In the book he is about to publish, “La Ivory Coast Facing Social Challenges and the Balance of Territories” (Collection L’Afrique en Marche), Professor Justin N’Goran Koffi refers us to the political philosophy of Father of the Nation , Félix Houphouët-Boigny, one of the greatest economic reformers, whose social policies have profoundly changed Ivorian society.
For Justin N’Goran Koffi, Houphouët-Boigny was able to theorize the close connection between the economy and the social. Houphouët-Boigny, known as a socialist, will not be seduced by the song of the Marxist sirens that will plunge many African states into horrific dictatorships. Its policy will always be to reconcile private investment, the inflow of foreign capital and the regulatory role of the state.
In his book, Justin N’Goran Koffi refers us to two famous quotes from the Father of the Nation: ” Admittedly, we are not a socialist country, but our ambition is to (…) one of the most daring social† † † What the Ivorian wants is to share wealth and not misery. And for that, it must above all help to create prosperity. For Justin N’Goran Koffi, this last quote from Houphouët-Boigny reminds us that social policy is financed by taxes, which oblige the state to rigorously manage public finances and fight corruption. We must therefore create wealth before we redistribute it.
The soul of the world that has become liberal and commercial, has the old confrontation between liberalism and socialism become obsolete? This old confrontation still exists, because Ivorian society, like all societies, sees conflicting interests between all economic actors, between capital and work. Liberalism has shown its superiority in accelerating development, but an unregulated, financialized and globalized capitalism and economy, seeking profit only for the few and refusing to serve the common good, generates injustices and unacceptable social inequalities, ferments of popular uprisings.
The productive economy
To build a prosperous and united Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara chose the productive economy, that is, liberalism. The neoliberal reforms implemented since 2011 have paid off with strong and sustained growth. But, I wrote in my April 25, 2022 Chronicle: During the decade of Ouattara, before the health crisis of Covid 19, Côte d’Ivoire, which has become the richest country in West Africa, has still failed to eradicate poverty and fight corruption effectively. Since 2020, Ivory Coast has entered a new era that, “taking into account the current global economic situation led President Alassane Ouattara to want to cut government spending with a tight government and” reorient public policy towards resilience in social security and safety †
So there is no question of giving up the productive economy, as the aim is to accelerate industrialization and local processing of raw materials, together with the Achi 2 government, thus creating jobs, especially for young people. For liberals like Alassane Ouattara and his Prime Minister Patrick Achi, employment is the first social protection. Pursuing liberal reforms by relying on private investment and the infusion of foreign capital, is this enough to legitimize political action? Of course not. Hence the need for the Achi 2 government to theorize the articulation between the productive economy and social policy.
The productive economy at the service of society
Speaking in Yamoussoukro, before the parliamentary representation, Ouattara made it clear that in the government’s roadmap, Achi II is one of the priorities to continue and strengthen the government’s second social programme. All collective solidarity, which is essential to protect the weakest and those who are victims of life accidents, must be financed by the state.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the social issue comes first among the problems that the government has to solve. The questions that arise today, with the violent economic wars waged by states and regions of the world, the emergence of a pandemic such as Covid-19 and the security risks increasing at national borders, are social issues.
For Professor Justin N’Goran Koffi, social policy, because it consolidates coexistence, is linked to political stability, civil peace and democracy.
The productive economy at the service of ecology
Côte d’Ivoire has fallen from a forest area of 16 million ha in 1960 to 2 million ha today, representing a 90% loss, the causes of which are known. Another statistic from the Ministry of Water and Forests: in 1960 the country had 234 classified forests with an area of 4.2 million ha, compared to, in 2016, 231 classified forests with only 1.3 million ha of unaffected forest.
Houphouët-Boigny had insisted very early on preserving biodiversity. One of the messages he left is at the entrance to Banco National Park in Yopougon: ” Ivory Coast is too beautiful. Too harmonious and serene to take the responsibility of blindly destroying its natural beauties and its most authentic riches. The man has been on the moon, but he does not yet know how to make a flamboyant or birdsong. Let’s save our precious country from irreparable mistakes that could cause it to lose its birds and trees in the future. †
Global news is about the climate emergency. One of the priority goals that the government of Achi 2 must set itself, in this time of climate emergency, is to pursue policies to maintain remaining cover and reforestation across the territory. The Banco National Park, the lung of Abidjan, needs better protection.
Ouattara’s government must reinvent itself and better theorize productive, social and environmental economics to answer the social question that is always asked and never solved. What needs to be invented in Ivory Coast is this social and environmental liberalism.
For libertarian liberals, the state should only fulfill its sovereign functions: security, police, justice, military and tax collection. Under no circumstances should it intervene in the economy. This view is not that of Houphouetism, which assigns a regulating and redistributive role to the state.
This sentence from Professor Justin N’Goran Koffi’s book can serve as a roadmap for the Achi 2 government: “ Every government must be able to embrace the general movement of the world, but it must correct all excesses, that is, the negative effects on the lives of the population, especially that of the working classes, by opposing the theory of ” laissez-faire” of the liberals the salutary role of the state’s regulatory and redistributive action.†
Associate of the University – President of the think tank Afrique Partage – Director General of the University of the Atlantic