Ebola has not affected us but a concern: Ivory Coast


“So far, regarding the Ivorian economy, we have not been affected yet [by Ebola], and we hope not to be. It’s [still] a concern. Because we are taking measures, it costs more in terms of security [and] prevention measures that you put at the airport,” Jean-Louis Billon, Minister of Commerce in Ivory Coast, told CNBC while in Singapore, attending the Africa Singapore Business Forum.

The Ebola outbreak has caused a number of businessmen to flee affected West African countries, and the Africa Development Bank anticipates that the impact on the region’s economies will be significant.

The current death toll is sitting at more than 1,300 people since the outbreak was detected in March, with Liberia being the worst hit by the disease.


Billon added that August is usually a slow month for the Ivorian economy, and that the economy’s performance in September and October would however be a better time to assess by how much the West African nation has been affected by the virus.

Meanwhile, other African countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa have taken stringent measures in terms of border control and temporary air travel restrictions to keep the virus out of their borders. Ivory Coast took the same step recently.

(READ MORE: Ivory Coast closes western borders over Ebola threat)

“We work together with the Liberian government and we did not close [our] borders right away. We put a prevention centre at the border at the time, and then what happened was that Liberia was having difficulty containing some of its regions so on their advice, we closed [our] borders for the time being. We have a health task force at the border, airport, [and] port, as a prevention measure,” Billon explained.

In terms of trade, cocoa prices have been on the decline for some time. According to Billon, Ivory Coast has never been able to recover the same strong cocoa prices the country had in the 1970s.

“Those [1970] prices made what we call ‘the Ivorian Miracle’ at the time. I think at some point it will bounce back. It needs to bounce back because cocoa is a difficult crop, a long [cultivation] process and few countries are producing cocoa,” said Billon.

“With the increase in demand of chocolate in the world, where more countries are consuming chocolate and fewer countries are producing cocoa, at some point when you look at the supply and demand, it will bounce back and chocolate might be the gold bar of the future.”

Because of other global cocoa producers such as Indonesia, Ghana, Cameroon, Peru and Ecuador, competition in the production and trade of the commodity is stiff.

(WATCH VIDEO: Ivory Coast’s economic revival)

“We’ve been in a crisis for the past 20 years economically and politically speaking. It is [only] now that we are resuming our development process. We’re catching up on infrastructure and reforms. We’re building roads, bridges, water dams, new refineries and be more competitive and be the best economy of the sub-region.”