Business France Says Ebola Slowed Down Investment in Ivory Coast

The Ebola outbreak slowed down French investments in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, even if there were no recorded cases of the disease in the West African nation.

“We’ve seen a slowdown in investment decisions and in the start-up of some projects,” Gilles Della Guardia, West Africa chief of Business France, France’s state-owned business promotion agency, said in an interview on Wednesday.

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak has killed more than 8,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Three other countries in the region that found cases of the disease -- Nigeria, Senegal and Mali -- managed to contain the epidemic.

“We really felt Ebola,” Della Guardia said in the commercial capital, Abidjan. “It’s a result of the media coverage, which led some people to believe the outbreak was affecting the whole West Africa region.”

The former French colony is turning the page on a decade-long conflict with economic growth that probably reached 8 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country emerged from instability in 2011 with a new president, Alassane Ouattara.

The country is slowly shaking off the negative image it gained among foreign investors during the crisis, Della Guardia said. There are about 200 units of French companies operating in Ivory Coast. French businesses already in the country before the crisis are investing again in offices, equipment, and staff, Della Guardia said. “They’re catching up on lost time,” he said.

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