Côte d’Ivoire’s Ouattara Puts Economic Recovery Ahead of Political Reconciliation

Côte d’Ivoire’s Ouattara Puts Economic Recovery Ahead of Political Reconciliation

Two years after the end of Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis, which saw more than 3,000 people killed, much uncertainty remains over the direction the country will take. The crisis, triggered by former President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office after losing the November 2010 presidential election to current President Alassane Ouattara, was itself the last chapter of a decade-long conflict that had profoundly divided the country and its people. Though some steps toward normalization have been taken, they have not led to a broader national reconciliation.

On one hand, Ouattara has already achieved a great deal, restarting the Ivorian economy and regaining for his country much of the regional and international stature it had lost. From an initial focus on a makeover of the economic capital, Abidjan, the Ouattara government has since secured significant debt cancellation and donor funding in support of its 2012-2015 national development plan. The plan includes infrastructure projects -- a hydroelectric dam, roads, bridges and ports -- as well as investment in key sectors such as oil and gas, cocoa, coffee and mining. Private investors are also slowly joining the recovery. Earlier this month, India’s Tata Steel announced that it would form a consortium to finance construction of a railway line from its iron concessions in western Côte d’Ivoire to the port of San Pedro.

Meanwhile, despite facing many challenges at home, Ouattara chaired the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2012 through crises in Mali and Guinea Bissau, winning praise from West African leaders, who just renewed his mandate at the head of the subregional organization for another year. He has also secured the return of the African Development Bank’s headquarters -- which were relocated from Abidjan to Tunis at the height of the Ivorian crisis in 2002 -- for later this year.

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