March 17, 2015 / 12:08 PM / 2 years ago

Ivory Coast eyes double-digit GDP growth until 2020: PM

Ivory Coast's Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan poses during an European Union (EU)-Africa summit in Brussels April 3, 2014.Francois Lenoir

GENEVA (Reuters) - Ivory Coast is hoping to achieve double-digit economic growth this year and every year until 2020, Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan told Reuters on Tuesday.

"This year we want to reach double-digit growth ... We are working for that," he said. "We want to turn Cote d'Ivoire into an emerging market (from a so-called frontier market) by 2020. You cannot do it if you don't have double-digit growth."

Duncan said he wanted to double GDP per capita, which could happen within a decade of sustained 10 percent economic growth, by a Reuters calculation.

"If we achieved (at least) 9 percent in 2012, 2013 and 2014, it's an achievable goal," he said.

According to Reuters data, Ivory Coast is at least starting in that direction. Its GDP of was 10.87 percent in 2012 and 8.7 percent in 2013, averaging a bit over 9 percent each year.

Duncan was speaking on the sidelines of the Africa CEO Forum in Geneva, where he was drumming up investment for 155 projects worth $25 billion.

Industrial output is growing even faster than GDP as Ivory Coast diversifies away from agriculture. But more industry and services, and mining of gold, iron ore, manganese, diamonds and bauxite, will require more electrical generation.

The country plans to lift generating capacity from 1,650 megaWatts to 2,000 mW this year, then to 4,000 mW by 2020, partly for its own needs and partly to supply its neighbours.

Under the plan, thermal generation -- burning oil, gas or coal -- will halve to 30 percent of generating capacity by 2020. Hydropower's share will jump from 35 percent to 60 percent by 2020. Other renewable energy will make up the remaining 10 percent.

Ivory Coast is also talking to Qatar and Equatorial Guinea about importing liquefied natural gas, although it would first need to build an import terminal, he said.

The country issued a $1 billion eurobond in February and is looking to borrow a further $1 billion this year. It is discussing a possible sukuk, or Islamic bond.

"We are open to that. We have some discussion with the Islamic Development Bank," Duncan said. Any further eurobond issue in 2016 would depend on budgetary needs, he added.

New income could come from selling offshore oil plots, after ExxonMobil agreed production-sharing agreements on two ultra-deepwater blocks, and Norway's AGR and France's Total SA signed up for shallower acreage.

"We have more and more people who are asking for blocks in Cote d'Ivoire," Duncan said.

Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa producer and has been criticised for the widespread use of child labour on cocoa farms. Duncan said that the country would introduce compulsory education for all children from the age of six.

"Human capital is essential if you want to be an emerging country," he said.

Part of his message to investors was to reassure them that Ivory Coast has escaped unscathed from West Africa's Ebola crisis, which has disrupted the economies of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea for the past year.

"Ebola is not our concern now," Duncan said.

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