Côte d'Ivoire - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution & Sales Channels

Discusses distribution network from how products enter to final destination, including eliability of distribution systems, distribution centers, ports, etc.
 

Last published date: 2021-10-11

The principal venues of commercial transaction are:  wholesale and/or retail outlets, either in a local market, local shop or at an established chain; a direct sales force; an agent or distributor; established wholesalers or dealers; and selling directly to the government, cooperatives, and other local organizations.  Exporters should consider the requirements of the product and its potential market when choosing a distribution channel.

Most wholesale establishments and modern retail outlets are concentrated in Abidjan.  These include company headquarters, regional offices, banking branches, insurance companies, supermarkets, car dealerships, and specialty stores.  Most small shops and retail stores are sole proprietorships whose owners have limited management capability.

Using an Agent or Distributor

Exporters should consider using an agent or distributor with a well-established network.   This is the recommended entry strategy, not a requirement from the law.

The U.S. Commercial Service provides a range of fee-based services that can help U.S. companies locate reliable local agents and distributors through an International Partner Search (IPS), which is a customized search for qualified local representatives, agents, or distributors.  More assistance can be provided through additional services, including the International Company Profile (ICP) and the Gold Key Service (GKS).  Information regarding these programs is available through the U.S. Commercial Service website as well as by contacting your Export Assistance Center.

Establishing an Office

The Côte d’Ivoire Investment Promotion Center (Centre de Promotion des Investissements en Côte d’Ivoire, CEPICI) offers one-stop-shop services to foreigners attempting to establish an office in Côte d’Ivoire.  Businesses can register their presence on-line or in person.

To register your business in person:

  • Prepare all the required documents per this Exhaustive List of Required Documents
  • Submit completed documents to CEPICI’s One Stop Shop (Guichet unique)
  • Pay the registration fees: US$55, plus 2.5 percent of the office leasing value

To register your business online:

There are four common business models in Côte d’Ivoire.  In all four, non-Ivoirians are allowed to hold more than 51 percent of the company’s assets, although exceptions to this law sometimes occur and can be mandated by government decree.

  • Joint Venture (Association et Participation)
  • Subsidiary of a Foreign Company (Succursale): The establishment of a branch of a foreign company is not allowed until it is registered with the Tribunal de Première Instance of Abidjan.  Once registered, the subsidiary is regarded as an Ivoirian entity and is legally independent of the parent company.
  • Limited Liability Company (Société à Responsabilité Limitée, SARL): As part of reforms to improve the business environment, CEPICI abolished the minimum capital requirement of an estimated US$2,000 required for the creation of any SARL.  It now requires payment of CFA 15,000 (approximately US$31) for business registration.  SARLs must have at least one shareholder.  No share certificates are issued.
  • Stock Corporations (Société Anonyme, SA): Stock corporations are required to have at least one shareholder.  (Note: U.S. dollar values are approximate and depend on the current exchange rate.)  Each share must have a nominal value of at least CFA 10,000 (US$20) and there is a minimum capital requirement of CFA 10,000,000 (US$20,000) for closely held SAs, and CFA100,000,000 (US$200,000) for publicly traded companies.  Directors’ meetings must be held on a regular basis.  If a corporation has share capital below CFA 2.5 billion (US$5 million), there is a stock registration tax of six-tenths of one percent of the value of the stock for the company.  For corporations with capital valued above CFA 2.5 billion (US$5 million), the registration tax rate is reduced.

Other business forms include regional offices, sole proprietorships, local agency or distributorship arrangements, various entities that are similar to limited and general partnerships, and state-owned or partially government-owned companies.  All business entities must register within 30 days of commencement of activity.  If SARL or SA is the chosen business type, the following must be filed with the Commercial Registry:  a copy of the company by-laws; the minutes authorizing the establishment of the company (SA form only); and the name of the manager (SARL) or director (SA).

Companies must submit an annual balance sheet and profit and loss accounts to the Ministry of Economy and Finance and a Declaration of Commencement of Business with the Tax Department of the Ministry of Finance and the Economy,  the Ministry of Employment and Social Protection,  and the National Social Security Fund   If the entity contemplates the importation or exportation of goods or materials, it must register as an importer or exporter with the Department of External Trade of the Ministry of Commerce.

Prior to establishing a business in Côte d’Ivoire, it is advisable to consult a local attorney.

Franchising

Franchising is an authorized business structure in use in Côte d’Ivoire.  Parties interested in franchising must conduct discussions directly with their potential partners.  The market is receptive and offers a range of quality potential partners in various sectors.  Franchisees of large American fast food restaurant chains are already present in the market.

Direct Marketing

Direct Marketing is used in Côte d’Ivoire but is not common practice.  Marketing firms, internet, and social media are efficient channels to reach targeted audiences in the country. 

Joint Ventures/Licensing

Joint Ventures are permitted in Côte d’Ivoire.  Parties sign an agreement and register as such with the Investment Promotion Center.

Express Delivery

International Express Delivery firms such as UPS, DHL, and Federal Express are present and mainly cover international deliveries.  Small local firms handle domestic deliveries.  Standard delivery time for an international parcel to arrive in Côte d’Ivoire, when using a commercial delivery service, is a maximum of two weeks and express delivery packages can arrive in a maximum of two days.  

Due Diligence

U.S. businesses interested in the West African market in general should always check the reputation of their business partners before any engagement.  Exporters should verify liability and compliance of their prospects, especially distributors or agents who would buy or collect and sell before paying.  The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan can assist U.S. companies with researching the bona fides of companies based in Côte d’Ivoire.  Such assistance ranges from a simple due-diligence check to the more sophisticated International Company Profile, https://www.trade.gov/international-company-profile .