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.
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.
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 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.
There is no Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between CDI and the United States. Côte d’Ivoire has signed Bilateral Investment Treaties with the following countries and multilateral organizations: Belgium, Canada, China, the European Union (EU), Germany, Ghana, Italy, Luxembourg, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, 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 also joined the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), allowing the country to trade within the continent with no tax on certain products. The trade activities started in January 2021.
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 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. In 2021/22 some U.S. and European companies complained about that Ivoirian tax authorities used aggressive methods and exorbitant assessments of taxes due. The government’s collection of revenues as a percentage of GDP is significantly below that of other countries at comparable levels of development, and the government recognizes the need to boost domestic resource mobilization. It has focused this effort in the near term on large, successful companies, eliciting a negative reaction. For the medium-term, the government recognizes the need to broaden the tax base and strengthen tax administration while continuing to create more space for the private sector.
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.
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 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.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
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:
Competition and Antitrust 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
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.
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 a firm does not meet the nationality conditions stipulated by Article 25 of the Convention, the dispute must be resolved within the provisions of the supplementary mechanisms approved by the ICSID.
In September 2021, CDI and China signed an agreement to settle commercial disputes between companies operating in the country and Chinese companies.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Côte d’Ivoire is a signatory to investment agreements prescribing 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 have often been resolved through arbitration or amicable settlement. There have been no reported disputes involving U.S. firms in the past 10 years. As CDI 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. However, one U.S. company has complained about unfair practices/competition by the telecommunication regulating agency pertaining to access to airtime and network access.
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 Court of Justice and Arbitration (CCJA) provides a means of solving contractual disputes. The arbitration tribunal can enforce awards quickly, but most business contracts are written to specify that disputes will be settled in Ivoirian courts, thus the Ivoirian court system is the first resort.
Côte d’Ivoire is a member of Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA – Organisation pour l’harmonisation en Afrique du droit des Affaires) whose provisions adopted in 1999 have replaced domestic law on arbitration. The unified law is based on the model law of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
Judgments of foreign courts are recognized but difficult to enforce in local courts. To avoid being forced to work 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.
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.
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.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
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.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
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.
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.
Intellectual Property Rights
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.
Money and Banking System
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.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Côte d’Ivoire is a member of WAEMU, which uses the West African CFA Franc (XOF). The French Treasury holds the foreign exchange reserves of WAEMU member states and supports the fixed exchange rate of 655 CFA to the Euro. In December 2019, the Ivoirian President, concurrently serving as chairman of WAEMU, announced in the presence of the French President the intent to transition from the CFA to a new 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 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.
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 $324 million in 2020 or 0.58 percent of GDP.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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.
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.
There are currently four active DFC projects in Côte d’Ivoire targeting the energy, health, and manufacturing sectors. 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).