Côte d'Ivoire - Country Commercial Guide
Selling Factors & Techniques

Identifies common practices used in selling in this market, including sales material that needs to be in the local language.

Last published date: 2021-10-11

Ivoirians are generally interested in buying U.S.-made products, and Ivoirian businesspersons are generally open to partnering with U.S. businesses, but language and cultural barriers can create problems.  Some Ivoirian businesspersons are suspicious of large foreign firms, so it is important for U.S. companies to establish and maintain a high frequency of personal contact if they wish to be successful.  It is difficult to mount a successful enterprise via telephone or internet connections alone, as many Ivoirians prefer initial face-to-face contact before engaging with an overseas partner.  Yet despite differing business styles, Ivoirians generally respect the United States, welcome U.S. products, and encourage U.S. investment in Côte d’Ivoire.  Côte d’Ivoire maintains strong historical, cultural, and economic links with France.  However, increasingly, young Ivoirians prefer a North American university education over a French one.  Younger generations have been exposed to American culture through travel, sports, film, technology, internet, and general consumer goods.  This exposure to U.S. culture and the English language is likely to continue, helping to further U.S. business interests.  A number of Abidjan-area universities and leadership schools offer business and technical training in English.

Ivoirians are, in general, extremely polite and rather formal, and it is customary to greet everyone that one meets.  Even a long-term partner or business contact is usually greeted with an exchange of pleasantries, followed by a handshake (except during the COVID-19 pandemic) and inquiries about one’s health, family, and relatives.  While coming to the point directly is admired in American culture, Ivoirians tend to be more reserved and patient, and some may, in fact, view the straight-forward manner of many Americans as off-putting:  show that one has plenty of time to devote to the person is a sign of respect; being rushed can seem rude.  Ivoirians tend to prefer regular, face-to-face contact; visits are generally more effective in obtaining results than remote communication.  For Ivoirians, trust in a business relationship is paramount and cannot be achieved sight unseen.  The cornerstone of a successful U.S.-Ivoirian business relationship is adapting to a pace of business that is slower and more personal than that of the United States.

The Lebanese community plays an important role in business in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly in retail, wholesale, and processing.  That community is generally receptive to U.S. products and U.S. company representatives, and many of its members are conversant in English.  However, French is still generally the preferred language for business transactions.

Trade Promotion and Advertising

Advertising agencies also offer marketing research and video production services.  New and more sophisticated advertising activities and materials have entered the market with the emergence of a variety of advertising products and services including large billboards, moving message signs, films, and video productions.  Many of these new products and services are directed toward Internet users.  Over the next few years, as Internet penetration rates rise, this new segment of the advertising market is expected to grow substantially.  In addition to local advertising, many international TV channels — cable TV stations such as Canal+ Horizons, TV5, and VRO, CNN, CFI, and others — provide advertising in the market.  Local TV stations: https://www.rti.ci/; https://www.nci.ci/

Online press: https://www.abidjan.net/ ; https://www.acturoutes.info/; http://www.panapress.com/pana-lang2-index.html;

The U.S. Commercial Service and the Embassy can assist U.S. businesses in promoting their products and services for a fee through our Single Company Promotion.  

Pricing

U.S. exporters will find that pricing in CFA Francs (CFA), especially for repeat sales of deliveries over a six-to-twelve-month period, provides a substantial commercial advantage over quoting prices in U.S. dollars.  Cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) quotations to an Ivoirian port are more useful to Ivoirian buyers than direct factory quotations.  When calculating selling prices, U.S. businesses should compare their prices to competitors, and build into their cost structure an allowance for additional costs that often arise when selling into a developing market.

Payment via confirmed irrevocable letter of credit is often preferred by U.S. exporters, particularly at the beginning of a commercial relationship.  However, insistence on L/C payment terms may limit the U.S. exporter’s rate of market penetration.  European suppliers often effectively use seller-financing in the Ivoirian market to accommodate customers and capture market share.  Foreign competition often grants credit of 60 to 90 days for consumer goods and 24 months for machinery and equipment.  European banks often quote liberal terms and may discount paper for their exporters who are pursuing long-term credits.  Competitive credit terms are an important factor in purchasing decisions and may be part of an effective marketing strategy in Côte d’Ivoire.

Prices are generally market-determined.  There are exceptions for certain essential goods including fuel (maximum prices set by the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum, and Energy), bread, cement, and meat (maximum prices set by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce).  Minimum prices paid to producers for certain agricultural commodities such as cocoa are set by the regulatory bodies for those commodities, such as the Coffee and Cocoa Council.  

Sales Service/Customer Support

After-sales support and services are essential for U.S. marketing success in Côte d’Ivoire.  Support is especially critical and expected for high-tech or heavy industrial equipment such as computer hardware and software, telecommunications and networking equipment, photocopiers, automobiles and construction equipment, and air conditioning/refrigeration units.  French-language service manuals, frequent personnel training, and a reasonable inventory of spare parts are also crucial.  U.S. businesses should consider having a plan for technology transfer, capacity building, and training of personnel.

Local Professional Services

Internet access providers: VIPNET; MTN; ORANGE; MOOV.

Industrial Zones Agency, Agence de Gestion et de Développement des Infrastructures Industrielles (AGEDI)

Office leasing and coworking spaces: Regus; Aici; Kalimba.

Banking and financial firms association : Association Professionnelle des Banques et Etablissements Financiers de Côte d’Ivoire

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan maintains a list of attorneys, notaries, and tax accountants.  The list is found at https://ci.usembassy.gov/services/

Principal Business Associations

The American Chamber of Commerce in Côte d’Ivoire has been accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and counts more than 20 members, mostly U.S. businesses, including a few local ones.

The Côte d’Ivoire Business Confederation (Confédération Générale des Entreprises de Côte d’Ivoire, CGECI) is the federation of the most important Ivoirian business associations and businesses.  It has an important voice before the government and is open to U.S. businesses.

Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services

There are no limitations on foreign ownership or sales in any manufacturing or services sectors.