~~Côte d’Ivoire’s Prime Minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan, and his entourage descended on New York earlier this week to drum up support for his country’s economy. At an event in midtown Manhattan packed with potential investors, Duncan swiftly and efficiently summed up his country’s appeal, highlighting its double-digit projected economic growth, its tame inflation and the government’s determination to create an increasingly investor-friendly environment. He also, inadvertently, highlighted the frustrations that investors experience trying to get projects in Côte d’Ivoire off the ground.
Formerly the jewel of West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire suffered more than a decade of turmoil and intermittent civil war following a military coup in 1999. In 2010, the country held a presidential election, which was won by a former Prime Minister, Alassane Ouattara, but the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to hand over power, triggering another five months of strife. Ultimately, in 2011, Gbagbo was forced from office by Ouattara’s supporters with the help of France and the UN.
Duncan’s pitch to an enthusiastic crowd in New York focused on the simple goal of restoring Côte d’Ivoire to its former glory by focusing on three themes: peace and security; reconciliation; and economic recovery. In the remarkably free-ranging and candid Q&A session that followed his presentation, Duncan continued to build on pledge to enable investment into Côte d’Ivoire.
To one investor who complained he was unable to complete a planned $100 million investment in renewable power generation facilities, Duncan promised he would make the necessary introductions that would unblock the investment process.
Another attendee had been experiencing frustration in trying to get a substantial investment in mango processing off the starting blocks. The Prime Minister would be happy to help the investor find the right contacts in government to get the project moving.
As the questions mounted and the promises proliferated, though, it became clear that within all the solutions was a glimpse of the problem. One investor noted, with an air of polite exasperation: “It seems that all roads lead to your office.”
Unfazed, the ever-affable PM proffered another solution before sitting down for a boisterous press conference, conducted in French. Once he’d satisfied the French-speaking media, Duncan marched off to mingle with the crowd.
The English-language media were not so fortunate. As the afternoon wore on and Duncan worked his way through a mob of eager potential investors, the allotted times for promised one-on-one interviews came and went. By late afternoon, the PM was holed up in his hotel suite receiving a stream of investors content to wait hours for a few minutes’ face-time with Duncan or the coterie of ministers who accompanied him on the NY jaunt.
In the corridor outside Duncan’s suite, where a posse of investors patiently waited, it was clear that all roads did indeed lead to the PM