Côte d'Ivoire: A make or break election | Analyst Picks | RiskMap 2020
A make or break election
Nine years after facing a major post-election crisis that cost over 1,000 lives and profoundly damaged the country’s reputation, Côte d’Ivoire is once again heading to the polls in 2020. The last election took place in 2015. It was generally peaceful and re-elected Alassane Ouattara, in office since 2011, with 84% of the vote. Since then Ouattara has lost his main coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) and his erstwhile rebel ally, Guillaume Soro. More importantly, the 78-year-old president is considering stepping down and supporting his current prime minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, even though a 2016 constitutional change would give him legal cover to run for re-election. Côte d’Ivoire’s winner-takes-all political system bestows such power in the presidency that the stakes are much higher this time. The line-up of candidates should include nearly all those who have held influence in Ivoirian politics for the last two decades, with the likely exception of former president Laurent Gbagbo (2000-11). 2020 will certainly be far more competitive than 2015, and the outcome far more unpredictable.
Côte d’Ivoire’s economic trajectory is also at stake, along with the investor-friendly reputation it has managed to recover in recent years under Ouattara. Since 2012, annual GDP growth has consistently exceeded 7% - Abidjan has re-established its position as an investment hub for Francophone West Africa, attracting investors with quality infrastructure and burgeoning middle class. On paper, the longer-term outlook is promising, but entirely predicated on navigating next year’s election without renewed damage. As 2020 approaches, politics has already started to get in the way: momentum for reforms and investment decisions has slowed, and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to stay above the fray. A repeat of the 2010-11 crisis, which followed a decade of civil conflict, appears unlikely at this stage; however, regional and identity-based divisions, incomplete disarmament and other legacies of that conflict will still make for a turbulent election and test the resilience of many companies.