What to do now?
On the business end of things the situation is that the house and shops in Cocody are up to date with rents, whereas half of the apartments in Yopougon are one month behind. If things go back to normal I think they will catch up.
The main worry right now isn’t late rents, but plans for future investments. Before the elections I was looking to buy more real estate, but never closed a deal. Somebody else bought the plot of land discussed in the scaling up post while I was still negotiating the price.
Now, if Gbagbo stays in power for a long time under sanctions and possibly with a new Ivorian currency, it is probably not a good business decision to invest. It’s not only that the economy is likely to be bad, it’s also that the rule of law is weakening and that authorities are likely to discriminate against Europeans and northerners – and a few of the people I work closely with are northerners.
Additionally, it feels unethical to invest in Gbagbo’s Ivory Coast, after all his regime has in all likelihood ordered killings and abductions of a great number of unarmed citizens.
Bailing out of Gbagbo’s Ivory Coast
So, if it looks like Gbagbo will manage to stay in power for well, life, then I think I’ll keep collecting rents from the properties I have, but I won’t make any new investments.
Instead, I’d like to set up the same type of business in another West African country. I think it’s a great time to invest, and there are many countries that have the same things going for them as the Ivory Coast but no Gbagbo. Guinea would be really interesting, now that they have a democratically elected president.
However, I think I better stick to a place where I have an established network of people I trust to do business with, and that means Senegal for me.
Dawn or dusk for Gbagbo?
On the other hand, if Gbagbo will removed from power within the next weeks or months, now could be a great time to invest. And I have written off the possibility that Gbagbo will leave voluntarily any time before hostile forces look set to advance into Abidjan or unpaid disgruntled members of the army storm the presidential palace and tell him the game is over. I don’t know if there is any historical precedent of when a dictator who is prepared to kill his own people to stay in power, has just left power due to sanctions and external pressure.
The rub is that it is really hard to tell whether Gbagbo’s reign is at its last days, or early beginning. Some say that a military intervention is unrealistic due to lack of political will, lack of resources, and risks involved dealing with an entrenched Gbagbo’ controlling of the army and having significant support among the population.
Others say that there is a reason Senegal’s president Abdoulaye Wade (who is known to be supporting Ouattara) and Burkina’s president Blaise Compaore have stayed quiet since the crisis started. That western countries like the UK have pledged logistical support to a military intervention, and that the Ivorian army – that is weak in the first place – would not fight for Gbagbo as the majority of its personnel voted Ouattara. I would like to add that there is a sense of solidarity and belonging among the people of the northern Ivory Coast and those of Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Senegal which could influence decisions regarding a military intervention.
All in all, I find it really hard to tell what’s going to happen, so I’m going to lie low with any investments until things are clearer.