By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Reporter Sua Kim
The volume of trade between Korea and Côte d’Ivoire nearly doubled from US$120 million in 2012 at the beginning of the tour of duty of Ambassador Sylvestre Kouassi Bile in Seoul to US$230 million in 2015.
Speaking at a recent interview with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news media outlets since 33 years in 1985, Ambassador Kouassi Bile predicted “The outlook is good, and we believe the bilateral trade will continue to grow over the years to come and we hope to double this volume in 2020.”
Development of relations, especially the growth of economic cooperation and trade between different countries of the world, is considered very, very important these days and in this respect Cote d’Ivoire has been in good hands judging from the figures of the bilateral economic relations.
See related story (http://www.koreapost.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=7339)
Asked how Korean companies are doing in Cote d’Ivoire, Ambassador Kouassi Bile replied: “The Korean companies are gaining growing popularity in Cote d’Ivoire. Their presence in my country is remarkable by their proven expertise in the areas where they are already involved--such as power plants construction, roads, infrastructures, digital economy, and eventually construction of hydroelectric dams and bridges.”
Actively engaged in the promotion of economic cooperation between Korea and Cote d’Ivoire, according to Ambassador Kouassi Bile, are Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), Halla Corporation, Jaewon Industrial Co. Ltd., and Dongsan Engineering. Ambassador Kouassi Bile discussed a wide range of topics at the interview, which included the introduction of the National Day of Cote d’Ivoire, the Head of Government of his country, relations between the two countries, and tourist attractions in the country.
Korea and Cote d’Ivoire established diplomatic relations in 1961 as the first country in the African region is the first country in the African region, and the relations between the two countries have grown by leaps and bounds in the form of ‘Comprehensive and Practical’ relations especially following the offificial state visit of President Alasane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire to Korea in 2014 for the first time in the history of relations between the two countries.
Among Koreans, Cote d’Ivoire is known to be a Central Country in West Africa with a land space about one and half times that of the Korean peninsula and a population of 23 million people. Among Koreans (and perhaps in other countries of the world), Cote d’Ivoire is the largest producer of the raw materials of chocolate loved by the entire world as well as the Korean people and is endowed with various other important agricultural and other natural resources.
Abidjan, the economic capital city of Cote d’Ivoire, is known among Koreans as the ‘Paris of Africa’ for the economic and cultural activities that lead many other countries in the region. The African Development Bank has its headquarters in Abidjan.
Cote d’Ivoire has attained a good measure of political and economic stability and development in recent years and consequently investments and productivity have grown remarkably with the result that the country is known to have been making a 10% economic growth every year—which makes the country a target of great attention from the outside world, as well as from Korea.
The Korean government and business world are obviously aware of this and efforts are continuously being made for the promotion of relations and cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and various other fields between the two countries.
Excerpts from the interview with Ambassador Kouassi Bile in Seoul follow:
Question: Please introduce the National Day of Cote d’Ivoire.
Answer: The National Day of Côte d’Ivoire commemorates the independence of this West African country which became a French colony on March 10, 1893, after several attempts of occupation by European explorers since the 15th century.
On the occasion of the National Day, festivities are organized throughout the national territory and in the diplomatic missions abroad.
Question: Please introduce the Head of Government of Cote d’Ivoire.
Profile of President Alasane Ouattara:
Born on January 1, 1942 in Dimbokro, Côte d’Ivoire, Married with four children.
Elected as the head of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire in November 2010 and re-elected in October 2015, President Alasane OUATTARA was first a senior international civil servant. His profile is as follow:
1965: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1967: Master of Arts in Economics, University of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1972: Ph.D. in Economics (Doctor’s degree), University of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
April 1968-August 1973: Economist for the I.M.F. in Washington, D.C. (United States)
August 1973-February 175: Head of Mission at the headquarters of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in Paris (France)
February 1975-December 1982: Special Advisor to the Governor and Director of Research of the West Africa Central Bank (BCEAO) in Paris and in Dakar (Senegal)
January 1983-October 1984: Vice-Governor of the BCEAO in Dakar
November 1984-October 1988: Director of the African Department at the I.M.F. in Washington, D.C.
May 1987-October 1988: Special Advisor to the Director General of the I.M.F. Washington, D.C
October 1988-December 1993: Governor of the BCEAO, in Dakar
Since December 1993: Honorary Governor of the BCEAO
From April to November 1990, Ivorian President Felix Houphouet-Boigny appointed OUATTARA as Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Coordination of the Stabilization and Economic Recovery Programme of Côte d’Ivoire; while holding the position, OUATTARA also remained in his post as BCEAO Governor.
November 7, 1990-December 9, 1993: Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire an Head of Government
July 1, 1994-July 31, 1999: Deputy Director General of the I.M.F., Washington D.C
Since August 1, 1999: President of the Rally of Republicans (RDR) party Ivorian centrist.
Since June 10, 1999: President, Founder of the International Institute for Africa (IIA) Washington, D.C
In November 2010: Elected President of Côte d’Ivoire, reelected in October 2015
Q: Please introduce the development of relations between Korea and Cote d’Ivoire.
A: Since July 23, 1961, the Republic of Korea and Côte d’Ivoire have established diplomatic ties; which made Côte d’Ivoire the first African country ever to do so.
Since that date, the two countries have had the foresight to develop multifaceted cooperative relations that have strengthened over time and cumulated to the official visit of President Alassane OUATTARA to Korea, in October 2014, the first visit to Korea by an Ivorian President.
Until recently, the relations were marked by grants and donations received from Korea. Emphasis is now put on trade and investments between the two countries.
Korean companies have access to priority projects in Côte d’Ivoire such as building power plants, road and traffic infrastructures construction, digital economy.
Q: What are the tourist attractions in Côte d’Ivoire?
A: On the coast, tourists can enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Guinea, including the Bay of Sirens. In Grand Bassam, they will discover a colonial city and will enjoy the beach, Assinie resort is not far away. Various national parks in the country will allow them to discover the local flora and fauna through the Taï National Park, the Mount Nimba Nature Reserve, the Comoé National Park. The waterfall of Mount Tonkui, the sacred forest of Gbepleu and its monkeys, the craftsmen of Korhogo, are some of sites to visit.
The position of Côte d’Ivoire is an asset; centrally located in the heart of West Africa, it is a gateway to that region. The population is affable; their welcoming is great.
Q: Please introduce yourself:
A: I joined the Foreign Service of Côte d’Ivoire in September 1977. My previous postings as a diplomat were in Ethiopia, Israel and Korea where I first came in February 1997 to open the Ivorian Embassy. I came back to Seoul in November 2012 as Ambassador, Head of Mission. I am married, with three children. I like music, tennis and hiking.
Q: What are the plans of future development of Cote d’Ivoire?
A: Côte d’Ivoire which aims to become an emerging country by the year 2020 is very much inspired by Korea in the process of its economic development. Côte d’Ivoire is currently engaged in the structural transformation of its economy, with a focus on industrialization.
Economic data on Cote d’Ivoire:
Located in the intertropical zone, Cote d’Ivoire, a country in West Africa, covers an area of 322 463Km2. It is limited to the North by Burkina Faso and Mali, to the South by the Atlantic Ocean, to the East by Ghana and to the West by Guinea and Liberia. Its relative economic success is due to its natural and human potentialities.
1 Natural assets
The Ivorian relief is generally flat and composed of plains and plateaux, with the exception of the west where there are some mountains.
From this relief, it appears that 97% of the land in Cote d’Ivoire is arable.
2 Human assets
Cote d’Ivoire has a young and dynamic population, estimated at 25 millions inhabitants. More than 55% of this population is under 20 years old. The annual growth rate of the population is 3.5%. This offers the country an inexhaustible reservoir of increasingly qualified manpower and a large consumer market.
As a country of openness, Cote d’Ivoire has benefited from the massive influx of a large foreign population, most of them from the countries of the subregion, representing about 26% of the population. It is a very entrepreneurial human resource that contribute enormously to Cote d’Ivoire’s economic development through the creation of large plantations, socio-economic infrastructures and the growth of small and medium sized enterprises and small and medium sized industries.
3 Role the State
As soon as it gained independence, Cote d’Ivoire opted for state capitalism. Thus, the country is open to foreign investors, but with state participation in the development program and the collection of taxes.
1 Creation of a single window of investments
In 2012, the government and the private sector set out to
facilitate the formalities for companies wishing to invest in Cote d’Ivoire. Reforms have thus been introduced to better regulate investments, notably, by strengthening the one-stop-shop for investments, managed by the Center for the Promotion of Investments in Cote d’Ivoire (CEPICI).
Placed under the authority of the Prime Minister, CEPICI’s mission is to identify and support investors. Thus, any investor, national or with foreign capital, direct or portfolio, big or small, is invited to declare itself to CEPICI, which one-stop-shop acts as a multi-service cocenter for the accomplishment of the administrative formalities required for creating business. The transition to CEPICI is, however, not a legal requirement.
2 Lightening the procedure and cost of starting a business
Progress has been made in terms of starting a business with the removal of the obligatory passage at the notary for any commercial company other than the public limited company, and thanks to the reorganization, in 2012, of the registry of the court where the contractors must immatriculate.
In addition, the cost of setting up a business has dropped considerably since 2013, from about US$ 1 482 to US$ 30.
3 The Commercial offer of Cote d’Ivoire
In terms of merchandise trade, Cote d’Ivoire’s supply is as diversified as it is varied. The country’s trade balance is structurally surplus.
However, due to strong GDP growth from 2012, trade has declined due, in particular, to the decline in exports of petroleum products.
The main advances have been in cocoa and cashew, but also in agro-industrial products, which include palm oil, soaps, cosmetics, extracts and coffee essence, tobacco, bags and packaging bags and cocoa products.