China-Côte d'Ivoire cooperation: What does the future hold?
Alexander Ayertey Odonkor
National flags of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and the People's Republic of China. /CFP
National flags of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and the People's Republic of China. /CFP

National flags of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and the People's Republic of China. /CFP

Editor's note: Alexander Ayertey Odonkor is a global economist with keen interest in the social, environmental and economic landscape of both developing and developed countries, particularly in Asia, Africa and Europe. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, Patrick Achi, is one of the high-ranking government officials present at the 2023 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference, often referred to as the "Asian Davos," an international organization focused on promoting development in Asia and around the world. Patrick Achi's participation at the Boao Forum which commenced on March 28 and ends on March 31, marks another milestone in the history of China-Côte d'Ivoire relations, which spans four decades. Since the establishment of China-Côte d'Ivoire diplomatic relations on March 2, 1983, the two countries have remained durable partners – supporting each other on issues pertaining to their respective core interests as both countries strive to achieve development.

March 2, 2023 marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages with the President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, where the two presidents reached new consensus to further deepen cooperation between China and Côte d'Ivoire in various fields.

Considering the burgeoning economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, with Côte d'Ivoire's export to China increasing at an annualized rate of 18.5 percent from 1995 to 2020 and concurrently, China's export to Côte d'Ivoire rising at an annualized rate of 15.2 percent for the specified period – in the coming years, the next phase of the China-Côte d'Ivoire economic and trade cooperation, which promises a deepened bilateral relation, is not only expected to inject new impetus in an already flourishing China-Africa cooperation but also crucial to solving daunting economic challenges exacerbated by recent occurrences, notably COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Ultimately, the influx of colossal investments from Chinese enterprises together with increased financial and technical support from Beijing to key sectors such as agriculture, energy, transport and ICT in the West African country will significantly scale up investments required to strengthen growth and drive the structural transformation of Côte d'Ivoire's economy, boosting investments in new industries that offer significant potential for wealth creation and decent jobs. In fact, China's massive contribution aligns with Côte d'Ivoire's Strategic Plan 2030, a national reference framework that prioritizes structural transformation of the economy, with a goal to create 8 million jobs, reduce poverty rate to 20 percent and drive the country to an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

A farmer arranges fermented cocoa beans onto a sheet to dry out under the sun in Côte d'Ivoire, November 18, 2022. /CFP
A farmer arranges fermented cocoa beans onto a sheet to dry out under the sun in Côte d'Ivoire, November 18, 2022. /CFP

A farmer arranges fermented cocoa beans onto a sheet to dry out under the sun in Côte d'Ivoire, November 18, 2022. /CFP

In fact, even though recent trends show that Côte d'Ivoire remains on a positive economic trajectory, the structure of the economy has barely changed – it remains, as in the past – depending mainly on the primary sector, which makes growth unstable due to volatility of primary commodity prices. For example, Côte d'Ivoire is the world's top exporter of cocoa beans and cashews, but only less than 15 percent of cashew are processed in the country – to be candid, the country could create numerous quality jobs, accelerate inclusive growth and reduce poverty, if processing capacities across the agriculture sector and various industries are enhanced considerably.

However, this will not be a walk in the park. To achieve this goal, Côte d'Ivoire will have to increase investment rate from 22 percent presently to at least 30 percent of GDP to build up an adequate stock of private capital and productive infrastructure – an enormous burden for the West African country. However, the gap could be filled significantly via cooperation with other partners, particularly investments from China which are bound to soar in the coming years. For several decades, China has demonstrated keen commitment to create a conducive environment that supports processing capacities across various industries in Côte d'Ivoire, by contributing significantly to efforts dedicated to closing the country's infrastructure deficit.

In fact, China's contribution in this regard has not been limited to infrastructure development projects such as enhancing energy access and building vital transport infrastructure, like the expansion of Abidjan port, West Africa's largest natural harbor, which is one of the landmark projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the region, but extends to directly building factories for processing – for example, nearly three years ago, the country's Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) announced that Chinese investment amounting to $389 million has been allocated to build two factories, which will boost Côte d'Ivoire's cocoa-processing capacity by 14 percent – creating an opportunity to expand the commodity's value chain in the country. Similar arrangements are expected from the China-Côte d'Ivoire cooperation in other sectors as African countryseeks to propel structural transformation of the economy.

In conclusion, as China and Côte d'Ivoire expect an increased economic and trade cooperation in the coming years, it is essential for policymakers, entrepreneurs, small- and medium-sized enterprises and other relevant stakeholders on both sides of the aisle to seize the opportunity to further promote inclusive growth and sustainable development in their respective countries – leveraging platforms to further integrate the two markets for win-win cooperation. 

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