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The story of a country’s economic development is often told through the lens of new roads, factories, power lines, and ports. However, it can also be told through the voices of everyday heroes, individuals who have taken action to improve their lives and those around them.
Stéphanie Quoioh is very definite about it: she owes her steady rise in the entrepreneurial world to the Center for Investment Promotion in Côte d’Ivoire (CEPICI), which took her under its wing. A year ago, this young entrepreneur created her startup business, Archive Expert, in less than 24 hours, thanks to CEPICI, which enormously facilitated the task.
Flashback: Before CEPICI was established in 2011, starting a business in Côte d’Ivoire was essentially an uphill struggle. There were at least four stages to go through, one more difficult than the next. First, the company’s articles of incorporation had to be filed with the Department of Taxation. Then one had to go to the court registrar’s office to obtain a registration number for the Register of Companies and Personal Property, and then to the tax office to receive a taxpayer account number, and finally to the National Social Security Fund (CNPS). In order to get through this grueling process and meet all the requirements, one generally needed the services of a notary, whose fees ranged from CFAF 600,000 to CFAF 800,000. The numerous steps and their associated costs inevitably hampered business creation and discouraged many would-be entrepreneurs. Many investors gave up their plans or decided to remain in the informal sector, which, either way, had an adverse impact on the economy.
With these shortcomings in mind, the Ivoirien authorities decided to create an agency whose purpose would be to assist companies. CEPICI was thus created with the support of the International Finance Corporation (a subsidiary of the World Bank Group focusing on the private sector) and the Small and Medium Enterprise Revitalization and Governance Project (PARE -PME) funded by the World Bank. Daniella Akou runs a department under CEPICI that combines three services: a one-stop shop for incorporation procedures, an investment window, and a support service for the granting of industrial land. This one-stop shop is exactly what enabled Stéphanie Quoioh to set up her business in record time. The distinctive feature of CEPICI, as Daniella points out, is that “the processing of applications is now done in the same place. One no longer has to go to several different places; the process has been simplified and is more transparent.” Not only has the registration process been reduced to 24 hours, but the costs have been brought down significantly. For example, the cost of registering in the Register of Companies has gone down from CFAF 50,000 to CFAF 15,000 for corporate bodies and from CFAF 25,000 to CFAF 10,000 for private individuals.
As important as facilitating business creation may be, it is not in itself sufficient to foster a competitive and dynamic private sector. This is why CEPICI has expanded its sphere of action to include companies, helping them in particular to acquire new technologies. Stephanie finds such ongoing support useful. “CEPICI’s support did not end the day my company was created,” she says. Thanks to this constant support, Stéphanie’s company won the Startupper of the Year Challenge in 2016, in which 35 countries participated. She was recently selected by Africa-France as one of its “20 Young Leaders” of 2017.
By creating CEPICI, the Ivoirien Government has sent a clear message of support to local and foreign investors and has encouraged them to grow their businesses. While CEPICI undeniably plays an important role, it nevertheless raises some questions, such as the following:
- To what extent should CEPICI also help Ivoirien companies to obtain more easy access to finance and infrastructure, which are often perceived as more important obstacles than the administrative procedures?
- Should CEPICI not extend its action to small and medium enterprises operating in the informal economy and to other cities in Côte d’Ivoire instead of concentrating on the formal sector and Abidjan?