Cote d’Ivoire hosted its latest Forum dedicated to investment from the 19 January to the 1st of February 2014 called “ICI2014”. This major event attracted so many potential investors (officially around 2121 including 971 foreign investors) with billions financing promises. Most of the foreign investors came from France. Chinese investors were not that mobilized around that event probably because of the Chinese new year.
The challenge for cote d’ivoire’s government after this major “show”, is to assess the impact (positive or not) of such an event on everyday’s life. How does this forum affect the lives of nationals? Does this forum efficiently contribute to economic growth to make cote d’ivoire an emerging country by 2020?
This short analysis is meant to bring critical approaches to those questions and many others. By critical I mean positive and constructive inputs to help understand the major challenges arising from a post conflict situation for a country like cote d’ivoire. Of course this insight may apply to any other country coming out of difficult crises including conflict.
I must emphasize the fact that the points revealed below reflect the weaknesses of the national policy regarding investment. It’s not just a matter of criticizing the forum that took place, it’s more than that.
An inaccurate aim
What was the aim of that forum? Officially it was to promote cote d’ivoire’s potentials as a major destination for investment. To achieve such an aim, the government invited foreign investors with a lack of accuracy and vision.
The government wanted to act like emerging countries or cities (India, china, Dubai etc.) by organizing fairs or forums dedicated to selling their potentials. Does cote d’ivoire meet the prerequisites needed to act like a future emerging country?
How can a forum meant to promote investment be held without selling efficiently the potentials of its economy? Is there a clear investment strategy in Cote d’Ivoire meant to guide potential investors?
What type of investment is expected, public or private? Indeed the lack of clarity regarding investment matters in their cross-cutting aspect weakened the whole project.
This lack of vision surrounding the event made it look like a show. The arrival of the Airbus A 380 illustrated the idea of a “show or parade”. Just another advertising opportunity for Airbus.
The effectiveness of this forum will depend on a clear-cut national investment policy with cut-crossing aims relying upon the pillars of reconstruction and stabilization in a post conflict context including, governance, security and justice. Do we meet the criteria for emergence according to those pillars?
The targets issue
Another problem that I noticed during this event is the targets. What were the targets of the forum? Big companies, small ones or both? Was it aimed at European investment more than other continents?
Indeed big companies (Bouygues, Bolloré etc.) were represented due to their sizes, investment history and as major actors who already signed contracts with the government.
On the other hand, small and medium businesses which represent the real investors in a post conflict context did not participate efficiently as potential partners and investors. Those small or medium companies where mostly expected but the expectations were not satisfied.
Besides, African businesses were under represented. Nigeria and South Africa have powerful medium companies rich enough to give jobs to Ivoirians and benefit to the national economy. Those companies were absent despite the massive presence of Burkina Faso owned companies, unfortunately not as competitive as the Nigerian or south African ones. France had 252 participants participating to the event compared to 130 for Burkina Faso.
The missing pre-conditions for investment
The government forgot that the financial investment intentions will only become reality if there is a favourable business environment.
It is only through a set of prerequisite steps that will lay the ground for future private investment and whose implementation will provide a sound basis for economic growth and employment.
In fact, the forum did not address clearly some of the major issues expected by the participants.
Unfortunately, cote d’ivoire’s business environment is not conducive to entrepreneurship and business development. According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for african Governance, Côte d’Ivoire is forty fourth out of fifty two countries. In Ecowas, the Ivoirian administration ranks fifteenth out of sixteen countries. As for Transparency International, regarding corruption, Cote d’ivoire occupies the one hundred and thirty sixth place out of one hundred and seventy seven countries involved.
Governance as an indicator for eligibility to emergence was not covered efficiently during the forum. The participants were not enlightened on the progress made since 2011 in the field of good governance and the fight against corruption. Furthermore, serious cases of corruption and violation of procurement procedure rules, have been identified for the past three years. Would any small or medium business run the risk to invest in such an environment?
The fight against insecurity was not covered neither. Despite the drop of the security index lately, times still remain insecure due to political defiance and to criminality.
The government should have emphasized the progress made for the past three years in terms of improving security in the country in order to facilitate investment. Among those improvements one can find the Security Sector Reform (SSR) national policy being implemented.
As far as investment goes, one must bear in mind that there are pre-conditions to any project to be implemented in a country coming out of a crisis. Governance and security are the major pre-conditions. A sound judicial system is another key indicator. So as to conclude, i would definately invite cote d’ivoire’s government to reconsider its national investment Policy based on real indicators, inclusive approach, potentials and opportunities.