Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan on the Ivory Coast economy | Video

World Finance interviews Ivory Coast Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan on the economic situation in the Ivory Coast today

December 13, 2013

From the wealthiest country in west Africa, to a civil war and a nine year political crisis: the Ivory Coast has seen its fair share of turbulence. But now the country is enjoying peace, political stability, and economic growth. Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan talks about the economic situation in the Ivory Coast today, the changes needed to encourage more private investment, and the country’s plans for its $22bn development fund.

World Finance: The Ivory Coast has had its ups and its downs, but what is the economic situation on the ground today?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: Well the economic situation is improving on the ground, and to confirm it, last year in 2012 we had increase in GDP by 9.8 percent. This year we expect nine percent, and next year we will have a double digit growth. It’s a rapid growth, and that’s necessary because the President wants to turn Côte d’Ivoire into an emerging market by 2020. So we have to have to a longstanding economic growth so that we will be in a position to improve the situation of the people in the country.

World Finance: How have you been affected by the global financial crisis?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: Africa as a whole was not too much affected by the financial crisis, because the links are not so important with the financial sector. In fact, they affect some developed countries to buy more from African countries, and that’s one of the reasons we are trying to diversify our trade with the different continents.

World Finance: What areas are strongest today, and how do you see the financial services sector developing?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: The main basis of the economy in Côte d’Ivoire is agriculture. We produce a variety of products. As you may know we are the world’s largest producer of cocoa, with $1.5mn each year. We are now diversifying the production – (? 2.00), palm oil, rubber, and so on – but we want to process more of it locally, and we are trying also to help foreign partners to develop mining, the oil and gas sector, and also to have some PPP to finance the infrastructure.

World Finance: The World Bank’s 2013 “Doing Business Index” ranked The Ivory Coast as the ninth hardest place in the world to do business. Do you think this is fair?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: We are among the ten best performers in reforms in the world. We have 189 countries that have been ranked, and Côte d’Ivoire is among the ten best performers. I think there is a merit to that, and that means it is really important for us to improve the environment of business in Côte d’Ivoire.

World Finance: What changes are needed to encourage more private investment into the country?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: We have a bilateral meeting with the private sector, chaired by the Prime Minister every three months. Maybe we can do it in a shorter time, so that we can be in contact with the needs of the private sector. We also have to improve the situation as far as the trade with other countries who have a special non-stop shop relating to (? 3.53) trade, so that we can also shorten the delays. To improve the situation, the port and airport are our major work, to more welcome the people who are coming from abroad to invest in Côte d’Ivoire.

World Finance: There’s obviously a lot of talk about the country’s new development plan, so what does this have in store?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: We have an amount of $22bn to invest, and we have 114 projects, 54 of them are public and 60 are private. The question is that we should have the financing for that. Out of this we have the agricultural sector, which is the basis of the economy, in which we have $4bn, and 60 percent of it is financed by the private sector. We are in the way to achieve all this and that is the reason why we would like to have more and more diversity of foreign investors.

World Finance: Moving on to the continent now, and obviousy The Ivory Coast is very well situated as a trade route with the rest of the continent. So what is your relationship with the rest of Africa?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: The trade within the countries in Africa compared to the total trade is 11 percent. Côte d’Ivoire’s trade with other African countries is 23 percent, so we are performing more, but that is not sufficient. Because if you take the trade between European countries, it is at 80 percent. We have to do more. We need more roads, highways, railways, airports and ports to make this connection with the other countries. We are on the way to do that. For instance, we are building a highway that will link Côte d’Ivoire to Ghana, to Togo, to Benin, and to Nigeria. It will be a highway of about 1000km. We are doing the same thing in the north so that we can enable an increase in trade between African countries, but it’s not just infrastructure, we also have to have a change in energy because that’s one of the keys to development.

World Finance: 2015 will see a common external tariff implemented with the 15 nation economic community of West African states. So how will this boost international trade, especially with the EU?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: We are a member of the ECOWAS, the 15 countries you mentioned. We have 300mn inhabitants, that’s a real market. What we are trying to do is have a better common approach of development in the area, I mentioned already the railway and the roads, but we will have an external tariff. The decision was made in Dakar last week and we hope to achieve it by 2015. The other possibility is also to have the same currency for the 15 countries, and we hope that will be achieved as soon as possible so that we can have an external tariff, the same currency that will enable us to have inter-trade with the different countries, but also to have a common approach towards the external world, and to have negotiations as a bloc with different countries in Europe, or Asia, and so on.

World Finance: And finally, future economic success really does depend on political peace and stability, so how do you see the future of your country?

Daniel Kablan Duncan: Well we went through a difficult period, of course, and I can understand your question, but we are working hard on it. Once the government was settled and put in place by the President Ouattara, he gave three aims to the government. The first one is to restore peace and security, the second one is to make national reconciliations, and the third one of course is to boost the economy. Well, as far as peace and security is concerned, as we have some light arms circulating the area, we have work to improve the security in our country and in the region also. Our security index was 4 when we ended the crisis, it is now 1.4, and by the end of the year we will have 1. So that’s normal, and I think that’s also the reason why the African Development Bank is coming back to Côte d’Ivoire, and we have more and more businesses also come back, and some of the international companies have chosen our region as the headquarters to cover the sub-region. So peace and security is back, but we have to work harder on it to prepare for the next election that will take place in 2015.

World Finance: Mr Prime Minister, thank you.

Daniel Kablan Duncan: Thank you again.