The two heavyweights of the CFA zone have experienced radically different growth trajectories in ten years. The comparative results are astounding.
Both agricultural powers and regional powerhouses, comparable in size and population diversity, Ivory Coast and Cameroon have experienced very different economic realities over the past decade.
The gap between their GDPs increased from about $5 billion to nearly $24 billion (4.7 billion to 22.5 billion euros) between 2011 and 2022, to the benefit of Abidjan. The purchasing power of the average Ivorian is now 40% higher than that of his Cameroonian counterpart. Cameroon’s share of industry in the economy has been on a downward trajectory for the past ten years, while the agro-industrial diversification of the Ivorian economy has been growing.
Economic, financial, industrial and social analysis; views of many leaders, investors, economists and financiers familiar with the country of the “Indomitable Lions” and the land of Eburnia… In a series devoted to these two heavyweights of the CFA zone, we have analyzed in depth their main strengths – and weaknesses – in order to understand the current contrast between their performances.
A multitude of factors have contributed to this development, not the least of which is the security crisis that has hit Cameroon and its neighbors, penalizing trade and agricultural production. Yet, according to experts interviewed by Jeune Afrique, a different attitude and diligence in the conduct of economic policies has widened the gap between the two countries.
“Côte d’Ivoire has better economic governance, which is based, among other things, on the strong interest that Alassane Ouattara, the Ivorian president, has in the economy and that his time at the IMF has reinforced. The coherence of the government’s action in economic matters is real,” summarizes a Cameroonian business leader.
The speed of infrastructure development, the sustained attention to the mobilization of foreign investment, and the continued facilitation of business life are some of the elements of this discordance. For example, many Cameroonians in the diaspora prefer to set up shop in Abidjan rather than in Douala or Yaoundé, where they can just open offices.
However, the game is far from over. Cameroon’s advantages and potential are real and only need to be better exploited.
Meanwhile, Abidjan has already embarked on the next phase of its development. With the help of the World Bank, the government is working on ways to further increase the productivity of the Ivorian economy and its workers. Without a reaction from the Cameroonian side, the simple divergence could quickly turn into… downgrading.