Côte d’Ivoire offers a fertile environment for U.S. investment, and the Ivoirian government is keen to deepen its commercial cooperation with the United States. The Ivoirian and foreign business community in Côte d’Ivoire considers the 2018 investment code generous with incentives and few restrictions on foreign investors. Côte d’Ivoire continues structural reforms to improve the business climate, including by executing major projects under the 2016-2020 National Development Plan (NDP) and the 2019-2020 social program (PSGouv). But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will affect current and future investments, causing delays and postponements, cost increases, and logistics issues.
U.S. businesses operate successfully in the following Ivoirian sectors: oil and gas exploration and production; agriculture and value-added agribusiness processing; power generation and renewable energy; IT services; digital economy; banking; insurance; and infrastructure. In 2019, Côte d’Ivoire improved in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking of 190 countries, moving from 122 to 110. Improvements in the business environment included the implementation of a single taxpayer identification number system for business creation, introduction of an online case management system to process cash refunds of Value Added Tax, and making contract enforcement easier by publishing reports on commercial court performance and progress of cases.
Economically, Côte d’Ivoire is among Africa’s fastest growing economies and is the largest economy in francophone Africa. Also home to the headquarters of the African Development Bank, Côte d’Ivoire attracts regional migrant labor and a significant expatriate professional community. The IMF initially projected GDP growth to continue at 7.3 percent in 2020, led by growth in the industrial and service sectors. With the negative effects of COVID-19 on the country’s economic output, however, the IMF revised its projection to 2.7 percent, though still positive.
Despite improvements, doing business with the government remains a significant challenge. The government has awarded a number of sole source contracts without competition and at times disregarded objective evaluations on competitive tenders. An overly complicated tax system and a slow, opaque government decision-making process hinder investment. Other challenges include 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.
Following a credible and peaceful election in 2015 in which President Ouattara was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term, the country adopted a new constitution in 2016 and established an upper legislative house (Senate) in April 2018. Fraud and violence in certain locations marred legislative and municipal elections in 2018. The lack of consensus in the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission, controversial reforms to the electoral code and amendments to the constitution, and the judicial exclusion of major opposition candidates from the 2020 presidential race, have aggravated the country’s internal political divisions. On the other hand, President Ouattara’s announcement that he will not seek a third term – which, he argued, he could have done because of the new constitution – could contribute to institutionalizing democracy.
Côte d’Ivoire suffered a terrorist attack in March 2016 in the popular tourist town of Grand Bassam. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for this attack and continues to pose a major terrorism threat on the northern borders. Côte d’Ivoire has since improved its domestic and international coordination efforts to combat the increasing the terrorist/violent extremist threat from the Sahel, and contributes to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Ivoirian women are not legally prohibited from starting businesses, acquiring credit, or buying property. They nonetheless have historically faced discrimination, including lack of access to credit, that has hindered women’s business ownership.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The government actively encourages Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and is committed to doubling it over the next several years. Foreign companies are free to invest and list on the regional stock exchange Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres (BRVM), 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, a regional securities regulatory body.
In most sectors, there are no laws that limit foreign investment. There are restrictions on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies. There are regulations designed to control land speculation in urban areas, but they do not prevent foreigners from owning land. Freehold land tenure in rural areas is difficult to negotiate, however, and can inhibit foreign investment. Land tenure disputes exist all over the country owing to the lack of formal private land ownership in most areas. Companies that wish to purchase land must have the property surveyed before obtaining title. Surveying is tightly controlled by a small oligopoly of companies and can often cost more than the value of the parcel of land. Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, circumvent the complicated land purchase process by acquiring long-term leases instead.
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, 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/.
Côte d’Ivoire maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors through various business networks and platforms, such as CEPICI, the Ivoirian Chamber of Commerce (CCI-CI), the association of large enterprises (CGECI), and the bankers’ association.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
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 state-owned and public firms that the government is privatizing, although in most cases 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.
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 does not have an official policy to screen investments and 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 Côte d’Ivoire.
To improve the business environment, and as part of its successful efforts to secure a Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the government completed a series of reforms using the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index as a reference. These included: accelerating the business creation process to 24 hours and issuing construction permits within 26 days, establishing a one-stop shop for external trade, and establishing a single tax-declaration form. In 2019, Côte d’Ivoire improved its Doing Business ranking from 122nd to 110th place.
Côte d’Ivoire’s online information portal containing all documents dedicated to business creation and registration (https://cotedivoire.eregulations.org/) is managed by CEPICI. All the necessary documentation for registration is available online. The one-stop shop for business registration takes 24 hours and has all the agencies under a single roof, giving a simplified approach to business creation. Foreign investors have noted the one-stop shop has been very successful in speeding up registration.
Women have equal access to the registration process, and there have not been any reports of discrimination in that regard.
Côte d’Ivoire does not promote or incentivize outward investment.
The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
There is no Bilateral Investment Treaty between Côte d’Ivoire and the United States. Côte d’Ivoire has signed Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) with the following countries and multilateral organizations: Belgium, Canada, China, the EU, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. The Ivoirian government ratified the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU in September 2016, allowing it to access the European market with no tax. The EPA went into effect in December 2019.
Côte d’Ivoire does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the United States, though it has tax treaties with Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland. For leasing, the depreciation period of the item for accounting purposes is now aligned with the period of the contract and not the lifespan of the item. The government has made a special tax incentive available to foreign investors to be able to import equipment needed for a project.
Ivoirian businesses and foreign investors have expressed some concerns about the level of taxation, but there are currently no U.S. firms involved in systemic tax disputes.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The government has taken steps to encourage a more transparent and competitive economic environment. 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. Transparency of the Ivoirian regulatory system, however, is a concern as both foreign and Ivoirian companies complain that new regulations are issued with little warning and without a period for public comment.
There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
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 prices are arbitrarily set without reference to world prices.
Côte d’Ivoire’s accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are consistent with international norms, though both foreign and Ivoirian 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 WAEMU accounting system. In accounting, companies use the WAEMU system, which complies with international norms and is a source of economic and financial data.
Draft legislation and regulations are not published or made available for public comment. The government, however, often holds public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations.
Regulatory actions are published in the Journal Officiel de la Republique de Côte d’Ivoire (Official Journal of the Republic of 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 Autorité Nationale de Régulation des Marchés Publics (National Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement; ANRMP), 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.
The U.S. government does not have any knowledge of recent regulatory system reforms, including enforcement reforms, that have been announced since the last ICS report. The government has fully implemented regulatory reforms announced in prior years, with the goal to create an enabling business environment, foster competition, and build investor confidence in the economy.
Public and private institutions tasked with controlling and regulating various sectors make regulatory enforcement mechanisms available to the public.
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.
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. Recent changes include separating auditing and regulating functions, transitioning from a national to a regional system of procurement for intellectual services, and increasing advance payment for the initial procurement of goods and services from 25 to 30 percent. The ANRMP regulates public procurement with a view to improving governance and transparency. It has the authority to sanction entities that do not comply with public procurement regulations.
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, one of Côte d’Ivoire’s largest markets.
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. Côte d’Ivoire signed the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in December 2013 and ratified it in December 2015. The government has made efforts to implement the TFA requirements. The government established the National TFA Committee (NTFC) to coordinate TFA implementation. The USAID trade facilitation program has strengthened the capacity of the NTFC.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
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 make ownership and transfer very difficult. The court system enforces contracts.
Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to OHADA, which provides common corporate law and arbitration procedures for the 16 member states. 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. Following the recommendations of business associations and commercial law experts, in August 2017, the government established the Court of Appeals of the Commercial Court of Abidjan. The IMF recommended the creation of other commercial juridical bodies in the interior of the country, though these have not yet been established and 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 are often seen to rule against foreign investors in favor of entrenched interests. The greatest complaint from investors is the slow dispute resolution process. Cases are often postponed and 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.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The 2018 Investment Code is the primary law governing investment conduct. The code does not restrict foreign investment or the repatriation of funds. The code offers a mix of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration and tax credits to encourage investment. The government also offers incentives to promote small businesses and entrepreneurship, low-cost housing construction, factories, and infrastructure development, which the government considers key to the country’s economic development. Some sectors have additional laws which govern investment activity in those sectors. In mining, for example, the Mining Code allows a period for holding permits for ten years with a possibility to extend for two more years on a limited permit area of 400 square kilometers.
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:
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
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.
Expropriation and Compensation
Private expropriation to force settlement of contractual or investment disputes 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.
There is no history of public expropriations.
In cases of illegal expropriations, Ivoirian law affords claimants due process. Even so, 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 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 New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
In cases where the firm does not meet the 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.
Côte d’Ivoire does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States.
In the past 10 years, foreign investors have had investment disputes, which often have been resolved through arbitration or amicable settlement. There have been no reported disputes involving U.S. firms in the past 10 years. As Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, local courts are obliged to enforce foreign arbitral awards.
The U.S. government 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.
Côte d’Ivoire is a member of OHADA, whose provisions adopted in 1999 have replaced domestic law on arbitration. The unified law is based on the UNICITRAL model law.
Judgments of foreign courts are recognized but 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. Yet, even if stipulated in the contract, decisions reached through OHADA are sometimes not honored by local courts.
The U.S. government is not aware of cases in which Côte d’Ivoire’s domestic courts have shown preferential treatment for state-owned enterprises involved in investment disputes.
As a member of 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. Court-ordered monetary settlements resulting from declarations of bankruptcy are usually paid out in local currency. Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 85 out of 190 countries for ease of resolving insolvency, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report.
The joint venture Credit Info – Volo West Africa manages regional credit bureaus in the WAEMU.
4. Industrial Policies
The 2018 Investment Code offers a mix of fiscal incentives, combining tax exoneration and tax credits focusing on agriculture, agro-business, tourism, health, and education. These 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 economic development. The Investment Code, the Petroleum Code, and the Mining Code delineate incentives available to new investors in Côte d’Ivoire.
The government occasionally guarantees loans or jointly finances foreign direct investment projects. This is not a common practice.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
Created in 2008, the Ivoirian free trade zone (FTZ) for information technology and biotechnology (VITIB) is located in the town of Grand Bassam. In 2014, VITIB established the Mahatma Gandhi Technology Park at Grand Bassam. Bonded warehouses do 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.
An FTZ also exists at the Port of Abidjan specifically for fish processing. In force since December 2005, this FTZ is reserved for companies which 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.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The government strongly encourages investors and firms to hire Ivoirian employees, but this is not a requirement.
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, work, and residency permits 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 conditions on permission to invest, including tariff and non-tariff barriers.
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 is able to do. The government also makes use of a number of tax exemptions and customs exonerations to incentivize companies to do more value-added processing in Côte d’Ivoire.
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 Côte d’Ivoire imposes on foreign information technology firms to give the government source code or provide access to encryption.
There are no requirements that prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business related data. Data transmission or transfer is subject to prior authorization of the telecom regulatory board Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Côte d’Ivoire; ART-CI).
Côte d’Ivoire’s law on data protection requests prior declaration or authorization by ART-CI for any data processing. 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. Mortgages and liens exist. 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 registering property.
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 government has committed to titling all private land by 2026. The government has made efforts to raise awareness on land titling throughout the country and to streamline procedures for obtaining land titles. In 2018, the World Bank approved a program to build institutional capacity needed to support the implementation of the national rural land tenure security program, and register customary land rights in selected rural areas. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development requires that all land to be titled be professionally surveyed. The surveying, which must be performed by one of the few companies authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to execute land surveys in Côte d’Ivoire, can cost more than the value of the land. The status of the land from which thousands of Ivoirians fled during the 2011 post-election conflict has not been resolved. Much of that land is now occupied by persons who do not hold title, many of whom are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from neighboring countries to the north of Côte d’Ivoire. A lack of title and a conflict between modern land tenure law and traditional practice hinders resolution of land tenure disputes.
It is not necessary to occupy legally purchased property in order to retain title.
Intellectual Property Rights
The Ivoirian Civil Code includes measures to protect intellectual property rights (IPR), but the government has limited resources for their enforcement. The government’s Office of Industrial Property 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 50 years. The Ivoirian Copyright Office has a labeling system in place to prevent counterfeiting and to protect audio, video, literary, and artistic property rights in music and computer programs. 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 customs checks at its porous borders, limiting the law’s impact.
The government has not adopted any IPR-related laws or regulations in the past year.
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. The intellectual property office’s police unit has sometimes conducted raids on retail outlets and street vendors to confiscate pirated CDs and DVDs and instituted legal proceedings against counterfeiters. 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 (USD 166 to 8,333 based on an average exchange rate of 600 CFA to one U.S. 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 located 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) and the Regional Council for Savings Investments (CREPMF). There is sufficient liquidity in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions.
Government policies allow the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets.
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. Foreign investors can acquire credit on the local market.
Money and Banking System
As of May 2020, there were 27 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 694 branches in 2018 (latest data available). 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. Some public banks have large numbers of nonperforming loans. The government is restructuring and privatizing the commercial banking sector in order to remove low performers from government accounts.
The estimated total assets of the five largest banks are around USD 10 billion and account for 49 percent of bank assets.
The BCEAO is common to the eight member states of the WAEMU and manages banking regulations.
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. Côte d’Ivoire did not lose any correspondent banking relationships in the past three years. No known correspondent banking relationships are in jeopardy.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
There are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or on investments financed with convertible foreign currency. Once an investment is established and documented, the government regularly approves the remittances of dividends and/or repatriation of capital. The same holds true for requests for other sorts of transactions (e.g. imports, licenses, and royalty fees).
Funds associated with investments funded with convertible currency are freely convertible into any world currency.
Côte d’Ivoire is a member of the WAEMU, which uses the West African Franc (XOF), also called the CFA. The French Treasury holds the international reserves of WAEMU member states and supports the fixed exchange rate of 655.956 CFA to the Euro. In December 2019, the Ivoirian President as chairman of WAEMU announced the forthcoming transition from the CFA to another common regional currency to be called the Eco; details about the timeline or modalities of the change have not yet been published.
There are no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies.
There are no time limitations on remittances. Total personal remittances received by Ivoirians were about USD 335 million in 2019 or 0.7 percent of GDP.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Côte d’Ivoire does not have a sovereign wealth fund.
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 Fonciere AGEF (35 percent). Total assets of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were USD 796 million and total net income of SOEs was USD 116 million in 2018 (latest figures). Of the 82 SOEs, 28 are wholly government owned, 12 are majority owned, seven are with a blocking minority, and 35 are minority shares. Each SOE has an independent board. The government has begun the process of divestiture for some SOEs (see next section). The Ivoirian government is an active participant 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).
The government began a program in 2013 – not yet completed – to privatize a quarter of public enterprises, including: approximately 15 public or semi-public enterprises, banks, and USD 232 million of investments the government holds in Industrial Promotion Services (IPS)-Aga Khan Foundation projects. The government has completed privatization of the Societe Ivoirienne de Banque (now Attijariwafa-bank), the sugar company Sucrivoire, and the cotton firm Compagnie Ivoirienne de pour le Developpement du Textile (Ivoirian Company for Textile Development). At the urging of the IMF, the government is privatizing Versus Bank, NSIA Bank, and the housing finance bank BHCI.
Contracts for participation in this program are competed through a French-language public tendering process, for which foreign investors are encouraged to submit bids. No website on privatizations exists.
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) with regard to environmental, social, and governance issues in Côte d’Ivoire.
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. 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, often at the request of the government. Some companies complain that these requests can be quite numerous. 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 have not been high profile instances of a private sector impact on human rights or the resolution of such cases in the past year.
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 consumer NGOs report misconduct and violations of good governance practices.
While international firms are aware of OECD guidelines and international best practices in RBC, most local firms have limited familiarity with international standards.
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/.
Corruption is a concern for businesses. In 2013, the Ivoirian government issued Executive Order number 2013-660 related to the prevention and the fight against corruption. The High Authority for Good Governance covers corruption issues and requires that all public officials submit asset declarations at the beginning and end of their tenures in office. 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 former Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, now an opposition presidential candidate, was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 20 years in prison on April 28, 2020. The domestic business community generally assesses that these watchdog agencies lack the power and/or will to actively combat corruption.
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.
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).
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.
There are no special protections for NGOs involved in investigating corruption.
Corruption in many forms is deeply ingrained in public and private sector practices and remains a serious impediment to investment and economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire. Many companies cite corruption as the most significant obstacle to investment in Côte d’Ivoire. It has the greatest impact on judicial proceedings, contract awards, customs, and tax issues. Lack of transparency and failure to follow the government’s own tender 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,” and the Embassy has heard anecdotal accounts of customs agents rescinding valuations that were declared by other customs colleagues in an effort to extract bribes from customers. The demand for bribes can mean that containers stay at the Port of Abidjan for months, incurring substantial demurrage charges, despite having the paperwork in order.
No local industry or non-profit groups offer services for vetting potential local investment partners.
Resources to Report Corruption
These contacts at agencies are responsible for combating corruption:
Inspector General of Finance (Brigade de Lutte Contre la Corruption) Lassina Sylla
TELEPHONE: +225 20212000/2252 9797
FAX: +225 20211082/2252 9798
HOTLINE: +225 8000 0380 http://www.igf.finances.gouv.ci/
High Authority for Good Governance (Haute Autorite pour la Bonne Gouvernance)
TELEPHONE: +225 22479 5000
FAX: +225 2247 8261
Police Anti-Racketeering Unit (Unite de Lutte Contre le Racket –ULCR)
TELEPHONE: +225 2244 9256 email@example.com
10. Political and Security Environment
President Alassane Ouattara was elected to a second term in 2015. In 2016, the country adopted a new constitution, creating the position of Vice-President, and a Senate, which first convened in April 2018. During and/or after recent elections, such as in 2010 and 2018, demonstrations and protests by political parties were common and occasionally led to vandalism and clashes with security forces. Unions also engage in protests that sometimes become violent. The lack of consensus on the composition of the country’s independent electoral commission, the contentious reform of its electoral code, and the exclusion of key opposition figures from the presidential race have aggravated political divides within the country.
Côte d’Ivoire’s security situation has significantly improved since its 2010-2011 post-electoral violence. In early 2017, some Ivoirian soldiers mutinied, demanding payment of bonuses. The government responded by largely acceding to their demands and pledging to improve living and working conditions for armed and security forces, which it has steadily done over the ensuing years. Côte d’Ivoire suffered a terrorist attack in March 2016 in the popular tourist town of Grand Bassam. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack and continues to pose a major terrorism risk to the region. Côte d’Ivoire continues to improve its domestic security approach and international cooperation to combat the increasing terrorism/extremist threat emanating from the Sahel over the past years.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The official unemployment rate is 2.8 percent, with higher unemployment in urban areas. The unemployment rate among those aged 14-24 is 3.9 percent. Forty seven percent of the non-agricultural workforce 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. Foreign workers from neighboring countries constitute a significant part of the work force, especially in agriculture. Despite the government’s efforts, child labor remained a widespread problem in rural and urban areas, particularly 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 higher education fields 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.
Labor laws favor the employment of Ivoirians in private enterprises, and state that 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 in the next two years. The foreign employee must be given a labor contract.
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, but for the 85 percent of workers employed in the informal sector, this is not an option.
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 settlement 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 with 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 2019. 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.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs
There are currently no DFC projects in Côte d’Ivoire, but DFC continues to look for opportunities, particularly in energy and infrastructure.
In 2017, the Ivoirian government ratified its investment incentive agreement with OPIC (DFC’s predecessor).
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)