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Abidjan: Côte d’Ivoire has racked up another year of strong economic growth,


On the back of October’s presidential elections, Côte d’Ivoire has racked up an extra year of strong economic increase, while a raft of infrastructure and price-added agriculture projects looks set to help the country maintain its position as one of West Africa’s brightest stars in 2016.

At an estimated 8.4%, Côte d’Ivoire’s GDP increase was one of the highest in the region in 2015, with the same increase rate estimate for the coming year, according to the IMF.

The election result – which saw President Alassane Ouattara fasten an extra five-year term in office next winning 83% of the vote – is expected to spur further confidence in the country’s economic outlook, building on a recovery that has been in evidence since 2011.

Fiscal check

The recovery has been supported in large part by increased public spending. According to the IMF, this will see Côte d’Ivoire’s fiscal deficit rise to 3.7% of GDP in 2015, up from 2.2% in 2014. Public finances have remained largely balanced, however, despite a tripling of public capital spending between 2011 and 2015.

Citing the country’s fiscal management and consolidation of political stability, ratings agency Moody’s upgraded its long-term issuer rating for Côte d’Ivoire from “B1” with a positive outlook to “Ba3” with a stable outlook in November.

While Fitch maintained its “B” rating with a positive outlook in July, the agency signalled that smooth 2015 presidential elections and improvements in public finance management could lead to an eventual upgrade.

Upgrading the foundations

Late February brought further evidence of growing market confidence in Côte d’Ivoire, at the same time as a $1bn eurobond – the country’s second in as a lot of years – was oversubscribed four-fold. The bulk of the funds will go towards major infrastructure projects, according to government statements.

Several large-scale transport and power projects as well received domestic funding in 2015 under the country’s CFA11trn (€16.8bn) 2012-15 National Development Plan (Plan National de Développement, PND). Approximately 25% of PND funding has been allocated for infrastructure improvements, with road improvements seen as a top priority, while an extra 5.5% has been earmarked for the energy sector.

Other infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of the $1.12bn Abidjan Port complex, which broke ground in October, are receiving a mixture of international and regional financing. China is contributing a reported 85% of project costs, next the African Export-Import Bank arranged a €250m syndicated bridge loan in mid-2014.

An extra key avenue for project funding was opened in October, at the same time as the country become a member of the African Finance Corporation (AFC), a multilateral development finance body.

Nine new dams are earmarked for completion by 2020, with at least one – the 44-MW Singrobo facility in Tiassalé, south of Abidjan – set to move ahead with funding from the AFC.

The dams, along with a handful of solar and biomass projects, are designed to help Côte d’Ivoire meet the 10% average annual increase in electricity request. The projects are expected to double the country’s total output to 4000 MW by 2020 and reduce its dependence on thermal energy sources, such as oil and natural gas.

Cocoa still key

As the country awaits the knock-on effects of the current infrastructure drive, agriculture remains a key contributor to GDP, accounting for 22% of economic output, up to 70% of employment and half of all exports, according to World Bank figures.

Around 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from Côte d’Ivoire, placing it at the top of the inventory of world cocoa producers, ahead of Ghana and Indonesia. The country is as well a major producer of rubber, cashews and palm oil.

A lack of rainfall across the region weighed on in general cocoa production in 2015, curbing Ghanaian production by 20% and driving prices up by 13.1% year-on-year in December to nearly $3346 per tonne, according to data from the International Cocoa Organisation.

Côte d’Ivoire weathered the dry conditions, however, outperforming other producers to maintain production at 1.74m tonnes, according to exporters, on a par with the previous season’s volumes.

Adding value

In the years ahead, Côte d’Ivoire plans to scale up efforts to achieve food security and boost price-added agri-processing, with the goal of grinding 50% of its cocoa harvest locally by 2020, up from around 33% at present. The country surpassed the Netherlands to become the world’s leading cocoa grinder in 2014/15.

Singapore-based agricultural conglomerate Olam inaugurated a new sustainable cocoa processing plant in the export hub of San Pedro in March. The $75m facility, capable of processing 75,000 tonnes per annum, will produce whole-bean and nib-roasted liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa cake. Processing will be fuelled by steam generated by a boiler fed with waste biomass from cocoa shells.

In an extra significant downstream development, the French chocolatier Cemoi opened the country’s initial chocolate factory in mid-May. Located in Abidjan, the CFA4bn (€6.1m) factory will process 10,000 tonnes of cocoa, with a view to satisfying the growing domestic market before setting its sights on West Africa’s 350m consumers.

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