2013 Investment Climate Statement
Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
April 2013

Openness to Foreign Investment

Nearly two years of relative political stability has allowed the Government of Cote d’Ivoire (GOCI) to focus on continued economic recovery following the 2011 post-electoral crisis and after more than a decade of economic mismanagement and infrastructure decay. Returning the country to its former status as West Africa’s regional economic and financial powerhouse has been the guiding principle of President Ouattara’s initial policy objectives. In 2012, these efforts began to bear fruit, with estimated GDP growth of 8.6 percent and stronger than expected fiscal receipts. Significant legislative steps were also taken to improve business conditions and encourage foreign private investment. Successful efforts to implement reform in the public finance, energy, cocoa, and coffee sectors helped the country to attain the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point in June, and thus receive significant debt relief. There have been sizeable private and public infrastructure investments in the road, transport and energy sectors, as well as growth in manufacturing, services, mining and petroleum and gas production. This general improvement in the investment climate was reinforced by passage of the 2012 Investment Code, which is designed to attract private sector capital and reinforce confidence in the market. Government and IMF forecasts for continued strong GDP growth in 2013 and 2014, coupled with significant plans for additional spending on major economic infrastructure projects, suggest that the market will become increasingly attractive to foreign investment.

Although the business climate has improved markedly, notable challenges remain. Government-led post-conflict reconciliation and accountability efforts have been halting. Additionally, sporadic attacks allegedly carried out by elements loyal to former President Gbagbo on security forces near the Liberian border and in Abidjan have caused concern. Attempts to draw the political party of the ousted former regime into the political process have met with limited success. Corruption, which became entrenched and institutionalized during the Gbagbo regime, remains endemic.

The Ivoirian government actively encourages foreign investment through mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, takeovers, or startups. As part of its post-crisis economic reconstruction plan, the government is committed to doubling foreign investment over the next several years. There are no significant limits on foreign investment nor are there differences in treatment of foreign and national investors, either in terms of the level of foreign ownership or sector of investment. The government does not screen investments and has no overall economic and industrial strategy that discriminates against foreign-owned firms. There are no laws specifically authorizing private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control and no such practices have been reported.

Although the government encourages all foreign investment, French firms have traditionally dominated key sectors of the Ivoirian economy. Among other large investments, French companies currently own the national electric utility company, manage a portion of the port of Abidjan, own the public water utility for Abidjan, and manage the airport. A French company also maintains a controlling interest in the country’s national telecommunications provider.

Foreign companies are free to invest and list on the regional stock exchange (BRVM), which is based in Abidjan and is dominated by Ivoirian and Senegalese firms. With the inception of the regional exchange, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) members established the Regional Council for Savings and Investment, a regional securities regulatory body.

In June 2012, Cote d’Ivoire adopted a new investment code to replace the 1995 Investment Code. The new code offers incentives, including tax reductions and in some cases exemptions from value added taxes (VAT) on equipment for private investors. Under the new code, new industrial zones will be created and investors will benefit from special tax treatment for periods ranging from 8 to 15 years, depending on the location of the investment. The new investment code also provides incentives to promote sectors that are key to the country’s economic development, such as low-cost housing construction, the creation of factories and infrastructure development. In return, investors commit to technology transfer, compliance with environmental regulations, job training and job promotion.

Other steps recently taken to improve the business climate include the adoption of a new telecommunications code and the opening of a business facilitation center designed to reduce the process of starting a business to a maximum of 48 hours. A new commercial court has also been created.

The Petroleum Investment Code and the Mining Code are currently under review. The existing codes encourage foreign investment in these sectors by exempting them from income, and other, taxes. Current exemptions extend to the value-added tax on equipment, materials and the first consignment of spare parts, except when there are equivalent products either made in Cote d'Ivoire or available in-country at similar cost.

The tax schedule, as revised in 2006, includes measures to reduce the corporate tax burden and stimulate economic activity. These measures include a corporate income tax of 27 percent and the awarding of three-year corporate income tax exemptions and free tax registration for returning companies that left the country as a result of the post-election crisis. In 2012, a four-percent tax on tourism development was created that affects hotels, restaurants, casinos and travel agencies. A three-percent sales tax has replaced a tax rate of 20 CFAF (0.04 US cents) per minute on international incoming telecommunications traffic.

Cote d'Ivoire has an investment promotion center, CEPICI (Centre des Promotion des Investissements en Cote d’Ivoire, <www.cepici.ci>), which provides investment information and assistance for entrepreneurs interested in starting a business or foreign enterprises interested in investing in Cote d'Ivoire. CEPICI provides a “one-stop-shop” for investors, an outreach program to match opportunities with potential investors, and a public-private liaison program. CEPICI also maintains a file of projects seeking foreign investment.

The government does not use tax, labor, environment, or health and safety laws to impede or distort investment. Well-entrenched foreign companies historically have formed relationships with officials—who frequently influence the awarding of tenders. Additionally, larger firms, which in many cases are foreign companies, face particular government requests and barriers (e.g., caps on market share or pressure with regard to pre-payment of taxes) that smaller businesses, which in many cases are Ivoirian companies, do not face. There is no sector, however, where American investors have been formally refused the same treatment as other foreign investors. While the government has expressed its commitment to a free and fair bidding process, bids have not always been made public. The government sometimes simply chooses from among companies that have proactively contacted it about an investment opportunity rather than proceeding through a public bid process. In August 2009, the government adopted a new public procurement code to enhance transparency in bidding procedures. The main changes included the separation of the auditing and regulatory functions and the harmonization of national texts with WAEMU directives.

The government has privatized some parastatal enterprises, and is seeking additional privatizations 20 years after the first major privatization phase. Approximately 15 parastatal enterprises are scheduled for privatizations, including some banks. In past privatizations, such as for management of the Port of Abidjan and for management of the electric and water companies, well-entrenched companies with extensive histories in Cote d’Ivoire purchased the companies, which led to allegations of corruption on the part of losing investors.

There are some notable limitations on foreign investment. Many foreign investors see corruption, especially in the judicial system, as a major impediment to investment in Cote d’Ivoire. Some foreign investors have described extraordinary difficulty and lengthy delays in establishing investments in Cote d’Ivoire. The World Bank’s 2013 “Doing Business” report ranks Cote d’Ivoire 177 of 185 countries evaluated. There are restrictions on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies. As a means to monitor foreign exchange flows, for example, the external finance and credit office of the Finance Ministry must approve investments from outside the West African Franc (FCFA) zone. Despite regulations designed to control land speculation, in urban areas, foreigners own significant amounts of land. Free-hold tenure outside of urban areas, despite land reform, is difficult. Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, opt for long-term leases.

Key Economic Indicators

If a scroll bar appears below the following table, swipe the table to move left/right of the dashed line.

Measure

Year

Index/Ranking

TI Corruption

2012

130 of 176

Heritage Economic Freedom

2012

126 of 179

World Bank Doing Business

2012

177 of 185

MCC Gov’t Effectiveness

2013

27%

MCC Rule of Law

2013

25%

MCC Control of Corruption

2013

33%

MCC Fiscal Policy

2013

53%

MCC Trade Policy

2013

60%

MCC Regulatory Quality

2013

42%

MCC Business Start Up

2013

16%

MCC Land Rights Access

2013

6%

MCC Natural Resource Mgmt.

2013

100%

MCC Access to Credit

2013

50%

MCC Inflation

2013

77%


Conversion and Transfer Policies

Cote d'Ivoire is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), which uses the Franc CFA (FCFA), a convertible currency. The French Central Bank continues to hold the international reserves of WAEMU member states and maintains a fixed rate of 655.956 CFA to the Euro.

The WAEMU has unified foreign exchange regulations. Under these regulations, there are no restrictions for transfers within the community, and designated commercial banks are able to approve routine foreign exchange transactions inside the community. The transfer abroad of the proceeds of liquidation of foreign direct investments no longer requires prior government approval.

Despite the ability to transfer funds freely within the WAEMU zone, when Ivoirians and expatriate residents are traveling from Cote d'Ivoire to another WAEMU country, they must declare the amount of currency being carried out of the country. When traveling from Cote d'Ivoire to a destination other than another WAEMU country, Ivoirians and expatriate residents are prohibited from carrying an amount of currency greater than the equivalent of two million CFA francs (approximately USD 4,000). Larger amounts require the approval of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and must be in travelers or bank checks.

The government must grant prior permission for investments coming from outside the WAEMU zone, and routinely does so. Once an investment is established and documented, the government regularly approves remittances of dividends and/or repatriation of capital. The same holds true for requests for other sorts of transactions -- e.g., imports, licenses, and royalty fees.

Multi-national firms in Cote d’Ivoire have complained that temporary liquidity shortfalls occur in the banking system, but this is primarily an issue during the main cocoa harvest when companies are transferring large sums of money for the purchase and export of cocoa. Companies continue to complain that the government is slow in approving currency conversions.


Expropriation and Compensation

Cote d'Ivoire's public expropriation law includes compensation provisions similar to those in the United States. Historically, expropriation has not been an issue in Cote d'Ivoire, and the Embassy is not aware of any cases of government expropriation of private property.

Private expropriation to force settlement of contractual or investment disputes continues to be a problem. Local individuals or local companies using what appear to be spurious court decisions have challenged the ownership of some foreign companies in recent years. On occasion, the government has blocked the bank accounts of U.S. and other foreign companies because of ownership and tax disputes. Corruption and lack of capacity in the judicial system and security services have resulted in poor enforcement of private property rights, even in the sensitive cocoa sector, particularly when the expropriated entity is foreign held and the expropriator is Ivoirian or a long-term French or Lebanese resident or dual national of Cote d’Ivoire.


Dispute Settlement

The judicial system is dysfunctional and there is political consensus on the need for reform. Enforcement of contract rights is often time-consuming and expensive as court cases move slowly. Judges sometimes fail to base their decisions on the legal or contractual merits of the case and tend to rule against foreign investors in favor of entrenched interests. In addition, cases are often postponed and appealed, moving from court to court, in some cases for decades. Magistrates are sometimes subject to political or financial influence. To counteract this, some investors stipulate in contracts that disputes must be settled through international commercial arbitration. However, even if stipulated in the contract, decisions reached through international arbitration, and even through the African regional arbitration body, are sometimes not honored by local courts.

The government has stated its commitment to reforming the judicial system to build capacity, fight corruption, strengthen the functioning of courts, and to facilitate access to the justice system. In 2012, the government suspended eight judges on corruption charges and at the end of the year, the judicial proceedings were still ongoing.

Because the average time from filing to resolution of a contract dispute is eight years, the government established an arbitration tribunal in 1999 for businesses to settle commercial disputes without going to court. The arbitration court is supposed to provide alternative modes of conflict resolution including arbitration, conciliation, and mediation.

In July 2004, the tribunal’s mandate was expanded to include participation of local chambers of commerce. Although the tribunal has the ability to enforce awards more quickly, use of the tribunal in lieu of the court system has been limited. In the past ten years it has heard only 147 cases (15 in 2012). In addition to the local arbitration board, Cote d'Ivoire is a member of the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The Abidjan-based regional Joint Court of Justice and Arbitration provides an alternative means of solving contractual disputes.

On January 12, 2012, the Council of Ministers established a Commercial Court to specifically handle business cases. Further reform plans call for deciding more cases by three-judge panels, instead of by a single judge; publishing decisions more quickly; enhancing computerization in the court system; training judges in commercial law; and increasing the number of appeals courts to reduce the backlog of commercial cases.

Cote d'Ivoire has both commercial and bankruptcy laws that address liquidation of business liabilities. The Uniform Acts for the Organization and Harmonization of Business Law (OHADA) is a collection of uniform laws on bankruptcy, debt collection, and rules governing business transactions. The OHADA permits three different types of bankruptcy liquidation: an ordered suspension of payment to permit a negotiated settlement; an ordered suspension of payment to permit restructuring of the company, similar to Chapter 11; and the complete liquidation of assets, similar to Chapter 7. Creditors' rights, irrespective of nationality, are protected equally by the Act. Monetary judgments resulting from a bankruptcy are usually paid out in local currency.

At present, there are no investment disputes involving U.S. firms in Cote d’Ivoire.


Performance Requirements and Incentives

Cote d'Ivoire does not maintain any regulations inconsistent with WTO Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS). There are no general performance requirements applied to investments, nor does the government or the investment authority generally place conditions on location, local content, equity ownership, import substitution, export requirements, host country employment, technology transfer, or local financing. Cellular telephone companies must meet technology and performance requirements to maintain their licenses. The Investment Code, the Petroleum Code, and the Mining Code, currently being revised, delineate the incentives available to new investors in Cote d'Ivoire.


Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors generally have access to all forms of remunerative activity on terms equal to those enjoyed by Ivoirians. The government encourages foreign investment, including in the privatization of state-owned and parastatal firms, though in most cases the state reserves an equity stake in the new company.

Banks and insurance companies are subject to licensing requirements, but there are no restrictions designed to limit foreign ownership or to establish subsidiaries of foreign companies in this sector. There are no restrictions on foreign investment in computer services, or education and training services. There are restrictions on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies. Investments in these sectors are subject to prior approval and require appropriate licenses and association with an Ivoirian partner; however; foreign companies operate successfully in all of these service sectors.


Protection of Property Rights

Ivoirian civil code provides for enforcement of private property rights. The concept of mortgages exists, but mortgage lending is not well developed. There is no secondary market for mortgages, though President Ouattara has publically called for the creation of a mortgage system in Cote d’Ivoire. Property and title registration systems exist in Cote d’Ivoire. The legal system protects and facilitates the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, including land, buildings and mortgages.

Outside of urban areas, private individuals or entities usually cannot obtain freehold tenure because traditional property rights of villages and ethnic groups prevent the land from being sold. In urban areas where land is not held as a "tenancy in common" by a tribal or village head, but is considered to be owned individually, it can still be difficult to obtain a free-hold deed to property even years after a closing. For that reason, most individuals and businesses tend to sign long-term leases. Although the legal system recognizes the right to contract for leaseholds in both urban and rural areas, in most cases traditional tribal land-owners do not have a clear understanding of property rights. This complicates the enforcement of property rights in rural areas. In addition, because free-hold tenure by individuals is not generally permitted in rural areas, potential borrowers often have difficulty using real estate as collateral for loans. Even in urban settings the mortgage market is not well developed. As part of the legislative reforms mandated by the Linas-Marcoussis peace agreement in July 2004, the National Assembly adopted amendments to the law on rural-land ownership. This law provides very limited free-hold ownership for rural lands, which had been traditionally held as a tenancy in common by villages. Rights are only protected, however, if the owner can provide proof of ownership through an assignment deed or purchase contract. The National Assembly plans to review the 1998 law on rural land ownership to make it easier to obtain land titles and to improve the security of ownership and resolve recurrent land conflicts in rural areas.

The Ivoirian Civil Code protects intellectual property rights. However, legal protections for intellectual property can fall short of standards established by the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) due to uneven law enforcement and the lack of custom checks at porous borders, which permit the trade of counterfeit textiles, pharmaceutical products, and vehicle parts. Cote d'Ivoire is a party to the Paris Convention, its 1958 revision, and the 1977 Bangui Agreement covering 16 Francophone African countries in the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), which has been TRIPS compliant since 2002. Under OAPI, rights registered in one member country are valid in other member states. Patents are valid for ten years, with the possibility of two five-year extensions. Trademarks are valid for ten years and are renewable indefinitely. Copyrights are valid for 50 years.

In 2001, the government drafted a law in an effort to bring Cote d’Ivoire into conformity with TRIPS. This law would have added specific protections for computer programs, databases, and an extension of copyrights with regard to rented films and videos. However, the National Assembly has not yet approved this legislation. Cote d’Ivoire has not signed the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright (WIPO) internet treaties.

The government's Office of Industrial Property (OIPI) is charged with ensuring the protection of patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and commercial names. The office faces many challenges, including insufficient resources, a lack of political will and post-crisis reconstruction issues. As a result, enforcement of intellectual property rights is largely ineffective. Foreign companies, especially from East and South Asia, flood the Ivoirian market with all types of counterfeit goods. Despite enforcement difficulties, the government is working to strengthen intellectual property rights protections. In 2007, the Ministry of Industry, through the OIPI, issued a draft bill on the protection of intellectual property rights at Ivoirian borders to provide legal provisions for addressing counterfeiting. This proposed draft legislation would prohibit the entry and exit of goods infringing upon intellectual property rights and would allow customs to detain and investigate any shipment of goods suspected of infringement. The National Assembly has not yet scheduled the proposal for debate. Cote d’Ivoire’s law on mandatory registration of commercial names came into effect in February 2006.

The Ivoirian Copyright Office (BURIDA) began a new labeling system in January 2004 to prevent counterfeiting and protect audio, video, literary and artistic property rights in music and computer programs. BURIDA's operations were initially hampered by a long-running dispute between the management and the board over policy and leadership issues. To resolve those issues, in March 2006, the government established an administration, as well as a commission to reform BURIDA. Additionally, in 2007 BURIDA brokered an accord with the Ivoirian music industry to reduce prices on locally produced CDs by 66 percent in an effort to undercut piracy. BURIDA holds regular programs promoting enforcement with lawyers and magistrates. In November 2008, the then Ivoirian president signed a decree reforming BURIDA and changing its legal status from an association to a civil corporation. This change was intended to give BURIDA more autonomy and a more business-like focus. I n July 2009, a new BURIDA board was elected. A 2010 copyright law that stiffens penalties for counterfeiters has reduced the sales of pirated CDs and DVDs on the market. BURIDA has also increased activity against audiovisual piracy, including periodic raids against retail outlets and street vendors to confiscate pirated CDs and DVDs. It has also instituted legal proceedings against persons involved in the fraudulent copying of audiovisual materials.


Transparency of Regulatory System

The government has taken some steps toward encouraging a more transparent and competitive economic environment, while the IMF, World Bank, European Union, and other large donors have pushed the government to make reforms. One problem is that proposed laws and regulations are not published in draft form and made available for public comment. However, the National Assembly debates most legislation and the government often holds public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations.

Another area of concern has been public bids and procurements. A centralized office of public bids in the Finance Ministry was created to ensure compliance with international bidding practices by providing a neutral body to make bidding decisions in a transparent and objective fashion based on clear criteria. In addition to the Office of Public Bids, there is also an Inspector General's office and regulatory bodies for creating transparency in the electricity and telecommunications sectors. Despite positive steps, bidders continue to informally complain of a lack of transparency in public bids and suspicions of bid-rigging.

On August 6, 2009, the government adopted a community framework for public procurement by incorporating WAEMU Directives 4 and 5 into bidding processes and auditing, as well as into the regulation of public procurement within the union. This new public procurement code aimed to harmonize public procurement policy and comply with WAEMU integration objectives. Changes included the separation of auditing and regulating functions; the transformation from a national to a regional system of procurement for intellectual services; and an increase from 25 to 30 percent of advance payment for the startup of procurement of goods and services. Another change was the creation of a National Regulatory Authority for Public Procurement that has financial autonomy and is charged with monitoring the application of good governance principles. It may sanction entities which do not comply with public procurement regulations.

Substantial regulatory reforms have been made in the cocoa and coffee sectors. From 1999–2008, several private and public institutions with producer, industry, and government representation were tasked with controlling and regulating these sectors. These groups were neither efficient nor transparent and were accused of fiduciary mismanagement. In September 2008, after several leaders of these regulatory boards were jailed on corruption charges, the president dissolved the cocoa regulating bodies and established a management committee to regulate and reform the cocoa and coffee sector. In November 2011, the government approved a cocoa reform plan with a new regulatory and legal framework and a new marketing mechanism. Under the new plan, a single regulatory and stabilization body, the Cocoa and Coffee Council, was created to oversee the industry. The council uses an averaged forward purchasing system aimed at minimizing fluctuations on the international market and guaranteeing a minimum price (60 percent of the CIF price) for farmers.

Despite government reforms, tax policy is sometimes muddled, confusing and arbitrary. The Ministry of Economy and Finance has at times changed tax regimes via ministerial decree, rather than working through the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly. The government sometimes levies large tax bills, which companies allege have little basis in law or standard accounting practices, and then the tax authority proceeds to negotiate a lower bill with the company.


Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policies generally encourage the free flow of capital. The IMF urged the government to restructure the financial sector to reduce the cost of intermediation and facilitate private sector access to credit. Cote d’Ivoire's commercial banking sector is generally sound, but public-owned banks pose potential risks to financial soundness, as loan quality, solvency and profitability have deteriorated in recent years owing to bad management and a lack of auditing. The Banque Central des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO) reported that the nonperforming loans ratio in Cote d’Ivoire deteriorated to 18.8 percent of the total in 2011, up from 16.4 percent at the end of 2010 due to the effects of the post-electoral crisis on small- and medium-sized businesses. Statistics for 2012 were not available at the time of this report. The 50 bank branches that were closed in the former rebel zones at the height of the crisis have reopened. However, of the six BCEAO branches in the interior of the country, three are still closed. Banks are expanding their networks, increasing total bank branches from 281 in 2008 to 497 agencies in 2013. Though credit allocation remains moderate compared to current funding needs, specifically for small businesses, banks have restarted lending, offering short-term and long-term loans. They generally make lending and investment decisions based on business criteria; however, credit for business expansion remains difficult to obtain.

According to the Central Bank of West African States, as of December 31, 2010, the most recent information available, the following Ivoirian banks had USD 20 million or more in total assets (figures have been converted from FCFA to USD at an exchange rate of 500 FCFA to 1 USD)

  • Banque Nationale d’Investissement (BNI): USD 41.0 million
  • Banque Internationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie de la Cote d’Ivoire: USD 33.3 million
  • Société Générale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire: USD 31.1 million
  • Standard Chartered Bank – Cote d’Ivoire: USD 20.6 million
  • Banque Internationale pour l'Afrique Occidentale: USD 20.0 million

At the end of 2010, total assets of the 22 banks and one credit institution doing business in Cote d’Ivoire were FCFA 3.6 trillion (about USD 7.2 billion), an increase of 17.8 percent from 2009 figures.

Government and private bonds are available for purchase by individuals or companies. During the post-election crisis regular auctions of Ivoirian treasury securities were no longer possible. To limit the impact on the regional banking system, the BCEAO agreed to roll over maturing Ivoirian T-bills. The government recently reached an agreement with banks concerning its stock of short-term securities, and Cote d’Ivoire has been able to return to the regional market with longer-term securities.

In September 2012, the government launched a new 5-year bond and the Regional Stock Market (BVRM) returned to Abidjan in 2011, after temporarily relocating as a result of the post-electoral crisis. Dominated by Ivoirian and Senegalese firms, the BVRM has a market capitalization of approximately USD 5 billion with 37 companies listed. The Regional Council for Savings Investments regulates the WAEMU securities exchanges market.

Ivoirian accounting systems are well developed and approach international norms. A WAEMU-wide accounting system-SYSCOA, under which all member countries follow the same accounting rules, is accepted and used in all member states.

The FCFA exchange rate is pegged to the Euro at 655.957 FCFA to one Euro. As a consequence, the FCFA/USD rate fluctuates freely with the Euro/USD rate.

There is no evidence of “cross shareholding” and “stable shareholders” to restrict foreign investment through mergers and acquisitions in Cote d’Ivoire.


Corporate Social Responsibility

Although there is no general awareness of corporate social responsibility in Cote d’Ivoire, foreign businesses, particularly in mining, petroleum, and the cocoa industries do often provide social infrastructure, including schools and health care clinics to communities close to their sites of operation. Cocoa companies have been actively supporting programs to improve sustainability in the sector and are working to combat the worst forms of child labor.


Political Violence

Cote d’Ivoire struggled through a decade of internal conflict and a violent four month post-election crisis when former president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to cede power to the internationally recognized winner of the 2010 election, Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo was captured in April 2011 by Ivoirian forces and President Ouattara was officially inaugurated in May 2011. Gbagbo now sits in The Hague awaiting a trial before the International Criminal Court. Legislative elections were peacefully held in December 2011 and judged by international observers to be free and fair. Municipal and regional elections are scheduled to take place in early 2013. Politically motivated demonstrations and strikes by workers’ unions in the health, education, transport, and cocoa sectors have occurred. No protests have been directed against American or foreign businesses. Despite general stability in Cote d’Ivoire under the current government, some security incidents, linked to supporters of the former Gbagbo regime, have occurred, but have not seriously threatened the Ouattara administration.


Corruption

Many companies cite corruption as the major obstacle to investment in Cote d’Ivoire. It has the greatest impact on judicial proceedings, contract awards, customs, and tax issues. It has been common for judges to base decisions on financial influence and businesses have reported corruption at every level of the civil service. Obtaining an official stamp or copy of a birth or death certificate, or an automobile title, requires payment of a supplemental "commission." If the commission is refused, the application is not processed. The size of the commission varies with the cost of the service or investment. Some investors have raised specific concerns about the rule of law and the government's ability to provide equal protection under the law.

There are domestic laws and regulations to combat corruption, but they are not effectively enforced. Penalties can range from incarceration to payment of civil fines. State employees can be convicted of either passive or active corruption or bribery in the performance of their duties. The law also provides for punishment of state employees who benefit directly or indirectly from private or parastatal companies related to contracts, markets or financial payment under their purview. Company managers who are complicit in acts of corruption are treated as accomplices. A local company may not deduct a bribe to a foreign official from taxes. Under the Ivoirian Penal Code, a bribe by a local company to a foreign official is a criminal act. Cote d'Ivoire ratified the UN Anti-Corruption Convention in November 2011. The country is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. The new ministerial cabinet has signed a new code of ethics to fight corruption and nepotism in public duty. The 10 Point Code of Ethics include: patriotism; respect for dignity and human life; the primacy of the public interest; solidarity and cohesion; good governance; accountability; integrity; justice and equity; continued dialog; responsibility; and civility, courtesy and moderation.

Racketeering by security and defense forces is often denounced in the media and receives wide attention from the authorities and the population. Transport companies have been particularly hard hit. Trucks moving cargo from the western agricultural belt to Abidjan and between Abidjan and the ex-CNO (center, north and west) region of Cote d’Ivoire pay an average of USD 100 to USD 400 at the various checkpoints they must pass through, depending on the cargo. The government has been working to reduce the illegal checkpoints, particularly with regard to transport costs, and in 2011 authorized only 33 legal checkpoints in the entire country as part of an anti-racketeering campaign. The gendarmerie has established a new anti-corruption force. This campaign has led to a substantial reduction in police check points on major roadways; however, it has not yet yielded results concerning racketeering by security forces. There are several governmental entities in charge of fighting corruption: the General Secretariat in Charge of Good Governance the Board of State General Inspectors and the Finance Ministry's Inspector General's Office. None has been effective in stamping out this problem. Transparency International‘s 2012 “Corruption Perception Index” ranks Cote d’Ivoire 130 of 176 countries.

The country’s financial intelligence unit, Cellule Nationale de Traitement des Informations Financières (CENTIF), established in December 2007, is responsible for investigating money laundering and terrorist financing. CENTIF has broad authority to investigate suspicious financial transactions, including those of government officials.


Bilateral Investment Agreements

There are no bilateral investment or taxation treaties between Cote d'Ivoire and the United States.


OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs

OPIC insures several U.S. investments in Cote d'Ivoire although the overall exposure is relatively small. Since 1999, OPIC has not issued any new investment insurance policies in Cote d'Ivoire, and in 2003, OPIC withdrew its underwriting agreement for Cote d’Ivoire. The African Project Development Facility (APDF) and the African Investment Program of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) may assist investors now that its parent, the World Bank, is reengaged in Cote d’Ivoire. Cote d'Ivoire is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).


Labor

The Constitution and the Labor Code grant all citizens, except members of the police and military, the right to form or join unions, and workers exercise these rights. Registration of a new union takes three months. Despite these protections, only a small percentage of the work force is actually organized. Most laborers work in the informal sector (i.e., small farms, small roadside stands, and urban workshops). Anti-union discrimination is prohibited. There have not been reports of anti-union discrimination, and consequently, no known prosecutions or convictions under this law. Unions are free to join international bodies, and the General Workers Union of Cote d'Ivoire (UGTCI) was affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The Constitution provides for collective bargaining, and the Labor Code grants all citizens, except members of the police and military services, the right to bargain collectively. Collective bargaining agreements are in effect in many major business enterprises and sectors of the civil service. In most cases in which wages were not established by direct negotiations between unions and employers, the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs establishes salaries by job categories. The Ivoirian constitution and statutes provide for the right to strike, and the government generally protects this right; however, the Labor Code requires a protracted series of negotiations and a six-day notification period before a strike may take place, making legal strikes difficult to organize.

In February 2004, the Minister of Employment and Civil Service and the Minister of Economy and Finance signed a decree aimed at promoting national employment. This decree favors the employment of Ivoirians in private enterprises. The decree states that any position to be filled must be advertised for two months. If after two months no qualified Ivoirian is found, the employer is allowed to recruit a foreigner, provided that he plans to recruit an Ivoirian to fill the position in the next two years. The foreign employee must be given a labor contract.


Foreign-Trade Zones/Free Ports

Created in 2008, the free trade zone for information technology and biotechnology (VITIB) is located in the city of Grand Bassam. Business operations have commenced with approximately 50 companies registered. The trade zone’s performance has failed to meet expectations, however, and the government is attempting to realign the trade zone’s objectives. There are no other free trade zones in Cote d’Ivoire. A free trade zone project was planned for the port of San Pedro, but remains dormant. Bonded warehouses do exist, and bonded zones within factories are allowed. High port costs and maritime freight rates have inhibited the development of in-bond manufacturing or processing, and there are consequently no general foreign trade zones.


Major Foreign Investors

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s World Investment Report, the stock of foreign direct investment in Cote d’Ivoire as of 2011 was an estimated USD 6.4 billion, the equivalent of 25.4 percent of that year’s GDP. In terms of FDI stock reported in officially by CEPICI, Lebanon is Cote d’Ivoire’s leading investor, followed by France and other European countries. Chinese, Indian, Libyan, Singaporean, and Moroccan businesses are also making significant investments in Cote d’Ivoire. U.S. firms are not a large source of FDI in Cote d’Ivoire, but have made major investments in oil and gas, banking, cocoa, and international courier services.


Foreign Direct Investment Statistics

CEPICI has published the following figures on 2012 FDI flows to Cote d’Ivoire by sector. However, these figures do not include all FDI flows in 2012.

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Foreign Direct Investment Inflow by Sector, 2012 (USD) Sector

Investment

Percentage

Food

46,321,732

13.39

Health

12,675,135

3.66

Mining Industry

6,984314

2.02

Fishing

27,085,032

7.83

Tourism & Hotel

48,342,434

13.98

Cement

94,962,138

27.45

Service

7,873,792

2.28

Plastics

8,128,024

2.35

Wood

1,203,580

0.35

Hydrocarbons

64,045,885

18.52

Chemicals

17,155,764

4.96

Construction Equipment

11,112,541

3.21

Total

345,890,376

100

Source: Ivoirian Investment Promotion Authority (CEPICI). Average exchange rate CFA 500/US

CEPICI has published the following figures on 2012 FDI flows to Cote d’Ivoire, by country of origin. However, these figures include only a small fraction of FDI flows in 2012.

If a scroll bar appears below the following table, swipe the table to move left/right of the dashed line.

Countries

Investment

Percentage

France

11,963,236

26.31

Spain

15,443

0.03

Germany

35,721

0.08

Switzerland

1,312,560

2.89

Lebanon

23,975,620

52.72

Italy

4,035,251

8.87

Belgium

357,217

0.79

Japan

3,781,168

8.31

Total

45,476,220

100

Source: CEPICI. Table does not represent all the flow investments by origin. Average exchange rate CFA 500/USD. CEPICI does not include investment from resident Lebanese in FDI figures.

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