Côte d’Ivoire, the biggest economy in French-speaking West Africa, hasrevved back to life under president Alassane Ouattara—the overwhelming favorite to win a second term in the October 25 election. And at first glance the French, its former colonial masters, are all over it.
In Abidjan, a new lagoon bridge allows crosstown traffic to avoid the congested center. French construction giant Bouygues built it, and is a partner in the deal to build Abidjan’s light-rail system. Bolloré, which operates the container port, has signed a deal to manage a second terminal that has is now under construction. Retailers Carrefour andFNAC are opening. Sofitel has revamped the venerable Hotel Ivoire. Air France flies Paris-Abidjan with the mammoth Airbus A380. Le Monde hosted an Abidjan summit featuring Thomas Piketty.
This activity reflects renewed appeal for an economy of 25 million people with some of West Africa’s best infrastructure. A decade of stagnation and conflict that ended in 2011 has given way to GDP growth of 8% to 10%. Côte d’Ivoire has earned IMF praise and scored a big leap in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings.