/ 20 July 2012

Cote d’Ivoire sets aside $20bn for development

Cote d'Ivoire Alassane Ouattara
Cote d'Ivoire Alassane Ouattara

The world's top cocoa producer, once the motor for economic growth in West Africa, has seen a decade of stagnation as a political crisis split the country between northern rebels and government loyalists in the south.

The impasse ended with a brief but brutal civil war that killed around 3 000 people last year. An economic revival is now under way with growth of 8% expected this year following a 2011 contraction of 4.7%.

The country, led by new President Alassane Ouattara, a former top International Monetary Fund official, has set a goal of becoming a leading emerging economy by 2020.

"The objective is to fulfill the minimum conditions for Côte d'Ivoire's emergence by 2020, notably to achieve strong growth … and build for Ivorians a middle class capable of supporting that growth through consumption," the country's Planning Minister Albert Toikeusse Mabri told Parliament on Thursday.

Spending under the national development programme will target projects in sectors such as agriculture, security, transport infrastructure, energy production, health, and education.

State enterprises
The state owns stakes in many of the country's largest enterprises, including utilities and transport companies, through which it plans investments worth nearly 6.5-trillion CFA.

The government has already promised to pump around $500-million into power generation by 2015 in the aim of meeting rising domestic and export demand.

Mabri said the plan had received a boost from a decision last month by the IMF, World Bank and Paris Club lenders to cancel $10-billion of Côte d'Ivoire's estimated $12.5-billion external debt. The decision frees up some 40% of the budget previously destined for debt service.

"The resources will come from debt cancellation, internal resources and borrowing from partners," Mabri said.

Prime Minister Jeannot Kouadio-Ahoussou earlier this week predicted growth in the double digits by 2014, a forecast analysts say is overly optimistic.

Most analysts expect a marked improvement over years of stagnation that began even before a decade of political instability debunked the country's image as a rare example of stability in a tumultuous region. – Reuters