Cote d’Ivoire leader makes case for broader ties

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Pledges to assist African development show “lots of generosity” but Japan can benefit from extending assistance in a variety of fields, Cote d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara said Monday.

Cote d’Ivoire “showed a 9.8 percent economic growth last year and is considered one of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world,” Ouattara, in Japan to attend the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, said during an interview with The Japan Times.

Further Japanese involvement in the development of Cote d’Ivoire, in such fields as agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure, will not only profit the locals but Tokyo as well, he said.

Although China’s presence in Africa has increased drastically in recent years, Japan is still the world’s third-largest economy and can play an important role in Africa’s development, Ouattara pointed out.

For example, trade between Cote d’Ivoire and Japan is “not high and quite small,” especially compared with China, he said, and urged stronger economic ties between the two countries.

To that end the TICAD conference proved fruitful. During a Friday meeting between the president and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo agreed to dispatch a group of business executives and government officials to Cote d’Ivoire in July to examine the business potential.

Despite a civil war following the 2010 presidential election, Ouattara gave assurances the western African nation is making strong progress toward normalcy.

Embassies and international organizations are returning to Cote d’Ivoire as the country stabilizes, he said, adding that the African Development Bank also agreed recently to return its headquarters to Cote d’Ivoire within the year after a temporary move to Tunisia.

Such decisions are “signals” that show Cote d’Ivoire is achieving stability, the president said. “Ivorians are very determined to live together in peace for the future,” he added.

Ouattara attended the inaugural TICAD meeting in 1993 as the prime minister of Cote d’Ivoire and the 1998 meeting as a member of the delegation of the International Monetary Fund.