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Is Cote d' Ivoire for you?

With our recent visit to Cote d’ Ivoire, we were attempting to discover how we as foreigners could move to and possibly live in the country. Obtaining information on Cote d’Ivoire was challenging work due to the language barrier. However, from our experience in the country, these are just a few things we found out and feel you should know about Cote D’ Ivoire.

Visas: U.S. citizens must have a visa to travel to Cote d’Ivoire. Visas last for up to 3 months. Obtaining a visa must be done through the Cote d’ Ivoire embassy which is located in Washington D.C. If you are outside of the U.S., check to see if the country you are in has a local embassy for Cote d’Ivoire. Applications for a visa can be taken into the office or done via mail. There is a fee of $150 USD for the E-Visa. This must be paid on the U.S Cote d’Ivoire embassy website and the receipt must be included with the application. If you can go in person, you can pay a smaller fee of $62 USD and take the application in by hand.

Immigration: There is a process for obtaining permanent residency through nationalization in Cote D’Ivoire. A person seeking nationalization must purchase the application for 50,000CFA (approximately $83 USD). The following is needed to become an Ivoirian national:

a.       Have a residence in the country at the time of the application;
b.       Have resided in the country the preceding 5 years prior to the date of application;
c.       Include all the documents making it possible to assess the merits of the application and concerning the length of his/her residence in Cote D'Ivoire, his/her nationality of origin and his/her residences abroad.
d.       A background check of the candidate’s morality, conduct and loyalty, and the contribution the candidate to make to the nation;
e.       An examine of the candidate’s health and certificate of good health;
f.        The approval of the President.

In addition to nationalization, a foreigner can obtain a temporary stay residency for 6,000 CFA (approximately $10 USD). The title of temporary stay residency allows a foreign to stay a determined amount of time beyond the allotted 3 months under an issued visa. Once approved, the residency can be renewal within a stated timeframe. To obtain this residency, you must produce one of the following documents:

a.       Certificate of work;
b.       Attestation of attendance for school;
c.       Commercial Register for a merchant; or
d.       Retirement documents.

Land: In Cote D’ Ivoire, foreigners can purchase freehold land in the urban areas. However, all land transactions (private property rights) must go through the legal system. Obtaining the title for the freehold land can be long, tedious, and possibly never occur. When purchasing land in the villages, you must lease the land because it is the property of the entire village. We didn’t get any costs for land, so do further research if you are interested in land here. 

Housing: During our stay in Cote D’ Ivoire, we resided in the Cocody, specifically Aghien. The area was nice, quiet, and accessible to necessities. In Abidjan, Cocody is considered to be a middle-class community. From conversations with Ivorians we gathered that a 2bd/1bth apartment with air condition would cost approximately $650 USD per month. By Ivorian standards, that’s an expensive apartment. Obviously, your desired amenities and location will drive the price up or down.

Utilities: Residents of Cote D’Ivoire pay for water and electricity to Sodeci and CIE, respectively. By the way, both companies are owned by private French companies! Electricity is by far the most expensive. On average, for electricity residents pay approximately $800 to $1000 USD every 2 months. On average, for water, residents pay approximately $200 USD every 3 months. Having air condition or a washer will drive up your electric bill even more.

Transportation: Like Ghana, there are “trotro” like vans which transport people around the city.  We didn’t ride them because Ivorians warned us that those vehicles are extremely dangerous and often involved in accidents. They were not lying as we saw at least 4 or 5 accidents involving these vehicles during our stay. Therefore, we do not know the price to ride them, but you may want to avoid them as well. However, there are numerous yellow and orange taxis you can catch. The yellow taxis are shared taxis and are very affordable as they only cost a few hundred CFA depending on the destination. Mostly, we paid less than $1 USD per ride when using the yellow taxis. The orange taxis will cost a few thousand CFA. In an orange taxi the most we paid was 3500 CFA (approximately $6 USD). Lastly, there is a bus system which charges 300 CFA for short routes and 500 CFA for longer routes.

Shopping: Unlike some of the other West African countries we have visited, Ivorians primarily shop for groceries at the supermarket. We did not come across any big markets, although we were told there are some located on the outskirts of the city. Produce can be purchased at some of the local stands located within the neighborhoods. Food at the supermarket is reasonably priced unless the item is an imported food item such as cheese, certain fruits and vegetables, or American items (cereal).

Cellphone/Internet:  Get a local SIM card when you arrive. Although, our T-mobile plans worked here, the charges were outrageous. A SIM card (Orange, MTN, or Moov) can be purchased at one of the local shops for about 1000 CFA ($1.50 USD). The phone service and the internet works by purchasing credits as you need them. The internet data is purchased through hashtag codes (i.e. #105*) followed by a set of instructions to add the data to your phone. The Internet can be expensive as there is no unlimited internet service in the country. However, the internet works great as long as you have credits. Word of advice, just pay $20,000 CFA (Approximately $32 USD) to get 10 GBs of data. Otherwise, you will be like us paying $3000 CFA a day for service that may last 1 to 1.5 days before it runs out.

Activities: Abidjan is a big party city. There are numerous clubs and lounges to enjoy the nightlife. As for family activities, they have a few activities. There are arcades, bowling, kid play areas, and cinemas (movies are in French). We enjoyed these activities minus the French movies.  There are activities through the local schools to place your young ones in such as karate and futbol. The beaches are also nice and are located outside of the city with the closest one (Grand-Bassam) being about a 45-minute drive from Abidjan.

Transactions: Cote D’Ivoire like many African nations is a cash transaction society. However, unlike any African country we have been to thus far, when we attempted to purchase items in cash, the cashier/taxi driver/etc. did not like to provide change or would not have change to provide. Thus, there were many awkward moments when we would pay for things while here. On our first trip to the supermarket, the cashier could not provide the correct amount of change for our purchase and when we asked for the correct amount, she looked at us like what’s the big deal. The concierge even told us to leave the money. When we decided not to, the cashier rung up some chocolate candy and handed it to us. We didn’t lose our cool, we just took the candy and marked it as lesson learned. Pay with a debit or credit card when you can. However, cashless transactions are not usually an option, so just have correct change or you are likely to get short changed, overcharged (taxi), or refused the goods/services.

Political Atmosphere: Cote D’Ivoire is a nation that can be affected by presidential elections. The selection of the current President in 2011 was a reason for the conflict that ensued with France. There was no violence in the 2015 elections, but Ivorians have stated they are unsure about what will happen in 2020 when President Ouattara is up for re-election.

Business Opportunities: Cote D’Ivoire has one of the top 6 economies in Africa at the moment. Through the Center for Promotion of Investments, the country provides a process for researching the current business sectors that are in high demand. A potential business owner can locate opportunities, understand the market demands, and register their business online. Business registration takes approximately 48 hours. Additionally, the center assists foreign investors to locate private projects which need funding and will place the potential investor in contact with the person overseeing the project.  Check out the website to determine which areas of investment are needed and how to go about registering a business. 

The information provided is based on what we were able to ascertain during our stay in the country. As with anything, the information can change based on other factors which may occur subsequent this article. Thus, please do more research if you want to visit or possibly move to Cote d’Ivoire. Hopefully this information is useful and can provide a starting point in your research. Until next time…

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