Decolonising Ivory Coast

I was interested to see a reference to Ivory Coast in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s classic ‘Decolonising the Mind’ from 1986:

Speaking of the racist literature of Haggard, Huxley et al:

“In such a literature there were only two types of Africans: the good and the bad. The good African was the one who co-operated with the European coloniser; particularly the African who helped the European coloniser in the occupation and subjugation of his own people and country. Such a character was portrayed as possessing qualities of strength, intelligence and beauty. But it was the strength and the intelligence and the beauty of a sell-out. The bad African character was the one who offered resistance to the foreign conquest and occupation of his country… One can see the same schema at work today in the portrayal of the various African regimes in the Western media. Those regimes, as in Kenya and Ivory Coast, which have virtually mortgaged the future of their countries to Euro-American imperialism, are portrayed as being pragmatic, realistic, stable, democratic and they are often shown as having achieved unparalleled economic growth for their countries.”

That would seem to add grist to the mill to those who’d want to classify the Houphouetist wing in Ivorian politics as the sell-outs, and the Gbagbo wing as the anti-colonial heroes. We accept the idea of decolonisation as (rightly) good, which makes Houphouet’s reluctance on the move rather confusing.

But it’s not quite so simple. NWT is criticising a bi-polar stance in colonial literature about the good or bad African, so actually, responding that ‘Yes that’s right, the colonial’s ‘bad guy’ is our ‘good guy’, and vice-a-versa’, is a twist on the same fallacy. Instead, it strikes me as odd – a couple of generations after independence – to want to portray the world as made up either of independence fighters or colonial lapdogs (admittedly tempting coming from a Marxist viewpoint). My own view having seen both sides in power, is that the practical experience of governance would seem to be remarkably similar, with differences probably more down to competency than any supposed radical intrinsic divergence.


As a side note, interesting to see a linguistics expert like NWT use the English ‘Ivory Coast’ rather than the preferred ‘Cote d’Ivoire’. He would of course classify both versions as being in a ‘colonial language’, but the Ivorian regime has always felt ‘Cote d’Ivoire’ was their proper name in their own language.

Posted in Culture, Politics | Leave a comment

Jobs for the boys

If there’s a story that depresses me almost more than any other when I survey the Ivorian newspaper front pages, it’s the headlines from ruling party youth members that they’ve been “forgotten”. Youth employment is a tragic and major issue for every government on the continent (if not in other parts of the world as well).  That’s not my issue. My beef is with the line of reasoning that goes: we were part of the successful election campaign, so we deserve (government) jobs.

What I can’t work out is whether the most depressing thing is seeing these views expressed publicly, or not seeing any reaction to them, as if they’re perfectly normal. What the party youth are effectively saying is: we want cronyism, jobs for friends, nepotism and recruitment based on political affiliation not competence. You could probably add in ‘and give us a bloated civil service to boot’. One needs go no further than Ghana next door to see how much a costly civil service can weigh down the entire economy.

What you almost certainly won’t see in the press tomorrow is arguments from political leaders along the lines of i) ‘We were grateful for your support in the election, but we thought you backed us because you judged we had the best policies for the country, not that somehow you might personally get a job out of it’, ii) or ‘What you’re proposing has a very good chance of negatively impacting the whole country, iii) or ‘State employment is not the future’. The opposition press don’t seem to address these issues either – perhaps there’s recognition that it’s normal for a political side to ‘eat’ while in power. As I say, rather depressing.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Leave a comment

Film review, Bronx-Barbes (2000)

Many years ago I inherited a copy of the film Bronx-Barbes from a journalist leaving Abidjan. Sadly it was on VHS and I never manged to find myself in a place with a player (and the cassette). Two years ago I bought a copy when the film came out on DVD. But I don’t own a DVD player, and with the baby, time to watch films has been in short supply. Finally last night – with a borrowed DVD player and the family out of town – everything came together.

French film maker Eliane de Latour’s Bronx-Barbes (2000) is the story of two young criminals in Abidjan looking for their place in the world; interacting with a multiplicity of gangs in the poorest parts of the city. Both have their dreams of escaping this violent underworld, perhaps even to travel to the West, but they struggle against the realities of poverty. In a very French way, there’s not necessarily a strong story-arch, but we get a series of scenes which see the characters integrate a gang, make friends, and for the main character, Soul B, fall in love.

Overall the film is excellent and done to a very high quality, though the violence will not be to everyone’s taste. I can’t think of any stock characters – everyone had three dimensions, despite the large cast of characters. de Latour is as much an anthropologist as a film-maker, with extensive experience in West Africa. Apparently she carries out a deep ethnographic survey before each film project. It shows.

To my surprise, searching the film credits, all the senior positions (actors aside) seemed to be taken by European names. I’m sure this cannot have been entirely the case, because the language, gestures and attitudes in the film are deeply rooted in the nouchi-speaking underclass of Abidjan.

The irony is obvious when you think that most recent Ivorian films and tv series focus on the Cocody-based middle classes, and ignore either the urban underclass or rural life. They tend to be aspirational rather than gritty. They’re filmed in bourgeois family homes, while in contrast, Bronx-Barbes covers the full drama of Abidjan’s cityscape, taking in urban spaces like the FHB bridge, Plateau, the port, and a series of slums.

If I had to pick faults, I sometimes found the dialogue a little stiff and lacking spontaneity, I didn’t feel every scene served the story (did the section with Jimmy Danger really advance the narrative much?), and perhaps to be expected from a film dating from 2000, the DVD images have sadly come through an interlacing process which rather spoiled one of the final scene. Those who haven’t spent a huge amount of time in Abidjan may want to put the sub-titles on to grasp the dialogue. The soundtrack was authentic, though perhaps we could have had a little less Magic System to broaden the range.

Nevertheless, it’s one of the best films to come out of Cote d’Ivoire in the last two decades, and I’m excited to see the follow-on, Apres L’ocean, which sits unwatched on my bookshelf. For me, Bronx-Barbe’s key strength is the incredible and authentic portrayal of street culture. The choreography of the funeral scene I found particularly moving. If you’ve lived in Abidjan and haven’t met anyone who speaks and gestures like this, you were probably living a very sheltered life.

Finally, while not having overt political messages, I think it casts an illuminating light on phenomena that were to play a leading role in the decade following the film with its Jeunes Patriotes and Charles Ble Goude. There are parallels with the documentary Shadow Work. Scholarly studies like Mike McGovern’s Making war in Cote d’Ivoire point at the ‘playfulness’ of the Ivorian conflict, and while you might be tempted to see this as an anthropological metaphor too far, Bronx-Barbes certainly points – with a certain amount of humour – to the heavily stylised use of Hollywood images (cowboys, kung fu, Vietnam movies, American rap).

Anyway, a great film, sadly little known in Abidjan.

Posted in Culture, Ivorian cinema | Leave a comment

Taking a taxi in Abidjan

Last week I was chatting with a friend of mine who is about to move to Abidjan for a new job. She was asking lots of questions about taxi transportation, and I thought it might be useful to share some general info on the subject for a wider audience.

So here are six starting points for metered taxis in Abidjan:

1. Types of taxis
– My advice to visitors, especially those on a budget, is that it’s not absolutely necessary (as in many other places) to hire a vehicle. Abidjan has a variety of transport options, but by far the most widely used option for visitors is the city’s red/orange metered taxi (‘taxi compteur’). These have the remit to work throughout the city, and are equipped with a meter. They are hired privately and you won’t find anyone else getting in along the way as it travels to your specific destination. At almost any time of day, in almost every part of the city, you’re never too far from a red/orange taxi (the vehicles are either as orange as red can get, or as red as orange can get – depends on your perspective).

As you travel around the city you will quickly notice taxis in other colours, depending on the area (commune). These communal taxis (called locally ‘woro woros’), travel on fixed routes (like a bus), and take on passengers along the route whenever they have space and people flag them down. The cost is minimal, though these vehicles tend to be in a poorer state of repair, not quite as clean, and they are more of a security risk (keep an eye on your phone/wallet).

To finish our round-up of transport options, there are also the public Sotra buses, the private buses (gbakas), non registered taxis that behave a bit like woro woros and are generally close to falling apart, and boats on the lagoon (Sotra and others). In the coming years we can also add private boat transport companies, and…the Abidjan metro.

2. Discussing the price
– Perhaps the essential point about the metered taxis, is that the meter is basically never used. Instead the price is almost always negotiated. ‘Tricky for first time visitors!’ you may well say! And that is indeed the case. With the help of a local (who novices should use where possible to negotiate the price, particularly if you look foreign), you should hopefully soon get the hang of it. If you’re a foreigner, you’ll probably end up paying at least 500 francs ($0.90) more than the local rate, unless you’ve worked out the finer points of pricing and negotiation.

In discussions, you generally initially name your price, after which three things tend to happen:
i) if the price is ridiculously low, the taxi driver may just drive off without another word
ii) in most cases, when you’re around the right mark with your first offer, the driver will reply with a price 500 francs higher
iii) or, the taxi man will accept your price (either because you’ve given the right price and he thinks you know what you’re talking about, or because you’re paying way too much).

A few other things to bear in mind:
– With the new toll bridge, you may want to check if you are paying for this as an additional charge of if it’s included
– Rush hour and rain will increase the price, along the lines of supply and demand. These are also the two events that most create those moments where it can be difficult to find a taxi.

3. Change
Once you’ve discussed the price, it is extremely important to alert the driver if you only have a large bank note (e.g. 10,000 CFA). Early in the day, drivers are unlikely to have much change available. In fact, in the morning if you only have a 10,000 cfa note (the purple one), you may find it rather tough to get a taxi that can give you change.

Drivers may sometimes motion you to get in anyway, and they’ll look to find the change on the way. But from experience, this can frequently be a frustrating experience in which you stop at various places (especially petrol stations) where the driver will try (often unsuccessfully) to ask for change. The best thing is to be organised and keep a hold of those smaller notes for morning taxi transport.

4. The airport
A separate word should be said at this stage about taking taxis at the airport because it’s the only place in the city where slightly different rules apply. It’s also of course where most visitors first need to take a taxi…and it’s probably where you’ll have the worst taxi experience.

At the airport there’s an official taxi rank on the left as you come out of the terminal. This needs to be used with extreme caution. The taxis are lined up in a queue, so you’re supposed to take the first one in the queue. Before arriving at the rank, you may already have experienced a taxi tout try to take over your suitcases and direct you in the right direction. As well as a good number of taxis lined up with their drivers (generally not in their vehicles), you may also observe representatives from the taxi trades union (something which adds to the cost).

If you are obviously foreign, the first driver will almost certainly do two things: name a very high price (e.g. $20 to Plateau) or insist on using the meter (which from the experience of friends of mine may well be tampered giving a far more expensive ride than it should).

When you refuse to be ripped off, as you should, you kind of have two options. The first general approach is to try and negotiate a better price (if your French is up to it). It may be that you agree a price with the first driver that you find acceptable, even if you know it is likely to be higher than the going rate. He’s at the top of the queue so is unlikely to give you a fair price because he’s probably thinking that he’s in prime position for a subsequent tourist who may succumb to an inflated price.

When you start discussing you may then be able to tempt other taxi drivers in the queue to offer you a fairer price as you insist that you know what the real price should be and that what you’re being offered is ridiculous. The taxi driver who offers you a lower price from further back in the queue may then create tension because he’s technically jumping the queue system.

A second option is that instead of turning left out of the terminal, you turn right and you start walking a little way down the road. You’ll see plenty of taxis dropping off passengers who will be interested in picking you up. But you need to be careful because this is not allowed within the airport zone, and there are generally gendarmes hiding in the trees who will immediately clamp down on such practices by leaping out of the shadows (and generally ask for a 500 franc bribe from the taxi driver). You will probably need to walk as far as the petrol station to clear this airport zone.

Please don’t let any unpleasantness at the airport turn you off taking taxis. It’s a rather singular place, and any tension/aggression you may experience there is not something you come across elsewhere in the city.

5. My insider tips for getting a good price
– There are some nice new cars doing the rounds, and you may even hail a taxi which has air-conditioning (though you’ll almost certainly pay a higher price, and may be even metered). Nevertheless, if you’re price sensitive, my feeling is that you have more chance of getting a cheaper price from a tatty vehicle. I don’t know if that’s because you pay less for less, or perhaps because such taxis have different ownership situations (maybe the capital invested in the car has already been recovered, or perhaps the driver himself owns the vehicle).
– Another thing I’ve found from experience, is that if you happen to come across a taxi that is just discharging, my feeling is that you get a better price, with the rationale that the driver is feeling upbeat because he’s just been paid for a trip, and now has the good fortune to immediately find another customer i.e. he’s in a good mood. You’re also in a better situation on the spare change front (see above).
– If you’re trying to pick-up a taxi in an area associated with rich and inexperienced international travellers you probably won’t get a good price. You may want to put a few metres between you and that 5 star hotel before hailing a taxi.
– For those who enjoy the price negotiation, a few good stock phrases (in French) are:
o Do you think I arrived here yesterday?
o I live in Abidjan, I’m not a visitor
o I do this route all the time, and I always pay X
o OK, if there really is a traffic jam I’ll pay that much, but if not it’s X

6. Some final comments
– Taxi rides in Abidjan have given me an immense amount of pleasure over the years. One of Abidjan’s great advantages is that for those who speak French there generally aren’t any difficulties in communication. While sometimes you come across a grump (particularly if you’re not paying well), you are just a likely to find a wannabe intellectual, or a frustrated comedian. It’s not uncommon for them to share their food with you when having a snack. For these sorts of experiences, you’ll almost certainly need to take the passenger seat at the front.
– If you don’t speak French, don’t expect much knowledge of English.
– In terms of safety, I’ve never had any bad experiences (apart from a telephone which went missing and that I suspect the taxi driver took). However, if you want to be extra careful, I have heard some very rare stories about muggers hidden in the boot, so you could check.
– Some foreigners can find it unpalatable that perhaps because the colour of their skin they get ‘ripped off’ by taxi drivers who would transport locals for far less. My two remarks on this would be:
o With a bit of local knowledge you can often get local prices
o Following a principal of ‘gleaning’, I tend to think that when you’re richer, you shouldn’t be too miffed about paying a little bit more for your ride. Is it fair that everyone should pay the same price for the same service, or that a richer a person should pay a little bit more? In discussions over price, I believe there’s a moral framework of what is ‘fair’. But that’s just me.

Happy travelling!

Posted in Culture | 6 Comments

Blogging on the Abidjan stock exchange

For those who read French, has made a welcome return to the West African blogosphere in the last few months. The website author, Euclide (whose birthday it happens to be today), has probably done more than anyone else to promote interest in the Abidjan-based West African stock exchange (despite the fact that he’s from Congo-Brazzaville).

Reading the detail in a blog post today on the 2015 financial results of Sicable made me reflect again the benefits of blogging. Here we have someone who doesn’t even live in the West African monetary zone, and who isn’t a professional journalist or financial expert, who runs a blog in his spare time on a voluntary basis that gives us better reporting than any newspaper you’d care to buy on the streets of francophone West Africa. And it’s all for free.

In March he hopes to launch a follow-up e-book on investing in the BRVM, which I think is an initiative worth encouraging.

Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

Ivory Coast and Ghana

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but isn’t it intriguing that West African neighbours Ghana and Ivory Coast share so much in common, including a long border, but seem to be on such differing economic trajectories? I’ve just been reading an article from last month’s Guardian on how the Ghanaian success story seems to be coming apart. What initially sparked my interest was the fact that falling commodity prices, in particular ‘cocoa’, was mentioned as a key reason for the economic problems, when over the border in Ivory Coast, high cocoa prices are used to explain Ivory Coast’s spectacular economic growth in the last few years.

More widely, isn’t it odd that after independence Ivory Coast did so well for two decades, while Ghana did so badly. And then as Ivory Coast declined in the 80s and 90s, Ghana started getting its act together. In the 2000s, Ivory Coast had a decade horribilis, while Ghana became the poster child of Africa Rising.

Perhaps one initial lesson is that political histories and leaders matter. Two countries with similar land mass, populations, ethnicities and climates, with cocoa in the south, gold in the north and oil in the sea are following rather different tracks. If West Africa’s second and third economies were better intertwined, one would hope that growth in one, would provide benefits to the other, but sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case. In the days of the West African Power Pool, how can Ivory Coast have plentiful supplies of electricity when Ghana struggles?

Compared with the global economic story, Ivory Coast seems slightly closer to trends (though not entirely). Isn’t it weird that pump prices should be going up in Ghana as the global oil price falls so dramatically? That cocoa production and income should drop when world cocoa prices sit at historically high levels and Ivorian farmers enjoy record prices (I’ve never seen a good explanation of why Ghana’s cocoa production has dropped so significantly in recent years)? On the other hand, Ivory Coast seems to be bucking the trend with regards to the global economic slump (how long can this go on for?).

My main point though is that it’s disappointing how little comparative thinking there is whether in economic journalism, or in national politics and policy-making. Wouldn’t it be encouraging if you sometimes found the population (or at the least, the intellectual class) of one state, using the success of policies in the other state, to argue for better policy back home. ‘Hey, how come Ghana is attracting so many repatriates and why can’t we do the same?’ ‘Hey, how come Ivorians have a steady currency and power supply and we don’t?’

Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

Headwinds ahead

I’m lucky enough to have institutional access to Africa Confidential, and the latest edition of the newsletter makes for rather depressing reading. Economic headwinds ahead for Africa include a strong dollar, greater competition for the attention of western investors, troubles in China, devaluing African currencies, falling commodity prices, low oil prices, little set-aside for a rainy day… It all seems like a puncture in the inflating Africa Rising narrative.

According to AC, there are few shining lights on the horizon for the continent’s economies. Nevertheless from an Ivorian perspective, the country looks among the best positioned to at least stay afloat in this difficult upcoming period. Whether having well performing commodities (cocoa and coffee), little dependence on oil, a reasonable control of the wage bill, the third best economic growth in 2015, and having a stable currency…things do at least seem better than average, even if the overall global economic winds look less than favourable. Interestingly, AC even cited Cote d’Ivoire as having one of the highest value exports to other African countries, second only to South Africa (much of it probably refined oil products from the SIR).

The good news this week was the solid performance of the country in the WEF’s global competitiveness report. Cote d’Ivoire was the fastest improver, ahead of Ethiopia. Although in the AC’s categorisation (from the IMF), Cote d’Ivoire was in the category ‘fragile states’, I would think it’s likely the country will be increasingly classed with Ethiopia and Rwanda.

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The editorial meeting

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the RTI (state tv) morning editorial meeting today. Here’s my imagined fictional account just for fun:

Editor: “Ok, folks silence, let’s make a start. [Quiet descends, nervous glances, visible stress] As you all know, the new government has yet to be announced…”

Evening news producer (ENP): “But the KOACI headline said “Remaniement, le nouveau gouvernement connu certainement ce mercredi” and it’s now Friday?”

Editor: “Go tell them to look up ‘certainement’.”

ENP: “But how long can this go on for? We’ve got a 30 minute news programme to fill this evening and not a single government minister to follow.”

Editor: “But we were promised a new dynamic ministerial line-up? And we already know the new PM?”

ENP: “Yes, but it’s the same guy as before!”

Intern: “But why don’t we get out there and gather some real stories away from the suits and ministers?”

ENP: “Impertinence! Where do you think this is, France 24? Our job is to tell Ivorians what each minister has done each day. That’s what news is, isn’t it? If people aren’t made aware of what the old men in suits have done – ceremonies, official speeches, formal visits, ribbon cutting – people will feel lost!”

Intern: “How about we get in our cars and gather some stories from the streets – you know the important developments that will really make a difference in people’s lives and the issues that concern people?”

ENP: “We tried that yesterday – we filmed some images of the harmattan dust…”

Intern: “…yes, but only 10 metres from the front door of our office…”

ENP: “That’s not fair – we even did a feature on the burns unit at the CHU Cocody hospital.”

Intern: “Yes, but that’s just round the corner from our office. How about…you know..leaving Cocody?”

Editor: “OK, enough of this insubordination. Can’t we just do what we did last night?”

ENP: “What? Show an extra long report on an old ceremony from several days ago that we already broadcast?”

Editor: “Sure. Or perhaps we could just rebroadcast the New Year’s address…”

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Ivory Coast – African country of the year 2015?

This post is both spurious and speculative, but if you had to select an ‘African country of the year’ in 2015, I would reckon Ivory Coast / Cote d’Ivoire must be in with a fighting chance. Not that I follow the other 53 countries on the continent quite as closely, but take that as a caveat. Here are a few reasons to believe that 2015 was a good year for the country.

Continental football champions (February)

It does seem a very long time ago now, but let’s not forget one of the highlights of the year – the generation of star players in the national football team finally winning the African Cup of Nations, with victory in penalties over Ghana. The tournament started with some of the lowest expectations for Ivory Coast in a decade, but all turned out well in the end. By the end of the year, Ivory Coast had recovered their place as FIFA’s top ranked African side.

Strong economic growth (May)

If 2015 was a year in which people started to feel the Africa Rising story was a bit wobbly with bad economic news out of China and low oil prices, Ivory Coast continued to hold its head high. Part of that story is about cocoa – a commodity which in 2015 bucked trends to maintain a high price (while Ivory Coast produced a record crop). Record Ivorian crops were also seen in cashew (pushing the country to become the world’s biggest exporter) and cotton.

The IMF currently predict real GDP growth of 8.2 percent in 2015, continuing the growth story started in 2012. A quick comparison with IMF projected 2015 growth elsewhere shows the country is up with the leading pack: Angola (3.5%), Cameroon (5.3%), Chad (6.9%), DRC (8.4%), Gabon (3.5%), Ghana (3.5%), Ethiopia (8.7%), Kenya (6.5%), Mozambique (7%), Nigeria (4%), Senegal (5.1%), Tanzania (6.9%), Uganda (5.2%). The stock market was the fastest rising on the continent, while the Ibrahim Governance Index put the country as the fastest improver. As a symbol of the revival I picked the African Development Bank annual conference in Abidjan in May, which celebrated the bank’s return to the city.

A peaceful election (October)

While the result was hardly a surprise, October’s presidential election could have gone a lot worse, and came after a very bad experience last time around (to say the least). Instead it was a peaceful transition to a second term for Alassane Ouattara. Ivorians learned that elections could take place without anyone having to die, and the Head of State got a strong mandate for his second term. The 2010-11 crisis was pushed a bit further back into the recesses of history.

Big infrastructure projects (December)

These were 12 months that started in December 2014 with the opening of Abidjan’s long-awaited ‘third bridge’ and ended with the new Commercial centre ‘Playce’ which includes sub-Saharan Africa’s first Carrefour and Burger King. In between you had various other bridge projects (notably at Jacqueville), roads (Abidjan-Bassam), cinemas, hotels (Hotel Ivoire refurbishment). Big progress was also made to start work on the new Heineken brewery, the port extension, the railway upgrade, the Movenpick hotel for Plateau, and the Abidjan metro.

And the big one that didn’t happen…

Perhaps the most significant development was the one that didn’t happen. This was the year in which almost every expert predicted Ivory Coast would see cases of Ebola, and somehow it didn’t.

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BRVM update 2015

As is the tradition (though one that’s about to end) the end of the year at Drogba’s Country is the moment for an update on the West African Stock Exchange (BRVM), based in Abidjan. As a recap, I started investing in 2011, and since then have seen what I consider to be quite decent growth – 17.8% (in the first 8 months) and then annual growth of 27.2%, 31.4%, and 18.6% respectively. I wanted to use this blog to highlight the little known exchange, and chart my progress (funds managed by the bank that makes investment decisions that I have no influence over). The BRVM is in the West African Monetary zone, and so uses the Euro-pegged CFA, meaning that investments don’t suffer from the inflation seen elsewhere on the continent, even if they have fallen slightly with the Euro over the past few years, relative to the dollar and Sterling.

For various uninteresting reasons, I’ve already closed my books on 2015 and start things for 2016. This year has seen growth of…44.1% – definitely the best yet. Indeed according to a recent article (in French), the BRVM has been classed as having the highest returns in Africa. As I’ve explained before, the Abidjan-based stock exchange doesn’t seem particularly logical – it hardly dropped during the Ivorian crisis of 2010-11, and in the aftermath of October’s elections (which to investors relief went peacefully) the situation has been stable albeit with a slight decline in positions. So I have no visibility on 2016.

I recently met an anthropologist who had spent several years studying the stock market boom in Vietnam – something that prompted a huge rush to invest with people taking out mortgages to finance further investment, only for it all to crash with declines of 40% in a few months. Of course such events are not infrequent in emerging economies (and of course elsewhere), and these investments have their risks. Past growth no guarantee of future returns, and all that. Nevertheless, there’s no sense of a boom around the stock exchange in Abidjan, which has not entered the popular imagination despite the growth I’ve detailed above. My hope is that the current good run will continue for at least another few years. When things turn sour, I’ll re-evaluate things, and I’ve already started diversifying into other areas.

This will be the last of these regular posts on this subject: I think the point has been made. But if it all crashes around my feet, I will tell you all about it. As I’ve said before, this particular investment seems a good way to participate in the West African growth story, while also (particularly for the diaspora) offering a better return on investment than the typical mix of badly run and high-risk schemes like rubber planting, taxis and boutiques.

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