The Ivory Coast Blog

Freedom. Stability. Independence. Prosperity.

Is it finally time to start spring-cleaning?

It’s difficult to count the number of times producers and the general public have called on the president of Ivory Coast to establish some sense of order in the coffee and cacao sector. Well, it seems that their cry has finally been heeded.

By Louis S. Amédé, Abidjan

From: Les Afriques

The coffee and cacao sector in Ivory Coast has once again fallen on tumultuous times. But this time, the cause has nothing to do with the recurring conflicts among its leaders or quarrels over money fuelled by producers or management entities within the sector. No. This time the unsettling situation has been instigated by the legal proceedings that have been wielded against some top industry players, with many directors facing committal orders and even jail time at Abidjan’s main correctional facility, the MACA. “Embezzlement, breach of trust, misappropriation, swindling, forgery in private companies and banking,” are the main charges against them. And the investigation being conducted by Attorney General Tchimou Raymond is only just getting started!

Clean hands

Is Ivory Coast’s head of state, Laurent Gbagbo, using the “operation clean hands” project he only recently launched to weed out the coffee and cacao industry as a trump card to be played during the 30th November 2008 presidential elections?

In a nation where every act is screened through the political prism of the land, this clean-up campaign in political spheres is disconcerting at best. In particular, there are political parties who smell the foul odour of a deliberate political manoeuvre to smear their own leaders. This seems all the more troubling when the incumbent president affirms in no uncertain terms that, “the procedures currently underway in the coffee and cacao industry will be carried out in other sectors. Our goal is to provide more transparency in the management of the State.

Little treats

The detention of 23 top players of the coffee and cacao sector, for the time being, came about after a seizin of the Attorney General by the head of state on 11th October 2007 to shed light on “grave accusations of embezzlement within the sector.” Indeed, before the President Gbagbo’s February 2006 decree to establish a framework for the management of the drawing of funds (for the State, for the functioning of various structures and for the implementation of activities in favour of producers) each of the management entities – the ARCC (Autorité de régulation du café et du cacao) that oversees the coffee-cacao industry, the (BCC) Bourse du Café et du Cacao, the FRC (Fonds de régulation et de contrôle), the FDPCC (Fonds de développement des producteurs de café-cacao) and the FGCCC (Fonds de garantie des coopératives café-cacao)- was managing a portion of the manna being received at the time. And to accomplish this effort, each structure seems to have provided him with some little treat. The amount of money resulting from those guilty of “failure to follow sound management rules” in the form of overcharging, others guilty of embezzlement and some guilty of fictitious or false placements has not been disclosed. But the rumour mill suggests sums in the billions of FCFA. “This is hardly surprising in a sector where it has long been customary to add two or three zeros to every bill,” confided a former high-ranking executive of the Caisse de stabilisation, an organisation that played a considerable role in determining and maintaining the price of products from the coffee-cacao sector.

“This is hardly surprising in a sector where it has long been customary to add two or three zeros to every bill,” confided a former high-ranking executive of the Caisse de stabilisation. Measuring cups

The on-going legal proceedings are the most recent link in a chain of events. First, there were a few cups “to improve the management of the sector’s resources” – cups that should have been taken as warnings. A clear warning should have been the creation by presidential decree of a Committee for the management of drawings whose mission was to examine, follow up and validate any project or programme to be financed within the sector before its realisation. But according to this former senior official of the Caisse de stabilisation, “as in the past, the pro rapid and unjustifiable enrichment mentality, prevarication and extortion have, once again, got the upper hand, driving the Bretton Woods institutions to demand and acquire the ill-advised and ill-conceived liberalisation of the coffee and cacao sector.” Essentially, back stage of this clean-up process being carried out before the haggard eyes of Ivory Coast nationals and the international community, neither of whom thought President Gbagbo capable of anything like this, is the question of the economic efficiency and expediency of the liberalisation of the coffee and cacao industry. The actions that set the “clean hands” ball in motion, saying much about the shortcomings of this forceps-delivered liberalisation, have now given birth to a host of overlapping entities.

Staying the course

While awaiting the start of court proceedings against those currently being detained, the Ivory Coast head of state seems determined to stay the course to the very end of the process. “And that might not be such a bad thing” notes a member of the National Council on Coffee and Cacao who, only a few months before, was espousing the need “to sanction the industry’s inadequacies and gross missteps.” In this framework, the National Association of Ivory Coast Producers (Association nationale de producteurs de Côte d’Ivoire – Anaproci), has also added members of successive governments to the list of those to be indicted. We’re not quite there, however. But for Jean-François Akini, an entrepreneur, “It was about time because even if Laurent Gbagbo had already proven himself to be a political genius, he had yet to show that he could be a great leader. With the “clean hands” operation that he’s just launched in his immediate professional entourage and also in departments that govern the management of public assets, he now has a good opportunity to show us what he can do.” Of course, this is provided that everything is done the right way and followed through and that all sectors of Ivory Coast’s economy face the same scrutiny…. Is that a hint? Of course!

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July 9, 2008 - Posted by | Crime and Corruption | , , ,

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