There’s an interesting debate in Ivory Coast – is the country currently well down the road to once again becoming a beacon of economic growth in the region or is the hype all a smoke-and-mirrors affair? It’s a question we’ve touched on frequently on this blog, and I thought it would be good to start a regular weekly post briefly rounding up the economic news. I’ll try and publish this on Friday/Saturday of each week. We’ll see how things go – I make no promises to be regular! I’m not interested in the politicians who have vested interests in saying the country is a success or a failure – I just want to get close to what’s really happening in a country where economic data is often hidden away. I’ll mainly be sourcing my material from the financial wires and the local French-speaking press. I’ll try and focus on the concrete but add a line or two of context.
1. On Saturday the hotel group Carlson Rezidor announced plans to invest $50m in a 252-room business hotel near the airport – opening predicted for the third quarter of 2014. Currently there are no hotels in the immediate vicinity of the reasonably modern airport (or anything commercial), though Onomo have already started work on a hotel in the area (delayed by the crisis). The business hotel sector in Abidjan looks to have the most major private sector announcements in the post crisis period and Abidjan does have a current shortage of capacity. Other projects currently underway – Azalai are building a 180 room complex next to Cap Sud on the VGE blvd, Teylieum group are building a 4 star 180 bedroom hotel not far from the Pullman (work on demolishing the building on this site has started), and Swiss group Kempinski are planning a 300 hotel near to the French embassy on the lagoon. The main block of the city’s famous Hotel Ivoire is also under-renovation (the main tower was delivered in 2010) and the whole complex should be ready in 1-2 years when it will become a Sofitel (Accor).
2. Hilary Clinton announced the re-opening of the American Chamber of Commerce at the AGOA Forum in Washington. The Ivorian government sent a major delegation lead by the Prime minister – no doubt to i) push for the successful completion of the HIPC scheme, ii) thank the Americans for access to AGOA and iii) continue to lobby for the Millenium Challenge Account. USAID also announced a mission to the country in July with a view to reopening aid channels. The only problem with this story is that the American Chamber of Commerce actually never closed – seems some administrative decision was taken to revoke their certificate, which is now being given again, though no-one ever told the chamber!
3. Other news that caught my eye this week. Ivory Coast came in 11th position on the Foreign Policy 2012 Failed States Index. That’s not going to be great for investor confidence. Strangely neighbouring Mali isn’t in the worst category. We also had South African airways announcing a return of flights from 17th August, while inflation was -1.2% in May according to the National Statistics Institute (April had been -3.9%). In today’s newspaper L’Inter there was encouraging news about the president cracking down on a means used by ministers to take money from state companies under their authority. Hopefully that should reduce waste/fraud – in a context of the continuing cocoa corruption trials which are seeing some horribly high figures on the funds that simply disappeared under the previous regime.
Enjoy the weekend. Next week we’ve got a government seminar dedicated to the land rights issue (an incredibly important issue), an ECOWAS summit and maybe even HIPC completion.