Ivory Coast: Babi est doux

Ivory Coast: Babi est doux

by Jérémy Goillot. February 2023

"Babi est doux"

is a common expression in Ivory Coast, used by people of all ages and backgrounds as a way to show affection and appreciation for others.

In Abidjan people use it to describe a loved one or a delicious meal. Just by hearing it you can feel the warm and welcoming culture of Ivory Coast and the importance of kindness and sweetness in daily life.

I spent most of October 2022 exploring Ivory Coast. I felt truly welcomed by local entrepreneurs, the expression “Babi est doux” really made sense.

AI-Generated Image - “Entrepreneur working in Abidjan”
AI-Generated Image - “Entrepreneur working in Abidjan”

In this report

I am sharing with you :

👉 my experience of the Ivorian culture and living in Abidjan (see at the bottom of the report some tips to make your stay in Ivory Coast as wonderful as mine)

👉 my insight about Abidjan’s startup scene.

Before reading the report, here is my Linkedin Post about Abidjan and my Youtube Video (both went viral 💥 and helped me get recommendations from Ivorians to make my trip epic!)

Mathias (Ceo @Julaya) one of the fastest growing fintech
Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro
Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro
Régis (Co-founder of Djamo) the Neo-Bank for West Africans

Quick facts about Ivory Coast

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Population: 28.5 million, 4th most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa.

🌍 Urbanization: Ivory Coast has experienced rapid urbanization over the past few decades, with an estimated 52% of the population living in urban areas as of 2020.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Population: According to the latest estimates, Abidjan has a population of around 5.1 million people, making it the largest city in Ivory Coast.

🗺️ Ranking: Abidjan is also one of the largest and most populous cities in West Africa, ranking third behind Lagos in Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

👶 Fertility Rate: The fertility rate in Ivory Coast is 4.0 births per woman as of 2020, which is higher than the global average.

💹 GDP: 58.32 billion USD (ranks 10th/54 GDP per capita)
  • This makes it one of the largest economies in West Africa, and the third-largest in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) after Nigeria and Ghana.
  • 💵 Diversified Economy: The country is the world's largest producer and exporter of cocoa, and also has significant production of coffee, palm oil, and rubber. In addition, there is a growing manufacturing sector, particularly in textiles and food processing.
  • 📈 GDP Growth: Over the past decade, Ivory Coast has consistently posted strong GDP growth, averaging around 7% per year from 2012 to 2019. This growth has been driven by a combination of factors, including government investment in infrastructure and social services, an expanding consumer market, and foreign investment in key sectors.
  • 💰 GDP Per Capita: Despite its large GDP, Ivory Coast's GDP per capita is relatively low, at around 2,700 USD per year. This reflects the fact that the country's population is quite large (around 28 million people), and is growing rapidly.
💰 Currency: Franc CFA (1€ = 655.957 Franc CFA) as of February 2023.
👍 Inflation rate: 3.3%
💼 Unemployment rate: The unemployment rate in Ivory Coast was 4.9% in 2020, according to Trading Economics.
😐 Tech Salaries: the average salary for a tech worker in Abidjan ranges from XOF 1,500,000 to XOF 4,000,000 per year ($2,700 to $7,200).
👮‍♂️ 🚨 Ivory Coast requires a visa for French citizens to enter the country.

As a French citizen, you can apply for an electronic visa (e-visa) online to visit Ivory Coast. Here are the steps and costs:

👮‍♂️ E-visa: You can apply for an electronic visa (e-visa) through the official website of the Ivory Coast embassy in France: https://ambaci-france.org/visas/

📝 Steps:

  1. Fill out the online application form with your personal details, travel information, and passport details.
  2. Upload a digital copy of your passport, recent passport-size photo, and your travel itinerary.
  3. Pay the visa fee using a credit/debit card or PayPal.
  4. Wait for the visa to be processed and sent to your email.
  5. PRINT it before entering to the country!
  6. At the arrival Airport there is a dedicated space for e-Visa. The immigration officer will verify your documents, take your photo, and may ask you a few questions about the purpose of your visit.

💰 Cost: The cost of an e-visa for Ivory Coast varies depending on the duration of your stay and the number of entries. Here are the current fees:

  • Single-entry visa (up to 90 days): 87 euros
  • Multiple-entry visa (up to 90 days): 102 euros

Note: The e-visa is valid for 90 days from the date of issue and allows a maximum stay of 90 days in Ivory Coast.

🇨🇮 Distinctive fact: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro is one of the largest churches in the world, located in the political capital of Ivory Coast.
📲 Smartphone penetration: about 7.5 million
The mobile market is dominated by three major players: Orange, MTN, and Moov. Orange is the leading operator in the country with a market share of around 40%, followed by MTN with around 34%, and Moov with around 20%.
🌐 Internet penetration: 28.7% of the population
🏦 Bank account penetration: I let Régis (co-founder of Djamo) chat you through it ;-)

Distinctive Tech Initiatives and Key players

💰 Saviu Ventures.

  • venture capital firm based in Abidjan launched by Benoit Delestre. They are deploying their Fund II.
  • Their mission statement made me laugh: “VC in Africa and not just in Kenya and Nigeria…”. That summarized it all!
  • They focus on early-stage startups in Francophone West Africa. Saviu Ventures has made investments in a variety of sectors, including fintech, e-commerce, and logistics. Some of their notable investments include SudPay, an electronic payment platform, and Afrikrea, an online marketplace for African fashion and crafts.

🖌️ mStudio.

  • A startup studio, mobile-only, dedicated to transforming the informal sector in French-speaking West African countries, with a focus on empowering women and youth.
  • They believe that this sector needs to be structured to accommodate future generations, so we recruit the best entrepreneurs to launch startups that address its needs.
  • They fund and support 4 startups per year with the help of experts.
  • Founded by Cedric Mangaud (a serial entrepreneur) and Leslie Ossete (former early employee of a few unicorn on the continent).
Me during a Brainstormig & Mentoring session inside the studio.
Me during a Brainstormig & Mentoring session inside the studio.

👨‍⚖️ Startup Act.

  • The government passed the Startup Act in 2019, with the intent to boost the growth of the country's startup ecosystem.
  • The act provides various incentives, including tax breaks and subsidies, for startups in the country. It also simplifies the process of starting a business by reducing the amount of time and paperwork required to register a company.
  • The act promotes the creation of incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces to support startups.
  • Overall it did attract more investors and entrepreneurs to the country, as well as encourage the growth of local startups.

Startup Scene

The startup ecosystem in Ivory Coast is still relatively new - the political stability of the country was impacted by the war in 2011.
In the last decade, the government has been working to create a more favorable environment for tech startups by investing in infrastructure, education, and entrepreneurship programs. Despite these efforts, I have to say that the startup ecosystem in Ivory Coast is still in its early days: - We can count the number of Series A startup on one hand, - Less than 20 startups raised more than $100k between 2019-2023, according to the Big Deal’s data 😵… this is just the beginning I told you ;) - There is still a limited access to funding, and - Success stories creating new generation of experienced entrepreneurs or employees are emerging just now (Jumia mafia, Glovo mafia, Wave mafia…etc.) That said, Abidjan has the ambition to be the Tech Hub for French Speaking Africa. In 2021, Ivory Coast's tech ecosystem raised a total of $27 million in funding, a significant increase from the $14.6 million raised in 2020 (Partech report). This growth is driven by increased investment in 3 big startups (see below). Let’s go!

Startups Overview

Etablished Startups
raised more than $1m
raised more than $1m
Serie A ($3 million)

Online platform for transporting goods in West Africa. It connects verified drivers and their trucks with customers.

SAVIU VenturesMobility 54

Direct-to-consumer used car company that provides new, innovative solutions to ensure transactions are transparent and secure.

Serie A ($8 million)

Digital Payment adoption in Emerging Countries, by building an interoperable payment infrastructure and financial services

Seed ($2.4 million)

Mobile money payment hub that federates mobile money payment methods in Africa.

4DX VenturesFlutterwave
Baloon Assurance
Seed ($2.4 million)

Digital insurance platform

P1 Venture
Fast Growing Startups
pre-Series A ($5 million)

Providing African businesses with a digital account to make payments.

SpeedinvestOrange VenturesSAVIU Ventures⚽Édouard Mendy
Serie A ($14 million)

Provider of financial applications that allow customers to use their cards with zero fees in a range of services.

Y CombinatorPartech AfricaLaunch AfricaP1 Ventures
Anka (formerly Afrikrea)
pre-Series A ($6.2 million)

A platform to discover, buy, and sell African fashion, arts, and crafts.

Investisseurs & PartenairesSAVIU VenturesVestedWorld
Not Active Anymore

Subscription video on demand (SVOD) that provides millions of fans with unlimited access to Afro-American and African movies.

Y CombinatorThe FamilyOrange Ventures
Serie B ($10 million)

Pioneering company in the fine-tech sector in Africa.

Global Innovation FundPROPARCO

Founder’s Interview - Régis Bamba, Djamo

Abidjan Tips

  • Safety: 🟢 Not any issue, very safe city and country. Just be smart about it!
  • How to move around town: You can find taxi everywhere, I was using Yandex (the Russian Uber)- but I had issue to pay online with my credit card.
  • Where to stay?
    • Le Plateau: This is the old town where most of the headquarters are located, making it an ideal location for expats who are working in Abidjan. The area has excellent bars and restaurants, making it a great place to relax after work.
    • Cocody: Cocody is a residential area that is popular among expatriates. It has a variety of accommodation options, including apartments, villas, and houses. The area is known for its excellent schools and international community, making it a great place for families.
    • Marcory: Marcory is a vibrant district that is popular among expatriates. It is located near the airport and has a variety of accommodation options. The area has a mix of residential and commercial properties, making it an excellent place to live and work.
  • Cost voice & data: 5 Go → 10,000 to 15,000 CFA
  • Cost of Airbnb for 1 month: Abidjan is less expensive than Dakar you can find nice flat on Airbnb for 1 month costs about 1200$ - 1500$ for a nice 1 bedroom, good location.
  • Cost of a meal: €8-€15.
  • Cost of a beer: 500-1000 CFA Francs (about 0.76-1.52 Euros). The most famous beer in Abidjan is probably Flag.
  • Favorite restaurants:
    • 🚣🏿 Domaine Bini Lagune: An ecotourism site located in the Aghien lagoon of Abidjan, a small corner of paradise that offers lush and invigorating vegetation, ideal for recreational activities.
    • 🌴 Kafolo Lagoon: An Ecolodge Hotel Restaurant located on the edge of the lagoon in Jacqueville, offering a unique experience.
    • 🦞 The Brunch of Maison D'Akoula: Every Sunday, buffet style in the beautiful setting of Maison D'Akoula located in Assinie, to the sounds of Afro, Amapiano and even Zouglou music.
    • 🍾 Le Mandjaro: The Bar Lounge located on the rooftop of the Ivoire Trade Center offers cigar lovers a cozy, chic and classy atmosphere, with an extraordinary view of the lagoon.
    • 🍽️ Le Bushman Café: A chic restaurant with an atypical decor where you can discover Ivorian gastronomy through revisited classics.
    • 🎨 L'Apéro Coloré: A moment of relaxation where you can paint and have a drink at the unique rate of 10,000 CFA francs excluding consumption.
  • Favorite coffee shops: MISSING

Others places to visit in Ivory Coast

  • Assinie-Mafia, a coastal resort town known for its beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. It's a popular destination for water sports like jet skiing and parasailing.
  • Yamoussoukro, the political capital of Ivory Coast, with impressive landmarks like the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, one of the largest churches in the world.
  • Grand-Bassam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with stunning colonial architecture and beautiful beaches. Don't miss the Musée National des Costumes for a glimpse into Ivorian culture.
  • Comoe National Park, a wildlife reserve with diverse ecosystems, including forests, savannahs, and wetlands. Visitors can see elephants, crocodiles, and hippos in their natural habitat.
  • San-Pédro, located on the southwestern coast of Ivory Coast, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It is known for its beautiful beaches, fishing industry, and as a departure point for exploring the nearby Tai National Park

Final Thoughts

Abidjan's startup ecosystem is a new and thriving community that is well-positioned for growth and success. Despite being relatively small, the startups in Abidjan are well-funded and led by solid teams with big ambitions. What's most impressive about Abidjan, however, is the positivity and hope that exudes from its people. This sense of optimism and determination is infectious, and it's easy to see why Abidjan is quickly becoming one of the most exciting cities in West Africa. When compared to other regional tech hubs like Accra or Dakar, Abidjan stands out for its modernity and the sense of opportunity that permeates the city. As this ecosystem continues to evolve, it's clear that Abidjan will be at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship in the years to come.

Don’t hesitate to come and visit, you will always welcome

Akwaba 🇨🇮


Want to read more?

A lot of people are talking about the potential of the country and the startup scene, I recommend you to have a look to those articles.

🇨🇮Guide d’accueil

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