The Ivoirian government is making three key adjustments to state-run segments of the economy. These changes foreshadow two gradual but important shifts: a stronger call for public-private partnerships and privatisations, offering foreign investors new opportunities; and a newfound willingness to develop investment partnerships with Anglophone West Africa.
First, state-owned petroleum company Petroci sold off its distribution network to Puma Energy, which is owned jointly by Trafigura and Sonangol. Petroci was haemorrhaging money from low global oil prices and this was an attempt to stop the bleeding.
The sale was controversial, as Puma – and Trafigura – was implicated in Côte d’Ivoire’s worst ever environmental disaster, a toxic waste dumping incident in 2006 that left 17 dead.
Second, to meet the government’s ambitious 2020 deadline to become an ‘emerging country,’ Côte d’Ivoire is investing heavily in infrastructure development aimed at boosting growth in high-revenue sectors (specifically agriculture and manufacturing).
In late February, the government announced projects from the National Development Plan (valued at roughly 45 billion Euros, with much funded by private investors). 94 projects will be public-private partnerships.
Port investment in particular could offer greater marginal profits by lowering the costs of agricultural transportation, and internal roadway improvements could help Abidjan become a regional hub for overland trade from its landlocked neighbours.
We expect further calls for partnerships with foreign investors, but projects are likely to experience considerable delays and cost overruns.
Third, Air Côte d’Ivoire recently announced an expansion of its fleet from seven aircraft to nine, with a pivot towards Nigeria. In mid-February, the airline launched three weekly flights to Abuja, adding to the five to Lagos.
Moreover, the airline’s baggage handling contract was awarded to Nigeria’s SAHCOL, evidence of a long-term but gradual shift towards engagement with non-Francophone partners in the region.
We expect this trend to continue and ECOWAS trade links to grow further, providing further regional opportunities for businesses.