Described as Africa’s fastest growing economy in 2016 by the IMF, Côte d’Ivoire has shown tremendous growth since the civil war that was caused by ethnic and religious as well as land scarcity issues ended in 2010. After the elections held in 2010 the winner, Alassane Ouattara, took steps to calm the political climate by releasing pro-opposition prisoners, allowing the return of high-level political refugees and unfreezing their bank accounts. Consequently, the October 2015 presidential election was also very significant in the consolidation of political peace, with incumbent President Alassane Ouattara re-elected with 83.7% of the vote. The main challenges of his new five-year term are to ensure social cohesion, strengthen civil peace and improve the justice system.
Côte d’Ivoire’s economic growth can be attributed to its thriving agriculture, services, industry, and the influx of foreign direct investment attracted by the improved business climate, structural reform and fiscal policies. The country has many obvious advantages, including a denser road network than in most African countries and several kinds of farmland and climate that enable the development of a range of agro-industrial and food products in big demand worldwide. It also has an expanding gold mining industry and 51 oil blocks.
The current government has been challenged to sustain growth in the long run and expand to a more inclusive growth structure with a higher HDI ranking and lower poverty ratings for rural areas. Real GDP growth was 8.2% in 2016 and projected to be 8.1% in 2017. Inflation is also expected to remain low at 1.2-1.5% assuming normal rainfall and favourable global food and fuel prices.
Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa beans and a significant producer and exporter of coffee, cotton, cashew and palm oil. It is heavily dependent on agriculture and related activities, which employ roughly two-thirds of the population. Consequently, the economy is highly sensitive to fluctuations not only in climatic conditions but also to commodity prices. As a case in point, a recent crash of almost 40% in global cocoa prices forces the industry to a standstill, the produce to go to waste and thus leaves farmers unpaid and impacts on the financial capacity of the country to service foreign currency debt.
Because of the success of the National Development Plan (PND 2012 – 2015) in reforming the economy, the government decided to create and adopt a new plan (PND 2016-2020), which is aimed at making Côte d’Ivoire a solid industrial base by 2020. It will therefore focus on processing more extensively local agricultural raw materials and diversifying the industrial apparatus by promoting manufacturing. It will also focus on improving living conditions for Ivorians, especially by developing quality economic infrastructure while embracing the concerns relating to land development and environmental conservation.