Côte d’Ivoire Working to Grow Economy, Support SMEs

Côte d’Ivoire Working to Grow Economy, Support SMEs

In May the International Finance Corporation (IFC) — a World Bank group — announced that the organization would collaborate with Côte d’Ivoire’s government to encourage business growth, and to better the country’s investment climate.

IFC’s monetary contributions of nearly $200 million will and have been used to support Côte d’Ivoire’s private, agribusiness, infrastructure and financial sectors. Still, officials say that small businesses are struggling, because of policy and transparency issues.

“We have started to analyse the situation to understand the best practices of other countries. We want to take inspiration from the model of the Small Business Act in the United States. You cannot have a competitive economy if the fabric of companies is not solid, competitive and perennial,” Côte d’Ivoire minister of commerce, Jean-Louis Billon, said in an interview with The Africa Report.

“The idea is to reserve a minimum percentage of markets for SMEs. In the procedure of awarding government contracts, even if a large company wins, we should think about a mechanism that will allow it to subcontract to SMEs in order to give work to the largest number of actors.”

Although the government has said it will implement better financial strategies, the groundwork, Billion, says hasn’t been put in place. Manufacturing natural resources, for example, is a challenge in the country as other nations such as the U.S., Germany, France and Asia are highly competitive, according to The Africa Report. Billon noted that the country produces 400,000tn of cashew nuts, however Côte d’Ivoire processes less than 5 percent — a manufacturing disadvantage that other countries don’t have.

“Our country has one of the best adapted development strategies in the West African subregion. Asian strategies closely resemble ours. It is not worth comparing us to Western countries, we should compare Côte d’Ivoire to countries that are climatically similar and that historically took off at the same time or behind us and that can produce the same products. Those countries came to the same level as our country at one point and finally surpassed us,” Billion said, suggesting Côte d’Ivoire’s industrial development strategy is up to par with Asia.

“There are some that sought inspiration from the ‘Ivorian miracle’ to construct their own. In the pineapple sector in Thailand, they looked at what was happening in Côte d’Ivoire. They did the same and then improved on it. It is the same for all of our products,” he told The Africa Report.

In 2011, the country faced a political crisis that left 50 percent of citizens struggling and in poverty. Since then, the economy has experienced a 9.8 percent growth rate, according to The Africa Report. One way to ensure that growth trickles down to small business is to change the bill paying system, Billon said. With a reformed structure, pre-financing for SMEs will become available, creating opportunity for development and growth.