What are we to make of the immediate economic outlook for Ivory Coast? Here in Abidjan there’s a range of views, but I wanted to share the perspective of an important economic operator I chatted with at the weekend who had spent the previous weeks meeting with key people in government. He’s pro-Ouattara but he’s worried about the next six months. He says that lots of investors are coming to visit on the back of positive economic reports, but many for the moment are choosing not to invest until at least late 2012/early 2013. The key problems seem to be i) visibility about the immediate future ii) a lack of government funds. On the latter, the government are keen to see plenty of BOT schemes, but for the moment it has absolutely nothing to contribute – wanting foreign companies to accept all the risk and the upfront investment. On the former, there are concerns about the political scene and particularly about the disruptive capacity of the opposition who seem undecided between participating in normal political life and staying on the extremes. Will there be disruptive protests/strikes in the near future? There’s a fear that Ouattara may have over-estimated the reconciliatory impact of a better-run economy.
My personal view is that it’s going to take time for confidence to come back and 2012 could well be another year of gradual progress, allowing water to pass under the bridge after the crisis. Economic growth of 8% if realised would put the country back in investors sights, and debt relief under the HIPC process should free up the country to seek more funds abroad. In some ways the government has done an amazing job of giving the impression of a great economic revival when the post-electoral crisis came at a very high cost.