Risk analysts, the advance guard

There’s almost a riot taking place in front of me at the Novotel hotel in Abidjan’s business district. It’s lunchtime and there’s a crowd of foreigners three deep around the meagre scraps at the salad buffet bar. I’ve never seen the hotel so busy since the place was packed with the French press about 12 months ago. It’s hard to find a seat.

I’m here for the fourth chat with a risk consultant in a fortnight, three of them in Abidjan. The fact that they’re all coming at once is almost certainly a positive sign for the Ivorian economy. These rather secretive and unknown pioneers are the vanguard of big business – sent to find out how things are on the ground. “We’ve been sent to represent a major London based client” is usually about all they can say. They tend to consult with a wide variety people that are supposed to be connected to what’s going on – NGOs, business leaders, government advisors and even international journalists. They’ll then write detailed reports about the risks there are for businessmen in Ivory Coast (the Novotel salad possibly being one of the key ones). If you’re wondering, this is free advice (although if the appointment’s over lunch you can sometimes get some food). It’s a couple of hours that perhaps could have been spent working, but I do enjoy chewing the cud and sparring with someone who often also has a valuable perspective on what’s going on (and sometimes better business contacts). It’s good for getting a new viewpoint; what struck them when they visited, how do things compare to elsewhere, how do things look from outside…

It’s understandable why so many are here are at once. The legislative elections went peacefully, 2012 growth figures look good, and people are looking for more exciting opportunities outside stagnating old Europe. I tend to be upbeat (by nature perhaps), though old practices die hard here.

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4 Responses to Risk analysts, the advance guard

  1. Martin says:

    Sounds interesting! Care to share any of the insights/perspectives of the risk consultant?

  2. Mike says:

    That’s hilarious!

  3. Hilarious! maybe a bit too much, but pleasant as usual, short, with a touch of humour and to the point. Hope your papers contribute to bettering the image of Cote d’Ivoire. Thank you.

  4. Technical Hitch says:

    One advantage of the Novotel is that it does serve a decent ice cold pint of the local draft beer (you have 2 choices in Abidjan, you drink it, or you don’t … there is only one draft beer here … where is Allied Breweries when you need them?). And I’ve been taught, both by Country Advices on the MAE websites, and from personal experience, not to eat salad anywhere, unless I’ve washed it and prepared it myself. That’s another risk you took, Admin !!

    I’ve shared the same experiences with incoming risk assessors, and Due Diligence merchants! However, I chose my local expatrriate watering hole as a RdV location, with its intimate seating, and discrete corners, for such interviews (and they also serve draft beer .. the “porte drapeau” beer of this country!!

    Such is the returning confidence, that the recently reopened (October 2011) British Embassy (I am sure you do not all believe what the local “Blue press” publish about it closing) has now opened a Commercial Service, with an Attache and an Assistant. And I am now reeactivating an old project (dates back to the 1980s) to open the first bilateral Ivoiro-British Chamber of Commerce & Industry!!

    Cote d’Ivoire is definitely “Open for Business”!!

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