For Ivory Coast watchers it’s been a busy week in the international media, what with Chelsea and Drogba securing the Premier League title, an Ivorian boy caught being smuggled into Spain in a suitcase, the continued rumblings over the disappeared football bonuses, this amazing set of photos of former Gbagbo militia, a ban on skin whitening cream, strong Amnesty International criticism of opposition arrests, and this Reuters Special feature on the continuing influence of the ex-Com Zone commanders.
I wanted to briefly note another article though which appeared in Le Monde (in French), highlighting the growing influence of Morocco in Ivorian affairs. Ivorian politics is a head-scratching shadow-game sometimes. We used to be told that if Ouattara got into power, the country would be sold down the river to France. Instead, we seem to have moved from a regime that was in talk anti-French, but allowed the French to control and keep the commanding heights of the economy, while under Ouattara, we’ve seen the Chinese get a huge number of contracts (Soubre dam, Bassam road, Bonoua water plant, electricity infrastructure), and the increasing influence of the Moroccans. The French seem to be floundering, and it’s hard to think of a major project they’ve been given.
For the Moroccans, relations seem to be excellent, and Ivory Coast is seen as a logical francophone base for their ambitions to be a bridge between the West and sub-Saharan Africa. There’s a growing presence in the banking sector, following the takeover of Credit Agricole’s African assets, and the Ivorian government is ceding further ownership over the SIB (bank) to the Moroccans. They are due to lead the Cocody bay water front scheme (part of which saw the destruction of the Oil Libya petrol station – perhaps a symbolic move for one former north African regime with desires to increase influence south of the desert). The Moroccans had a heavy presence at the recent massive agriculture fair, while they are also part of an American financed project to build three new hydroelectric dams.
It’s been an interesting development, and these sorts of partnerships receive far less attention than either western investments or scare stories about a Chinese take-over.