The political situation in Côte d’Ivoire, one of Africa’s leading economies at moment, leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many analysts as to how well the country could consolidate the achievements of the past decade.
In fact, the decision by incumbent Alassane Ouattara to backpedal and run for a new term as President has raised criticisms from the opposition, fueling political volatility around the election of October 31, 2020. Disagreements between the government and opposition over the management of the electoral process worsen matters.
What is rather disturbing is the fear that such wrangling could spiral into another disorder and jeopardize the already giant strides made in the country’s socio-economic development over the last decade. As a matter of fact, Côte d’Ivoire is one of the largest economies in the West African Economic and Monetary Union and after years of political instability and economic decline, the country has been steadily growing.
It is on record that Côte d’Ivoire’s GDP per capita had risen further to $1662 by 2017 with GDP growth averaging 9% per annum during the 2012-16 period. According to a World Bank Group Report, Côte d’Ivoire’s economy has expanded by an average of 8% per year since 2011, making Côte d’Ivoire one of the fastest growing countries in the world.
Reports say the strong growth over the years has also allowed the government to rebuild or repair much of the infrastructure damaged during the civil war. In effect, the government adopted a National Development Plan for the 2016-2020 period which has as its predominant aim the achievement of middle-income status by 2020.
Such ambitious growth and promising prospects would have rather served as catalysts to making Côte d’Ivoire greater and not the political bickering gaining centre stage in the country at moment. Power, the struggle for which Ivorians are tearing themselves apart, is no doubt good, but like someone once said, the best democracy in the world is that which develops a country, ensures that citizens live better and so in tranquility.
Citizens are not oblivious of the fact that agriculture has been the backbone of the economy. Côte d’Ivoire is reportedly the largest cocoa producer in the world (30 per cent of the world’s production), big exporter of coffee and palm oil. The country also has significant offshore oil and natural gas reserves, which exploration has already boosted government revenues. Moreover, government investment in education and infrastructure resulted in the development of manufacturing industry. Growth catalysts which must not be wasted!
The World Bank cautions that it would be to the advantage of Côte d’Ivoire to target the most vulnerable segments of the population for greater redistribution of the benefits reaped from its sound economic performance, to further integrate women into the economy, and to develop its human capital to better meet the needs of the labour market. And that the production of modern goods and services requires skills that are still lacking in the local labour force.
All these require peace and tranquility which are gradually becoming rare in the country and which could exacerbate with the upcoming Presidential election if care is not seriously taken.
Allowing all these to crumble on the altar of power tussle is, to say the least, folly.
Concerted efforts and foresightedness are thus more than ever needed from across the political circle of the the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union to preserve the hard-earned achievements before striving for better days ahead. Any serious misunderstanding in the elections that can lead to civil strife has the propensity to scatter in a day what the country has taken decades to build and rebuild. This can and should be avoided!