Transparency of the Regulatory System
The government has taken steps to encourage a more transparent and competitive economic environment, and the IMF, World Bank, EU, and other large donors continue to urge the government to make further reforms. 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.
Côte d’Ivoire’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
Rulemaking and regulatory authority exists in the telecom, electricity, cocoa, cotton, and cashew sectors. In these sectors the government has established a body which regulates the sector and establishes prices.
Côte d’Ivoire’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are consistent with international norms, though businesses often complain about the system’s lack of clarity and 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 West African Economic and Monetary Union’s accounting system. Introduced in 1998, the SYSCOA system allows enterprises to use a common accounting system. SYSCOA complies with international norms in force and is a source of economic and financial data.
Draft bills and regulations are not published and made available for public comment. However, the National Assembly debates most legislation, and the government often holds public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations.
Key regulatory actions are published in the Journal Officiel de la Republique de Côte d’Ivoire. But, each regulatory body provides regulatory actions (laws, decisions, and sanctions) on its website.
Consumers and trade associations, private companies, and individuals have the right to file complaints to ensure that the government follows administrative processes.
There is no centralized online location where regulatory actions or their summaries are published similar to the United States Federal Register. Post does not have knowledge of any recent regulatory system, including enforcement reforms, that has been announced since the last ICS report. Regulatory reforms announced in prior years have been fully implemented.
For any industry or sector, regulations are developed through the relevant ministry. The regulatory enforcement mechanisms are made accountable to the public through the private and public institutions tasked with controlling and regulating these sectors.
Regulation is reviewed on data-driven assessments since regulatory bodies regularly publish and promote access of the business community and development partners to their data. Quantitative analysis and public comments are made available.
International Regulatory Considerations
On August 6, 2009, the government adopted a community framework for public procurement by incorporating West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) directives 4 and 5 into bidding processes and auditing, as well as into the regulation of public procurement within the union. This new public procurement code aimed to harmonize public procurement policy and comply with WAEMU integration objectives. Changes include the separation of auditing and regulating functions, the transformation from a national to a regional system of procurement for intellectual services, and an increase from 25 to 30 percent of advance payment for the startup of procurement of goods and services. The National Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement regulates public procurement with a view to improve governance and transparency. It may sanction entities which do not comply with public procurement regulations.
Côte d’Ivoire’s laws, codes, professional association standards, and regional directives are incorporated in the country’s regulatory system. Côte d’Ivoire has been a WTO member since 1995 but has not notified all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Côte d’Ivoire’s legal system is based on a French civil law model. The law guarantees the right to own and transfer private property. The court system enforces contracts.
Côte d’Ivoire is signatory to the Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa (OHADA) that provides common corporate law and arbitration procedures for the 16 member states.
In 2012, the Council of Ministers established the Commercial Court specifically to handle business cases. In 2013, the government endorsed a draft law to consolidate the autonomy and extend the attributions of the Commercial Court to create the Commercial Chamber of the Court of Appeals. In 2014, the government endorsed a draft law on judiciary and conventional mediation, which established mediation throughout the Ivoirian legal framework in addition to the Commercial Court and the Arbitration Tribunal. The IMF has encouraged the government to extend the Commercial Court to the rest of the country, but this expansion has not yet occurred.
Côte d’Ivoire’s judicial system is ostensibly independent, but magistrates are sometimes subject to political or financial influence. Judges sometimes fail to base their decisions on the legal or contractual merits of the case and sometimes are seen to rule against foreign investors in favor of entrenched interests. The most common complaint from investors is the slow process. Cases are often postponed and appealed without a reasonable explanation, moving from court to court for years or even decades. The government, with international assistance, is making an effort to reform the judiciary system to make it more efficient and transparent.
Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and adjudicated in the national court system.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The major law affecting foreign investment is the 2012 Investment Code. This code offers incentives, including tax reductions and in some cases exemptions from value added taxes (VAT), on equipment for private investors. This code also includes planned industrial zones, which offer benefits to investors such as special tax treatment for periods ranging from 8 to 15 years, depending on the location of the investment. There are also incentives to promote sectors (low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development) that are critical to the country’s economic development.
The 2014 Mining Code allows a period for holding permits of ten years, with a possibility of extension for two more years; the reduction of the permit area from 1,000 to 400 square kilometers; and a new tax and fee structure. Politicians and government employees with strategic knowledge of the mining sector are prohibited from holding shares in the mining industry for five years after leaving office.
CEPICI provides a one stop website for investment. More information on Côte d’Ivoire’s laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements can be found at:
The site provides information on investment opportunities with a focus on the business environment and reforms to facilitate business creation and registration.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Ministry of Commerce, Handicraft 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. The National Authority for the Regulation of Public Tenders is responsible for reviewing the awards of contracts.
No significant competition cases were reported over the past year.
Expropriation and Compensation
Historically, expropriation has not been an issue in Côte d’Ivoire, and the Embassy is not aware of any cases of government expropriation of private property. Côte d’Ivoire’s public expropriation law includes compensation provisions.
There is no history of public expropriations. Private expropriation to force settlement of contractual or investment disputes, however, continues to be a problem. Local individuals or local companies, using what appear to be spurious court decisions, have challenged the ownership of some foreign companies in recent years. On occasion, the government has blocked the bank accounts of U.S. and other foreign companies because of ownership and tax disputes.
In cases of illegal expropriations, Côte d’Ivoire law affords claimants due process. However, perceived corruption and lack of capacity in the judicial and security services have resulted in poor enforcement of private property rights, particularly when the entity in question is foreign and the plaintiff is either Ivoirian or a long-established foreign resident.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral awards.
In cases where the firm of a national does not meet nationality conditions stipulated by Article 25 of the Convention, the code stipulates that the dispute be resolved within the provisions of the supplementary mechanisms approved by the ICSID.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to investment agreements subject to binding international arbitration of investment disputes. Côte d’Ivoire recognizes and has been known to enforce foreign arbitral awards, but enforcement is inconsistent.
In the past 10 years, foreign investors have had investment disputes, which are often resolved through arbitration or an amicable settlement. For example, one U.S. firm was involved in tax and customs disputes over its investment in the cocoa sector. As a result, the U.S. firm chose to divest its holdings. Another ongoing U.S. dispute involves the alleged nonfulfillment of a government sanitation contract. Another U.S. company is in a dispute with its local partner on fulfilling the terms of its joint-development contract.
Côte d’Ivoire has signed the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which means that local courts must enforce foreign arbitral awards.
The Embassy is not aware of any history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors, including U.S. firms.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The Abidjan-based regional Joint Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) provides a means of solving contractual disputes. The arbitration tribunal has the ability to enforce awards more quickly, but the use of the tribunal in lieu of the court system has been limited.
Cote d’Ivoire is a member of OHADA, whose provisions of 1999 have replaced domestic law on arbitration. The unified law is based on the UNCITRAL model law.
Judgments of foreign courts are recognized, but are difficult to enforce in local courts. To avoid working through the Ivoirian legal system, some investors stipulate in contracts that disputes must be settled through international commercial arbitration. However, even if stipulated in the contract, decisions reached through international arbitration or through the African regional arbitration body are sometimes not honored by local courts.
Côte d’Ivoire’s domestic courts have no preferential treatment for state-owned enterprises (SOE’s) involved in investment disputes.
As a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law (OHADA), Côte d’Ivoire 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, similar to 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. Monetary judgments resulting from a bankruptcy are usually paid out in local currency. Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 68 out of 190 countries for ease of resolving insolvency, according to the World Bank Doing Business Report.