A street market in Abidjan (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
In Cote d’Ivoire, CIPE is engaged in a multi-year program to enhance the capacity of Ivorian private sector associations, particularly in the small and medium enterprises sector (SME), to drive advocacy initiatives for market-oriented policy reforms and a functional democracy.
This new program in Cote d’Ivoire also takes account of the post-conflict nature of the society and the transitional phase of its economy. Recent political developments in Cote d’Ivoire indicate significant challenges to consolidating any democratic gains after the 2011 post-electoral crises. Oddly enough, the administration’s response to these challenges may be favorable to CIPE’s program and mission in Cote d’Ivoire, which would lead to the kind of fundamental impact that will ultimately foster more sustainable democratic gains.
Informal entrepreneurs make up a large part of Cote d’Ivoire’s economy. (Photo: United Nations)
In Cote d’Ivoire, as in most nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, the government has pronounced its commitment to the creation of an entrepreneurial economy as a means to address the country’s sizable informal sector — despite the significant challenges posed by armed conflict and the legacy of civil war. CIPE’s current program in Cote d’Ivoire is aimed at enhancing the participation of the informal sector in policy reform processes and improving access to information on government economic and regulatory reform initiatives.
The existence of an informal sector in Cote d’Ivoire, along with a business organization to represent its interests, presents quite a contrast to the economic situation in the country during the immediate decades following its independence. Prior to its descent into civil war in 2002, Cote d’Ivoire was known to be the engine of stability, growth, and jobs in West Africa, with a more advanced private sector than most other sub-Saharan African countries. The economic capital, Abidjan, was known across Africa as ‘le Paris de l’Afrique’ – the Paris of Africa. However, the fact was that Cote d’Ivoire was experiencing political and economic dynamics that were a legacy of its colonial and post-colonial ties to France: autocratic political rule that was supported by economic etatisme or dirigisme.
In 1993, the death of autocratic ruler Felix Houphouet-Boigny coincided with a significant drop in the price of cocoa, the country’s main export commodity. These led to a rocky transition from autocracy to democracy, culminating in a civil war in 2002 that split the country into two regions, along ethnic lines. The ensuing period of prolonged political instability fostered political patronage and neo-patrimonial networks that exacerbated the country’s post-colonial economic predicament, thereby creating a sizable informal sector.