A recent report on Ivory Coast’s oil taxes on koaci.com caught my eye. Oil production in 2014 was apparently ‘19,000 bpd’, described in the article as ‘a significant reduction from the figures reported last year.’ But there was good news as well – the article goes on to quote the government spokesman saying: “The ambition is to reach 200,000 bpd by 2020. This is a realistic ambition because of the potential of Cote d’Ivoire in this area.”
This rang a few bells. In the summer of 2011 I attended a mining/extraction conference organised by the government in Yamoussoukro in which the government said it was planning on producing 200,000 bpd (or was it 300,000 bpd) by 2015 (cf News & co, edition 1, 2011).
[I don’t have the exact annual figures for oil production in earlier years, but I recall the figure of 57,000 bpd from perhaps 2008/9 which dropped to around 44,000 bpd though the situation was always rather opaque.]
Skip forward a couple of years from 2011 and we can find this Reuters story from 3 January 2013. The first key point is ‘Official says 200,000 bpd possible within five years’. Quoting the article: ‘Ivory Coast will be able to realise its target of raising output from around 32,000 barrels per day now to around 200,000 bpd in the five years ahead,” Ibrahima Diaby, head of hydrocarbons at the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Energy told Reuters in an interview.’
Moving forward a year, on 4 January 2014, Bloomberg published the following article. “Ivory Coast Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said his nation will boost oil output within five years to 200,000 barrels a day, rivaling neighboring Ghana as stability returns to a country wracked by a decade of turmoil.” The article headline is “Ivory Coast Sees Soaring Oil Output Rivaling Ghana by 2019”.
So each year the prediction of ‘in five years’ is made but the production is actually declining. My point isn’t that Ivory Coast doesn’t have oil – it clearly does, production should rise soon, though this isn’t a new Nigeria/Gabon/Congo. The point is rather that officials are getting away with lazy predictions and no-one every seems to be holding them to account. This is as much a criticism of the press as anything else , refusing to hold people to account. The current mantra is that Ivory Coast will be an ’emerging economy by 2020′. Now beyond what that actually means, which I hope will be the subject of a future blog post, I even wonder if we’ll get to 2020 and no-one will bother to ask ‘Well are we emergent or not?’
There are other parallels. The Marcory-Rivieria bridge that was just opened was promised in “27 months” after the official launch in September 2011. A year later it was again promised in “27 months”. When I last visited the construction site of the Jacqueville bridge, I was promised the bridge would be across the lagoon by January 2013 and handed over complete by the end of April that year. It still isn’t finished. It seems petty to say that the official target of each of the governments of Bedie, Gbagbo and Ouattara has been to semi-transform 50% of Ivorian cocoa bean production by 2015. I haven’t yet seen anyone asking how the country is doing on that (won’t be met this year).
Jeune Afrique had a very interesting article this week on the Louis Dreyfus rice project, announced with much fanfare two years ago. It was supposed to be a huge project with the investment of 46 million Euros. Two years later the journalist returns to the project and asks what has become of it. No-one seems to know.
I could go on. I can well understand that there are very good reasons not to move government institutions to Yamoussoukro, but it was an election promise, so let’s at least have an answer as to why this didn’t happen. The same applies to the promise of increasing the constitutional powers of the national assembly and reducing those of the head of state, which was also a pre-election promise.
It’s this basic journalist principal of returning to the subject to hold people to account that frequently seems lacking. It’s not to be critical or against someone. It’s just to hold people at their word – it’s actually a sign of respect. Difficulties might arise that delay things, they often do in this part of the world, but let the media cover more than the smiles when a project is launched or a foundation stone is laid.