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.