As Cote d’Ivoire has announced the official results from the presidential elections, with incumbent President Ouattara, re-elected at the first round with around 80% of the vote, it’s important to recognise how the country has transformed since he has been elected. As someone who has been in Cote d’Ivoire since 2010, after the post electoral crisis, the country’s transformation is undeniable. Here are just a few of these changes:
The economy has bounced back, quickly
From 2012 until 2015, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an average of 9% per year, the inflation rate is below 3%, the public debt on GDP ratio is around 35% in 2015, the budget deficit is around 2.3% of the GDP and the government has put in place several reforms, which have proven effective. The country is in the ‘Top Ten Reformers’ of the Doing Business ranking, the poverty rate decreased from 51% in 2011 to 46.3% in 2015, the minimum salary has been raised from FCFA 30, 000 to 66, 000 (50 euros to 90 euros), the public workers have seen their average salary increase by 20% and a national health insurance has been put in place.
The economy is diversifying
On the agricultural side, Cote d’Ivoire has been consolidating its seat as the world’s first producer of cocoa and cashew nuts and the price of cocoa has been raised to FCFA 1000 (1.5 euro). In terms of energy, the country is building the hydroelectric Soubre dam in addition to the Azito and Ciprel thermic plant, which have been put into service. The Abidjan airport welcomed more than 1.5 million travelers in 2014 which is the highest figure since 1999, and many hotels such as the Radisson or Kempinski are planning to open hotels in the upcoming months. Retail companies such as Carrefour, Fnac and other international brands are planning to open stores in the country.
Abidjan is a regional capital
The African Development Bank regained its headquarters in Abidjan in 2015 after being relocated in Tunisia because of the political crisis for almost 10 years. The ICCO also plans to move its headquarters in 2016 to the economic capital. Abidjan is also the host of many international and regional events and conferences, thanks to the many infrastructure projects that have been carried out in the country over the last few years. In fact, the third bridge of Abidjan has finally been built and was open for use on December 2014, in addition to the Abidjan-Yamoussoukro and Abidjan-Bassam freeways that have finally been completed; hundreds of schools or hospitals have also been refurbished or built.
The country’s security is relatively stable
The UN security index dropped from 3.8 in 2011 to 1.2 in 2014 and the Lycee Jean Mermoz, a French high school that was destroyed in 2004 during the anti-French demonstration, reopened last year. Looking at all these macroeconomic indicators, the country seems to be in a very good shape with a bright future and perspectives ahead, as for many investors and foreigners, Cote d’Ivoire looks like the place to be at the moment.
But this is just the beginning
However, despite this very bright picture, for citizens these changes have not necessarily changed their immediate realities. It is true that the population acknowledges the fact that the government is working hard to put the country back to action, especially after the post electoral crisis that struck the country. However, the general feeling is that these good macroeconomic indicators are too theoretical.
Despite the fact that the government announced that it has created 2 million jobs, unemployment remains quite high in Cote d’Ivoire (around 20%), especially among the youth who struggle to find a job. In addition, most people feel that the growth is only benefiting a certain category of the population who is getting richer while the rest are struggling to have two meals a day. The high cost of living remains an issue that the government is yet to tackle and locals as well as foreign investors are still complaining about corruption in the country. While the security index fell dramatically and the elections were relatively calm and stable, as the reconciliation process has not been completely achieved, the stability of the country in the long run, particularly for the 2020 elections remains a key issue for investors as the succession of President Ouattara will be at stake.
President Ouattara’s administration needs to push inclusive growth
In four years, it is safe to say that a lot has been done and that the country is on track to keep its seat as the regional power in West Africa, outside of Nigeria, that was challenged not too long ago by Ghana and Senegal. However, according to many observers, the government’s reforms could have been more inclusive of the people’s needs and as a result of this, President Ouattara’s new administration will face considerable challenges. Their first challenge is placing more attention on the peace and reconciliation process, which is instrumental to maintaining stability and economic growth. Another important challenge that the government will face is implementing policies, which push for inclusive growth, which can reach more Ivorians and increase the purchasing power of the general populace. Ouattara must also continue to fight corruption, establish an effective rule of law and high standards of good governance.
Youth unemployment will also be an important issue to address but with five years of experience as President, and experience as the former Deputy Managing Director of the IMF and former Governor of the West African central bank, President Ouattara has all the keys to take Cote d’Ivoire to the next level. Considering the potential and resources within Cote d’Ivoire, Ouattara also needs to appoint a strong administration to help him meet these goals.