Voice of America (Washington, DC)

15 April 2014

Cote d'Ivoire: Ivory Coast PM - 'We Can Astonish the World'

Photo: Marc-André Boisvert/IPS
Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital, Abidjan, has developed a public transport strategy, which includes reserving a bus line and several levels of quality service for the middle class and civil servants.

United Nations — Ivory Coast's prime minister says his country is on track to reach double digit economic growth this year and become an emerging market by 2020.

In an interview with VOA, Daniel Kablan Duncan said the government has worked hard to restore security and investor confidence following 2010's post-election violence that killed 3,000 people.

Prime Minister Duncan said Ivory Coast has a favorable business climate and is a gateway to western Africa. He said the country has an ambitious development plan that aims to generate enough growth to double national revenue and make it an emerging market in the next six years.

"We are on the way and we can reach the target. Cote d'Ivoire is changing quickly. You can see by the highways, the roads, even the agriculture sector is changing," said Duncan.

Ivory Coast - or Cote d'Ivoire as it is known in French - is best known as the world's largest producer of cocoa beans, but it also is a major producer of coffee beans, cashew nuts, palm oil and rubber. And it is working to expand its mining, oil and gas sectors.

On Monday, Duncan addressed potential financiers at a conference in New York City on investing in Ivory Coast. Afterwards, he held hours of one-on-one meetings with representatives of a wide array of international companies interested in working in the West African nation.

The prime minister said he knows that if the country is to have strong sustained economic growth, it needs peace and security on the ground, which includes national reconciliation and accountability for crimes committed in the post-election period.

Serving justice

In November 2010, Ivory Coast had contested presidential elections that led to months of violence. At least 3,000 people were killed during the crisis as armed forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo and newly elected President Alassane Ouattara committed what human rights groups say were war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. Today, Gbagbo is in custody at The Hague awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court.

Gbagbo's wife, Simone, is in Ivory Coast and authorities say they will try her in the national courts. Last month, the Ouattara government handed over to the ICC Charles Blé Goudé, another Gbagbo ally who is charged with committing crimes against humanity during the post-election violence.

Critics of the Ouattara government have accused it of only holding its rivals accountable, but not its loyalists. Duncan dismissed that, saying justice in a country like his takes time.

"You cannot ask a country like Cote d'Ivoire, with the number of judges we have, to make these kind of things work quickly. Tomorrow we will say that it's not justice, it is banana justice. So let the justice do his work. And we will see finally that the people will have fair justice on both sides," said Duncan.

The prime minister said the country is rebuilding the court system and training judges to deal with charges such as crimes against humanity - something with which they have no prior experience.

Despite challenges, Duncan said Ivory Coast is on its way to becoming an African "showcase" on the political, economic, social and cultural levels.

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