Ivorian Investor Heads Home as Post-Conflict Economy Opens

OnFrontiers expert René Attoumbré’s return to the Ivory Coast is symbolic of the country’s comeback. Raised in the Ivory Coast, he moved to the United States and was educated there during the tumultuous years of civil war in his home country. After the political crisis abated in 2011, he came back.

“I felt things were going to change for the better, so I wanted to come back to help out my country,” said Attoumbre.

Now, the 31-year-old works for an American investment bank, Nexus Capital Markets, based out of Abidjan. He also advises a Saudi-based investment bank, Swicorp, and operates his own investment consulting company, R.A. Consulting. He recently spoke to OnFrontiers about the economic climate in Ivory Coast and potential investment opportunities.

What are some of the signs you’ve seen that show foreign direct investment is happening in Ivory Coast?

The current president, Alassane Ouattara, was a Deputy Managing Director at the IMF. I think that makes investors feel more comfortable, that the man in power knows what he’s doing in terms of international finance. He was just re-elected for a second five-year term. Ouattara has done a good job at attracting new investors – and convincing old investors to come back that left because of the war. For example, the African Development Bank is back – that’s a major sign that Ivory Coast is open for business again.

There is construction all over the place – in Abidjan, in Yamoussoukro (the political capital), all over the country. An urban light-rail system is being built in Abidjan to alleviate some of the traffic congestion. It’s a $1 billion dollar project being built by a French-South Korean consortium.

A new road was recently built connecting Abidjan to Bassam, the beach resort area to the east. There are also lots of housing projects in Bassam – some gated communities, like in the U.S., have opened up.

Everything is being modernized. Carrefour, the French grocery store chain, has opened up a “hypermarket” in Abidjan.

And the tourism sector is doing very well. A lot of new hotels are being built in Abidjan; Hilton is building a 5-star hotel and Radisson just inaugurated a new 5-star hotel next to the airport last week. And the iconic Hotel Ivoire – which was originally built in 1963 and was a symbol of Ivory Coast’s post-colonial boom – has had a major renovation. Majestic Movies is another great new addition to the city that just opened a year or two ago. They get new movies that come out at the same time as France and the U.S. So all of these investments show the trust is there for doing business here.

What are some sectors where you see opportunities for foreign investors?

The agriculture sector is always number one – the cocoa sector, in particular. The infrastructure sector – such as roads, bridges. Energy – we need more electricity. Transportation and real estate are also really booming right now. The mining sector has also improved a lot; the U.N. lifted the ban on diamond exploration two years ago.

Who is interested? Where do most inquiries come from?

I’ve gotten a lot of interest from Europe, from France, from neighboring countries – like Senegal – as well as from the U.S. Also from the Middle East – like Dubai, Cyprus. I get requests from all over the world.

What are some tips you have for potential investors?

Before they dive-in, they need to do their homework. They need to use local expertise before they make a move. They should not dive in directly if they are not used to the country. They should check out the government web site where there is a list of all the current projects that need investment.

About the OnFrontiers Expert consulted for this article:

René Attoumbré is a financial services expert who specializes in investing across infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, agriculture and other sectors throughout sub-Saharan Africa. To speak with René or similar experts, contact us at hello@onfroniers.com.

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