Analysis: War-scarred Ivory Coast reopens for business

Sun Feb 9, 2014 11:55am EST
 
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By Joe Bavier and Daniel Flynn

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast is re-emerging as the prime investment destination in French-speaking West Africa after a decade of political turmoil but President Alassane Ouattara must weed out corruption and promote reconciliation to keep cash flowing in.

Long considered the jewel in the crown of France's former West African territories, a 1999 coup destroyed the reputation of Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producer - as an island of stability in a troubled region.

A bloody presidential election in 2000 and a rebellion two years later triggered an exodus of capital that undid decades of development, dubbed the Ivorian Miracle.

With peace finally restored, French construction firm Bouyges (BOUY.PA: Quote), oil companies such as Tullow (TLW.L: Quote) and Lukoil (LKOH.MM: Quote), and South Africa's Standard Bank (SBKJ.J: Quote) are among those flocking to invest.

"We lost half of our companies during that time. The level of poverty increased from 10 percent to almost 50 percent," Trade Minister Jean-Louis Billon told Reuters. "Now we want to move forward."

A brief civil war in 2011 allowed Ouattara, who won an election that sparked the fighting, to secure the presidency and reunite a nation still divided between a rebel north and government-controlled south despite years of peace overtures.

With the former International Monetary Fund official at the helm, Ivory Coast's $40 billion economy - comprising nearly half West Africa's six-nation CFA currency bloc - embarked on a dramatic revival.

It posted growth of over 9 percent the past two years and the government is targeting double-digits in 2014 as it seeks to make up ground on neighbouring Ghana, a new oil exporter.   Continued...

 
President of Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara sits on stage in support of a commitment to stop poaching of African elephants announced at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson