Ivory Coast’s President, Alassane Ouattara, has said the country aims to produce half of the world’s cocoa by 2020 and that he won’t make the mistake of overwhelming the nation with debt to sustain growth like other nations in Africa.
“We will continue to boost our production, there is no limit,” Ouattara, 73, said in an interview in his office in Abidjan, the commercial capital, on Wednesday following his landslide victory in an Oct. 25 election. “I hope we can surpass 50% of global production in 2020 while continuing to improve the quality.”
Ivory Coast is the world’s largest producer of cocoa and had a crop of about 1.8 million tons last year.
Ouattara took office in 2011, inheriting an economy that had collapsed. Since then, the economy has rebounded, expanding at almost 10% this year and drawing investors like French supermarket chain Carrefour SA, which is set to open its first store sub-Saharan African store there.
“The economy will expand by as much as 9% annually through 2020, a pace that is more than twice as fast as the average in sub-Saharan Africa,” Ouattara said.
Since 2011, the government has approved large infrastructure projects such as highways and dams, and overseen the construction of a toll bridge that has cut traffic jams in Abidjan. It also guaranteed cocoa farmers a minimum price for their harvest and raised the minimum wage for other workers to 60,000 CFA francs ($98) from 36,000 francs.
Ouattara said that one of his priorities for the next five years is to increase domestic processing of its biggest exports, cocoa and cashew nuts. Ivory Coast is also the largest African exporter of bananas.
“I want to work on transforming the Ivorian economy,” he said. “We’re an agricultural economy, but we need to step up processing of our crops and even move toward industrialization.”