Ivory Coast’s Commerce minister says the ongoing U.S.-Africa summit presents the administration a unique opportunity to attract American businesses to the West African country as part of the administration’s economic recovery efforts.
Jean-Louis Billon said the administration in Yamoussoukro is encouraging strong public-private partnership and is implementing measures that will ensure a business-friendly climate to attract investors in a bid to diversify the country’s economy.
“We want to diversify our economy [and attract] investment to our country. So far we have a lot of French companies and European also [a] few US companies. It will be good for us to attract more and more US investors,” said Billon.
The Africa Growth and Opportunity Agreement (AGOA) will expire next year, but the U.S. Congress is set to begin discussions on the possible re-authorization of the trade agreement. Ivory Coast is one of the largest beneficiaries of AGOA.
Billon said he is hopeful that the trade agreement will be re-authorized.
“We are here also for the renewal of the AGOA…we want a better AGOA for the next 15 years. This is good for my country and any other African country,” said Billon. “We [are meeting] with US cooperate companies, institutions and the Millennium Challenge Cooperation that we are trying to get for our economy.”
Billon says the prospects of the administration’s post-conflict economic recovery agenda looks promising.
“The figures talk for us. In 2012 we had 9.6 percent economic growth in the country and in 2013 we had above 9 percent also and we intend to finish in the same range in 2014 and we are aiming [at] double digit growth for 2015,” said Billon. “So just after such crisis we are one of the top [countries] with economic growth on the continent.”
Critics say the government has yet to improve the lives of citizens in spite of the impressive economic growth figures the administration braggs about. They cited lack of jobs and high cost of living among other concerns that they say the administration has yet to address.
Billon says the government is working hard to improve citizens’ lives.
“The biggest challenge for us is to create a sound sustainable economy with millions of jobs,” he said.
Ivory Coast is recovering from the 2011 conflict following the presidential election dispute. Many Ivorians say the government has yet to root out graft and nepotism which they contend undermines the country’s moral fabric.
Billon says the administration is making efforts to combat corruption.
“It’s a challenge for us. A country in crisis is a fragile country with bad habits installed and it is always difficult to get rid of them after such a long term of bad habits,” said Billon. “But, we acknowledge that we have this problem and we [are taking] the steps to fight it. We are working towards more transparency, the rule of law, and we are going to take sanctions when it happens. That’s the only way we can solve this problem.”