Mr. Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, met with the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, H.E. Mr. Daniel Kablan Duncan, on Wednesday 4 February, in Geneva. They discussed the organization of two important regional conferences, as well as possibilities of strengthening technical assistance to Côte d’Ivoire in the areas of commodity diversification, debt management, and trade facilitation through further development of the Trade Point, installed in the West African country.
Côte d’Ivoire will host UNCTAD’s Third African Oil Trade Conference, in Abidjan, from 22 to 24 April. The importance of this conference for Africa is demonstrated by the fact that oil provides 40% of the continent’s total export revenue, and contributes one-third of the Gross Domestic Product in almost all the oil-producing countries in the region. For some importing countries, oil absorbs 80% of total export earnings. At a time when most African countries are deregulating their oil sector, the conference will provide an opportunity to address the formulation of new pricing policies which provide incentives to manage medium-term price risk. UNCTAD’s work in this field should contribute to a more efficient intra-African oil trade and to the emergence of new opportunities in the deregulated oil sector.
Mr. Duncan said that his country would be willing, in principle, to host a regional conference in early 1999 on diversification experiences in comodity-dependent economies. This initiative, which is a follow-up to an expert meeting on diversification in the food sector (Geneva, 1-3 September 1997), organized by UNCTAD, would provide government and private sector representatives with an opportunity to share their experiences with diversification policies, in order to reduce the vulnerability of African economies to commodity price fluctuations. The importance of this is illustrated by a recent UNCTAD estimate of the impact of price instability in coffee exports from Côte d’Ivoire. This showed that additional earnings of US$285 million could have been made by hedging on the market at the end of 1994, in order to guarantee prices for 1995 and 1996.
Agreements with UNCTAD on specific needs of Côte d’Ivoire cover a technical assistance programme for strengthening the domestic economy and the country’s trading capacity. With GDP growth of 7 per cent and 6.5 per cent in 1995 and 1996 respectively, and an inflation rate of 3.5 per cent, Côte d’Ivoire, which ranks first among world exporters of cocoa and fourth among coffee exporters, has a strong potential. Growth in 1997 and 1998 is also expected to be in excess of 5 per cent. However, the Ivorian economy remains vulnerable to price fluctuations in agricultural commodities, which constitute 53 per cent of its export revenue, and highly dependent on oil, its second source of revenue. The agricultural sector is changing since the Government decided to liberalize the cocoa and coffee sectors. UNCTAD is looking at measures to help the Government in this transition period, for example through a cocoa project. The Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire asked UNCTAD for support in investment promotion, especially to enhance diversification in the commodity sector.
UNCTAD also contributes to human resource development and institution-building in Côte d’Ivoire, to help the country draw the maximum benefit of the Uruguay Round Agreements and to cope with future trade challenges. Such activities are being undertaken within the context of a tripartite ITC/UNCTAD/WTO Integrated programme of technical assistance for Africa.
In addition, through a programme called CAPAS (Coordinated African Programme of Assistance in Services), UNCTAD supports the Government’s efforts to respond to the new environment in the services sector. This programme helps Ivorian officials prepare to participate in multilateral negotiations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), scheduled for the year 2000 under the auspices of the WTO.
UNCTAD has also enhanced the country’s trading capacities through the establishment of a Trade Point in Abidjan. Finally, Côte d’Ivoire is about to join the fourty countries which already adopted the debt management system developed by UNCTAD (DMFAS). Efficient debt management is crucial for Côte d’Ivoire which currently spends 63% of government revenue on debt servicing.