Ivory Coast is a country rich in resources, yet challenges remain in social and economic cohesion, writes Ndeye Diagne, managing director, TNS Senegal and Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast, or Cote d’Ivoire, is a West African country perhaps known best for its coffee and cocoa production. Nestled between Ghana and Liberia, Ivory Coast supplies 40% of the world’s cocoa, as well as exporting 300,000 tonnes of coffee a year. It is also Africa’s biggest exporter of palm oil, with all processing done domestically before export.
Ivory Coast has benefited from strong economic growth, with GDP having grown by 8% since the end of the post-election crisis in 2011. Thanks to this broad-based growth, wealth has been trickling down to even the poorest consumers. It has a huge potential workforce with a young population, although education levels still lag behind most other countries in Africa.
With big names like Michelin and Unilever on the scene and growing disposable incomes among Ivorian consumers, many brands are looking to enter this young and vibrant production. Yet, despite, Ivory Coast’s strong growth trajectory, there are still numerous challenges for brands looking to enter this market.
Access to banking loans remains very difficult for most companies and there is limited support for SMEs. Packaging, marketing and distribution is a struggle for companies looking to reach new rural areas.
Meanwhile, progress towards civil peace has also seen mixed results. Disarmament of former fighters and professional retraining for demobilised young people need to be stepped up, while persistent clashes over land rights in forest areas rage on.
So where are the main opportunities for growth?
The FMCG industry has seen a growth of over 240% in just the last three years. Earlier this year, L’Oréal and CFAO signed a production and distribution partnership for Ivory Coast, signalling the importance of this fast-growing market for the beauty industry.
As they look to expand into Ivory Coast, brands need make sure they tailor their strategies to the needs of local consumers. Unilever’s washing powder Omo is one example of this. Marketed in small sachets to make it more affordable for local Ivorians, allowing them to use it for cleaning tasks other than just washing clothes.
Other beauty brands clearly see the untapped potential of Ivory Coast. French cosmetics brand Beauty Success is due to open the first of its twenty new stores in the economic capital of Abidjan, the most populated French-speaking city in West Africa. These stores will keep the same style and branding as the French outlets, just adapting products to meet the tastes and consumption habits of Ivorian consumers.
In other areas, telecommunications is a key industry in powering economic growth as more people get access to 3G and mobile internet packages. By regional standards, the telecoms industry is well-developed in Ivory Coast, with a strong fibre optic network spanning over 20,000km. While South Africa’s MTN and France’s Orange currently lead the market, the Ivory Coast is in a strong position to welcome more international players and build a successful digital economy.
It is clear that Ivory Coast offers a powerful access point to 300 million West African consumers who are very open to new brands and products. If it can survive the ravages of industrialisation, Ivory Coast can compete with some of the more mainstream African markets in the West, such as Nigeria and Ghana.
Companies which commit to the necessary due diligence can benefit significantly from a young market that is experiencing a rapidly growing middle class population.