On September 23, 2011, AGI hosted an event with President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, moderated by Dr. Mwangi Kimenyi. The event was attended by a distinguished group of scholars from Brookings, Washington-based think tanks, leaders in policy and academia, as well as selected members of the media who discussed key issues facing the country and suggested policy recommendations. President Ouattara addressed the situation in Ivory Coast and his administration’s policy agenda. The briefing by President Ouattara was followed by questions and conversations that focused on how Ivory Coast could most effectively recover from the crisis, ensuing divisions and economic setbacks it has suffered since the past election and how to tackle the challenges facing the country.
Some of the most key issues discussed were the plans for reconciliation and constitutional revisions to address tension and encourage the return of refugees; strategies through which the country can expedite its goals for demobilization of fighters; and the important role of regional integration and trade for the country’s recovery. The participants also brought up critical issues regarding the limited and ineffective role of the African Union in addressing the crisis and the need for regional groups with more authority. President Ouattara discussed his hopes of scaling up involvement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) during his presidency. Audience members also examined the issue of resolving land policy as it is intricately related with citizenship and conflict.
Foreign aid was discussed at length, specifically regarding how international and bilateral aid groups may or may not be useful as the country recovers. It was noted that, as a post-conflict country, there are a number of opportunities that Ivory Coast could take advantage of financially despite the stigma of such classification. Participants encouraged Ouattara to begin seeking debt relief as early as possible so as to fast track the cumbersome process. President Ouattara also commented on the limits so far of US aid commitments in assisting the nation’s recovery, but was hopeful of the ways in which the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) can be used to get the country back on track. Broader issues discussed also related to tackling the problem of youth unemployment in the country and growing the economy through increasing its share of exports in the world’s cocoa sector. The event led to an enlightening and enriching dialogue on some of the most pressing policy considerations now facing the government of Ivory Coast.