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The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (unitary presidential constitutional republic) is located on the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), on the south coast of West Africa. Ivory Coast’s political capital is Yamoussoukro, located in the centre of the country. The country’s economic center and largest city is the port city of Abidjan. Côte d’Ivoire’s neighbouring countries are Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.

The country occupies a territory of more than 322,000 km2, and is home to more than 26 million people. The area of today’s Côte d’Ivoire was colonized by France in 1893 and became independent in 1960 under Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who reigned the country until 1993.

Côte d’Ivoire maintains close political and economic relations with its neighbours and other regional countries, like Senegal. It has signed United Nations treaties such as the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, African Union, La Francophonie, Latin Union, Economic Community of West African States, and the South Atlantic
Peace and Cooperation Zone.

Côte d’Ivoire’s economical capital Abidjan has about 3.6 million inhabitants and is available also via its Airport Port Bouet. The airport has a large capacity being able to serve all kinds of airlines and also large aircrafts. It is connected to Cameroon, Belgium, France, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Portugal, Senegal, Tunisia, Turkey, and other countries. (Source: https://www.flightradar24.com/data/airports/abj/routes) In 2017 the airport served more than 2 million passengers.

Côte d’Ivoire’s ICT and BPO Sector

For our purpose to inform about the opportunities and conditions to invest in own local services delivery centers or to work with local ICT and BPO service providers we often evaluate the readiness to export services or to compete on the global or regional markets for such IT and business process services.

However likewise important is the ability of a country to generate demand for such services on the domestic market. After a research by Oxford Business Group (https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/overview/getting-connected-rising-mobilepenetration-and-headline-sectorgrowth-speed-economic-develop‐ment) citing a World Bank report “Aux portes du paradis: Comment la
Côte d’Ivoire peut-elle rattraper son retard?”the country has yet to utilize its large potential to increase productivity via the use of ICT systems among its local private sector.

For instance, in 2018 only 18% of Ivorian companies have had their own website and 60% use email in the communication with business partners, which is below the continents average of 33% and 70%. This is also connected to the performance
in quality of services by telecom operators, which have yet to increase investments in infrastructure and systems in order to reach the country’s objectives for accessibility, integrity, and continuity.

The government has not been blind to the issues and uses its options to motivate providers to reach high quality standards for connectivity services, via fines, regional telecom operators workshops, and investment deals. One of those was the construction of an undersea cable running from Portugal to South Africa, increasing Côte d’Ivoire’s data traffic capacity and connecting it to 9 other countries.

The government also facilitated the construction of 5,000 cyber-centers in villages with more than 500 inhabitants. For a three year’s period from 2015 until 2018 taxes on IT equipment, and mobile devices were removed, also with the objective to increase the country’s workforce pool.

Positive is also that the government is leading its efforts for modernizing the private sector by example. Administrative processes, and data keeping have been digitized and projects in education, health, agriculture and finance were implemented via the government’s e-service program.

The availability of support services via incubators is an important aspect in the country as these tech-hubs provide important increase in infrastructure security e.g. stable energy supply, data centers and connectivity. Between 2016 and 2020 the number of incubators has increased from 5 to at least 22. (Sources: Oxford Business Group, gsma.com)

Also on the previously mentioned number of companies that operate a website, it seems that the initiatives were successful because over the last 10 months (09’2020 – 07’2021) the registration of domains in the country has jumped from previously
in total 21,521 TLD registered (04.09.2020) to 31,418 (15.07.2021) registered TLD’s. (Source: domain-namestat.com) This constitutes a 146% increase in web based business, operation or information activities, within just 10 months. In the statistic .com domains lead with over 15,978 registered domains, followed by .ci domains with 8,537 registrations, 3,498 .net domains, and 2,090 .org registered domains in Côte d’Ivoire. These numbers allow the conclusion that a larger amount of businesses using websites are export, international or regional orientated (.com), about half of that are oriented on domestic businesses (.ci) and about 2,000 organisations and public / private initiatives (.org) use websites to communicate.

The West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP), funded by the European Union, that aims to support several selected value chains, incl. ICT, states that the ICT sector in Côte d’Ivoire contributes between 8% and 15% to the national
GDP and that observers refer to the country as“Start-Up nation in Africa”. (Source: https://wacomp.projects.ecowas.int/value-chains/ict/)

ICT exports

Worldbank data shows that Cote d’Ivoire’s export of ICT services was in 2016 about 10.7% of all services exports of the country (% of service exports, BoP). In currency this stands for about 98 million USD on ICT services export (Balance of Payments
Statistics). (Source: worldbank.org – International Monetary Fund, Balance of Payments Statistics Yearbook and data files.)

Digital Strategy and ICT sector development

Like other economies on the continent Cote d’Ivoire’s government has implemented dedicated programs for fostering the development of digital services in the private and public sector.

For the public sector this is the E-Services program, by which the government was able to move public administration and citizen services online. In addition, the parliament issued a law in 2017 that should help public bodies to adapt motions to
support inclusion and transparency for a digital society – Loi d’Orientation de la Société de Communication (Orientation Law of the Communication Society).

For the private sector the government had periods of tax breaks for ICT products and services as well as subvention programs for mobile devices. Digital centers have been installed in rural areas to improve accessibility and increase the use of online based public and private sector services.

With the creation of the free trade zone VITIB in the city of Grand-Bassam with its Mahatma Gandhi IT & Biotechnology Park, the government created a very attractive preposition for investors in ICT and biotechnology businesses, while at the same time providing infrastructure and related business support services.

After briterbridges.com, the number of incubators / tech hubs has grown to 22 in recent years which is an evidence of the growing start-up scene.

Generally, the government has made right choices on how to support the sector, however a few areas still deserve more attention and improvements. So could, according to our research, an active interest representation of the private ICT sector
contribute greatly to the development of IT knowledge, capabilities, applications and resources.

Also the lack of data and analytics regarding the IT and the BPO services sector makes it difficult to plan activities and evaluate conditions and opportunities to invest and/or work with local service partners. And last but not least the communication output towards domestic, regional and international partners and prospects needs to expand significantly. For that marketing and public relations processes and personnel capacities should be enhanced. There are plenty of very good investment promotion business cases to learn from, e.g. in Egypt or South Africa.

While other countries on the continent did overcome the lack of internet connectivity, the country still needs
to effectively motivate its two main service providers Orange and MTN to invest in fixed line internet connectivity for private households and companies. In 2018 only 6 out of 1,000 people in the country were connected to the internet via fixed lines. The cost plays a deciding role in the adaption too, but there are plenty of business cases where good infrastructure and low cost are not excluding each other. (Source: Oxford Business Group https://oxford‐businessgroup.com/overview/getting-connected-rising-mobilepenetration-and-headline-sectorgrowth-speed-economic-development)

The last area, which also affects other markets, not only in Africa is the lack of investment capital to support growth among domestic young tech service providers, which then are also able to stimulate the adaption of ICT services among companies and private households in the country.

You can read the full article in the Outsourcing Destination Guide Côte d’Ivoire & Senegal, which is available for free download at www.outsourcing-destinations.org

The author: Stephan Fricke is CEO of the independent Deutscher Outsourcing Verband (German Outsourcing Association) and of the German Process Automation Association. In this function, he works with leading organizations from buyer, provider, and consulting side and also with industry associations and government organizations, concentrating on improving market conditions for IT-services, BPO and global business services as well as for business process automation. He is a regular speaker and author on markets, their states and actors as well as the impact on economies. He is also Editor in Chief for the Outsourcing Journal focusing on shared knowledge from industry experts from Germany, Europe and other countries. He is advising companies on their strategies and activities on the German market, as well as economic support organizations on development and growth of local ICT sectors. You can connect with Stephan via LinkedIn.com.

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