Vincent Gadou Kragbé, chairman and CEO of the Village de Technologies de l’Information et de la Biotechnologie (VITIB) and special economic adviser to Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo, is an optimist about his country’s future, a future that he sees as a high-tech, high-knowledge next step in the nation’s road to economic recovery.
Mr Kragbé has served in his current post since November 2006. Recently he has been busy promoting the various attractive qualities of VITIB to groups of foreign investors from countries as diverse as China, India, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Mr Kragbé holds an MBA from the State University of New York. He shared some of his thoughts on the trajectory he would like to see his country take.
Q What effect has the Ouagadougou accord and the power-sharing agreement had on the economy?
A The Ouagadougou accord and the power-sharing agreement have had a reassuring effect on the economy, and there is peace to secure investments because the two conflicting parties have reconciled and are sharing that power effectively.
What role do you think Côte d’Ivoire’s free trade zone and VITIB will play in the economic development of the nation?
A Our ambition is to make the free trade zone an attractive destination for local and multinational companies in search of a new environment and favourable investment opportunities... A free trade zone of information technology and biotechnology will not only create jobs and entrepreneurship, but will profit the economy by moving its existent agriculture-based system to industrialisation and reduce poverty by raising the life expectancy, thanks to the applications of biotechnology to agriculture, such as hardier crops.
Our main objective is to have steady and sustainable economical growth for Côte d’Ivoire and Africa. It is also obvious that this will create indirect employment opportunities and many related economic activities in sectors such as commerce, tourism and elsewhere.
Q What kind of foreign direct investment does VITIB expect to attract to Côte d’Ivoire?
A We wish to attract investment from telecom and satellite companies, IT and biotech manufacturing plants, call centres, pharmaceutical and biomedical manufacturers, and civil engineering companies, among others.
Q Do you think that Côte d’Ivoire’s image as a place to invest has changed since the anti-French riots of 2004?
A Actually there have never been long lasting or deeply rooted anti-French feelings in Côte d’Ivoire. These overnight or 48-hour anti-French riots [caused] the delocalisation of some French enterprises.
However, other internationally known enterprises have been able to invest and are already making profits in the areas of mining, trade, real estate development, chemistry and agronomy. Most foreign companies, including French enterprises, have come back and were able to get new contracts and recover the previous ones at better conditions.
Q In which sectors of the economy do you expect the biggest growth over the next year?
A Over the next year we hope to see strong growth in sectors such as petroleum, road infrastructure, real estate and civil engineering.
VINCENT GADOU KRAGBÉ
2006 VITIB, Chairman and CEO
2000 Office of the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Special adviser, ICT strategy
1984 Oracle Corporation, Representative for West Africa
1976 Arthur Andersen, Manager, Information Systems Division