, particularly among the youth. According to press reports, 14 people died, hundreds were injured, and private businesses across the country were damaged. While a few local businesses were damaged, firms associated with France – historically targeted by some groups as relics of the colonial past — bore the brunt of the looting and property damage. Despite this bout of unrest, foreign investors largely remained confident in Senegal’s stability and economic rebound. Most observers agreed that strong private sector investment, facilitated by improvements to the business climate and better mobilization of capital, is needed to address youth employment.
Years of declining violence in the Casamance region, home of a four-decade-old separatist conflict, ignited into a full military conflict between Senegal’s army and elements of the Movement of Democratic Forces in Casamance (MFDC) in March 2022. The Senegalese government indicated that the military operation would continue until MFDC resistance is eradicated, putting an end to the armed separatist movement.
Security is a top priority for the government, which increased its defense and security budget by 92 percent between 2012 and 2017. The Armed Forces Ministry noted a 32 percent budget increase for the fiscal year 2021.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Senegal’s Labor Code, based on the French system, was last updated in 1997. The code retains a rigid approach that, according to some observers, favors social over economic goals. Rules relating to employment contracts, layoffs, and redundancy protections are some of the most stringent in the world, imposing high costs on businesses. However, labor law is not well-enforced, especially in the dominant informal sector.
Acquiring work permits for expatriate staff is typically straightforward. Citizens from WAEMU member countries may work freely in Senegal.
Senegal has an abundant supply of unskilled and semi-skilled labor, with a more limited supply of skilled workers in engineering and technical fields. While Senegal has one of the best higher educational systems in West Africa and produces a substantial pool of educated workers, limited job opportunities in Senegal lead many to emigrate.
Relations between employees and employers are governed by the Labor Code, industry-wide collective bargaining agreements, company regulations, and individual employment contracts. The Code provides legal protection for women and children and prohibits forced or compulsory labor. It also establishes minimum standards for working age, working hours, and working conditions, and bars children from performing many dangerous jobs. Senegal ratified International Labor Organization Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labor in 2000. The Code recognizes the right of workers to form and join trade unions. Any group of workers in a similar trade or profession may create a union, although formal approval by the Ministry of the Interior is required. The right to strike is recognized but sometimes restricted. The GOS has the authority to dissolve trade unions and requisition workers from private enterprises.
Two powerful industry associations represent management’s interests: the National Council of Employers and the National Employers’ Association. The principal labor unions are the National Confederation of Senegalese Workers and the National Association of Senegalese Union Workers, a federation of independent labor unions. Collective bargaining agreements cover an estimated 44 percent of formal sector workers. Most workers, however, work in the informal sector, where labor rules are not enforced.
Child labor remains a problem, particularly in the informal sector, mining, construction, transportation, domestic work, agriculture, and fishing, where labor regulations are rarely enforced. Despite some progress, Senegal still struggles with forced child begging. Tens of thousands of religious students (talibés) are enrolled in Koranic schools (daaras) where some are forced to beg to enrich teachers, a corruption of the intended lesson in humility. The GOS has made some progress in combatting these practices, but more progress is needed.
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
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)