8.5% growth: Doing business in sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economy

Serge Gnandji, country manager of DHL Express Côte d’Ivoire

Serge Gnandji, country manager of DHL Express Côte d’Ivoire

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Côte d’Ivoire is this year expected to be sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing economy, with the International Monetary Fund forecasting real GDP growth of 8.5%. After almost a decade of political instability that climaxed with the 2010/2011 post-election crisis, the country is back on the road to progress. How we made it in Africa finds out more from Serge Gnandji, country manager of DHL Express Côte d’Ivoire.

What is your outlook for Côte d’Ivoire’s economy over the next five years?

The outlook for the Ivorian economy is promising. The annual growth rate is around 8.5% and it is expected to remain fairly constant over the coming five years. Growth in GDP is mainly driven by public investment, agriculture and the services sector. There are a number of infrastructure projects underway and many companies are moving their regional headquarters back to Abidjan.

The government is about to launch its new national development plan, with the objectives of strengthening institutions and governance; developing human capital; industrialising the economy; improving infrastructure; and boosting regional integration.

Due to the nature of its business, DHL has a unique vantage point of the economy. Judging from your shipments, which sectors are currently experiencing growth?

Our shipment growth is coming from agribusiness (cocoa, coffee, cashew, etc.) and the banking sector.

Highlight some of the challenges foreign investors can expect to encounter when doing business in Côte d’Ivoire.

Business confidence in Côte d’Ivoire is improving. There seems to be consensus that the risks of doing business have decreased over the past years.

The biggest challenge for the foreign investor is primarily the availability of sector-specific economic information. Such basic information is often hard to come by. Other concerns include the time it takes to obtain regulatory approvals, certain tax issues, and the fact that Côte d’Ivoire is largely a cash economy.

Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial hub Abidjan is regaining some its former glory. Describe how the city has changed in recent years.

Over the last few years a number of large infrastructure, retail and hospitality projects have been completed. These include the new Henri Konan Bédié (HKB) Bridge that crosses the Ebrié lagoon; shopping centres such as Cap Nord, Cap Sud and PlaYce Marcory; hotels (Onomo and Radisson) and restaurants; as well as numerous new roads.

According to a recent report by PwC, online retail is a nascent but growing industry in Côte d’Ivoire. Do you agree?

Online retail in Côte d’Ivoire is experiencing tremendous growth, and with an internet penetration rate of about 30%, ecommerce sales are expected to surge even further. Close to 60% of Ivorians are under the age of 25 – it is this demographic that will drive the future of the industry. We now have a number of online stores, with CFAO’s Africashop one of the most recent entrants.

[box type=”note”]Meet Serge Gnandji

By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk? 7:30am

How do you relax? Swimming, reading, watching sport on TV, and spending time with family

Best book you’ve ever read? Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office by Bill McDermott with Joanne Gordon

Top holiday destination? France and Cape Town, South Africa

Favourite quote? “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” – Nelson Mandela[/box]