The Republic of Cote d’Ivoire : Economic Perspectives

With a sustained growth economy since 2012 (8% GDP growth per year on average), the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire is a sub-regional economic power, contributing to :

  • More than a third of the GDP of the WAEMU 
  • 60% of the region’s agricultural exports 
  • 21% of WAEMU total population
  • 50% of the WAEMU road network…

Even if the Ivorian economy experienced several crises in 2017 (around -50% drop in the world price of cocoa, rise of oil prices, social movements and strikes…), those events haven’t blocked its GDP from growing around 7% and above the following years, driven by structural transformation such as local processing of raw materials, diversification of exports, private and public consumption.

Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading producer of cocoa (over 40% of the market share) and cashew nuts (around 20% of world production). The agriculture sector has suffered from a decline in exports, particularly of cocoa. 

  • However, the Primary Sector only contributes to less than 20.7% of GDP while it employs nearly 40.2% of the working population. The government has launched a five-year plan (2018 – 2023) financed by the World Bank aimed at making the cashew sector more profitable (FCFA 107 Billion). 

The industrial sector is lagging behind, the new raw material processing infrastructures remain insufficient compared to the country’s production capacity. The Oil sector has grown steadily thanks to significant investments. The country’s rich soil allows the development of mining activities such as gold, diamonds but also nickel.   

  • The Secondary Sector contributes to 21.2% of GDP and employs 13% of the working population. The key activities are agri-food, textiles, petroleum refining, energy and construction.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the services sector, including telecommunications, transport, retail and tourism.

  • The Tertiary Sector contributes to 43.1% of GDP and employs nearly 47% of the working population. It is dominated by telecommunications, transport (port and air), distribution and financial activities.

Even if the tropical (north part of the country) and equatorial (south) climate is favourable to a more productive agriculture, in times of crisis, the country’s GDP is mostly supported by the dynamism of the extractive, the agro-food, the construction and the transport industries. Hence, the lower share of the agricultural sector in the breakdown of the GDP tells us more about the policy of the government to focus more on developing the Secondary and Tertiary sectors.  

With more than 26 million inhabitants, the 17th most populous country in Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, is the continent’s 11th richest country with an estimated GDP of USD 68.85 Billion in 2021. 

The country is ranked 162nd in the UNDP Human Development Index with nearly half of its population living below the national poverty line of FCFA 737 per day. Moreover, informal employment still employs more than 90% of the country’s workforce (which explains such a low unemployment rate of only 3%) and contributes to 35% of GDP. Ranked 110th out of 190 in the World Bank Doing Business ranking, the country gained 12 places in 2020 in particular thanks to the development of the banking sector in a country where more than 70% of the population have access to financial services. But the business environment still faces governance (corruption) and land tenure insecurity difficulties.

Population (2020 UN)32.51 million inhabitants
GDP / Capita USD (2021, IMF)USD 10.0
HDI (2020, UNDP)79th over 190
Doing Business (2020 World Bank rank) 75th over 190
Corruption Perceptions Index 202136h over 180
Unemployment rate (FMI 2021)9.7%

On a Demographic point on view, Major geographic disparities persist between Abidjan, the economic and financial capital of the country, and the rest of the territory : although the city houses less than a quarter of the country’s population, it concentrates 80% of the country’s economic activity. 39% of the population is Muslim, 33% is Christian and 29% have traditional African beliefs. Population density is 79 inhabitants per km² with life expectancy at birth barely over 57 years (4 years younger than sub-Saharan average is 60.5 years).

On a Political point on view, President Alassane Ouattara was reelected for a third mandate at 95% in October 2020 in a ballot boycotted by the opposition. even if he had previously declared he wouldn’t run for a third term. Since the end of the 2010-2011 post-election war, Côte D’Ivoire has remained quite stable even if post-election violence caused 55 deaths and nearly 300 injured last year. Last President Laurent Gbagbo, charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, was acquitted by the International Criminal Court.  

On an Economical point of view, in 2019, although slowing down slightly, growth was 6.9% In 2020, due to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, the IMF says GDP growth slowed to 2.3% from 6.2% in 2019 with a strong rebound to 6% by 2021 and 6.5% in 2022, which would make it the most dynamic economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The performance and resilience of the Ivorian economy are also based on the monetary stability it benefits from being part of the WAEMU. The monetary stability reflected in particular low inflation of 0.8 in 2019, projected at 2.4 in 2020. In a country where the private sector contributes a lot to the growing economy, a rise in inflation could impact the dynamism induced by trade, transportation and telecommunications. 

In 2019, taxes and duties on exports are estimated around 10% of the state’s total tax revenue. The budget deficit, which is mostly financed by bond issues also suffered from the drop in revenue and the increase in expenditure led to the deterioration of public accounts :

  • The government intends to gradually consolidate the budget deficit to 3% (WAEMU norm)
  • Public debt increased from 41.2% of GDP (2019) to 45.7 of GDP (2020) and reach 46.3% of GDP (2021)

Current account deficit widened in 2018 to 4.7% due to the fall in prices of the cashew nut and rubber but improved in 2020 to 3.5%.  

Côte D’Ivoire remains exposed to a moderate risk of debt distress but is vulnerable to shocks to exports (appreciation of the CFA Franc against the US dollar affected exports) and the financial conditions of international markets. Imports of petroleum products and food products still remain above 40% of the country’s total imports.

Economic Indicators201920202021e2022e 2023e
GDP ($ Billion current price)230.87205.46225.86231.69246.72
GDP growth (%)2.2-
Inflation rate (%)
Public debt (% GDP)
Current balance (% GDP)-

Focus on Exports and Imports 

In 2019, Côte D’Ivoire was the 79th economy in the world in terms of GDP (current USD) (82nd in the total exports and 98th in total imports). The country exported USD 13.7 Billion and imported USD 11 Billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of USD 2.7 Billion

The top exports of Côte D’Ivoire are Cocoa Beans  ($3.84B), Gold ($1.09B), Rubber ($1.08B), Refined Petroleum ($1.02B), and Crude Petroleum ($1941M). Côte D’Ivoire exports mostly to Netherland ($1.38B), United States ($885M), France ($865M), Spain ($657M), and Malaysia ($649M).

The top imports are Crude Petroleum ($1.47B), Rice ($619M), Non-fillet Frozen Fish ($489M), Refined Petroleum ($321M) and Packaged Medicaments ($273M). It imports mostly from China ($196B), Nigeria ($1.42B), France ($1.23B),  India ($461M) and United States ($395M).

Summary : 

Côte d’Ivoire is one of the world’s fastest growing economies with a high resilience of its GDP growth due to structural transformation. However, as the world’s leading producer of cocoa and cashew nuts, the country is dependent of price variation on financial markets and has experienced quite critical political tensions. 

In order to increase and sustain its current economic momentum, the country has to address key points :

  • Strengthen favourable political and business climate
  • Develop a local processing agriculture 
  • Address major socio-economic and geographic disparities


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here