Abidjan; adventure city and quest for Africa impact investing

It is always eventful travelling to a new destination. The excitement is palpable, perhaps because of the anxiety to discover new attractions, meet new people and strike off some long-nurtured items in the travel bucket list. I was very curious about visiting Cote d’Ivoire, a country that has produced some of Africa’s finest sportsmen.

The duo of Didier Drogba and Mohammed (Mo) Bamba are household names in Abidjan. While Didier Drogba is a retired Chelsea Football Club legend, equally, a respected peace advocate, Mo Bamba is a current basketball player of Orlando Magic in the NBA, the very first Ivorian to join the most prestigious basketball league in the world and recently built two world-class basketball courts in his native Abobo village, near Abidjan.

Abidjan, the commercial capital of Cote d’Ivoire is a vibrant city and since the early 1980s have earned the name, the Paris of Africa owing to its impressive skyline and beautiful lagoon that creates the impression of a corniche right there at the Plateau city centre.

Like major cities across the world, the commercial hub in Abidjan, referred to as Plateau is adorned with astonishing infrastructures and slow traffic inwards and outwards outskirt cities of Yopougon, Riviera, Bingerville where many of the workers commute to and from daily.

From the 18th to 20th October 2022, the biggest finance event this year on the African continent took place at Abidjan’s biggest hotel, the Sofitel Hotel Ivoire.

The Finance in Common Summit, a global conference of public development banks, multilateral banks and development finance institutions selected Abidjan to be the host of the third edition of the global summit which was co-organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB) headquartered in Abidjan alongside the European Investment Bank (EIB).

For three days, financial institutions bigwigs from across the world converge for the first-ever Finance in Common Summit hosted in Africa. Akinwunmi Adesina, AfDP president; Werner Hoyer, EIB president; Remy Rioux, chairman, Finance in Common; Carlo Montecelli, governor, Council of Europe Development Banks; Ijeoma Ozulumba, CFO, Development Bank of Nigeria; Gene Leon, president, Caribbean Development Bank and many more shared thoughts and ideas about financing the world towards green and just transition for a sustainable recovery.

The AfDB President outlined the efforts of the bank in preventing and cushioning the effect of climate change across the continent with a particular reference to the flooding crisis in Nigeria, which claimed over 600 lives this year.

Nigeria’s foremost industrialist, Ibukun Awosika while speaking on the platform of Global Steering Group for Impact Investing, mentioned how she influenced the investment of the First Bank of Nigeria to create focus products on womenfolk while at the helm of affairs as the very first and only woman chairman of the bank in its over 120 years history.

Earlier, the anxiety of the trip was even made worse as Air Cote d’Ivoire had a delay of over two hours and surprisingly, without informing passengers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos. Waiting helplessly after check-in, we finally boarded the aircraft and in about an hour and fifteen minutes we arrived at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport, Abidjan.

Read also: Lagos-Abidjan highway attracted $15.6bn investment interest – Adesina

Felix Houphouet-Boigny, former president of Cote d’Ivoire for over a 30-year period is akin to the Mandela of his country with major infrastructures, roads, university named after him alongside an annual UNESCO Peace Prize for which Angela Merkel, former Federal Chancellor of Germany is the year 2022 recipient. Passing through immigration was swift as per the ECOWAS protocol which gives Nigerians Visa-free entry into Cote d’Ivoire for at least 30 days.

It took over an hour after immigration clearance for travellers’ luggage to arrive at the carousel creating significant bottleneck and unnecessary delays at the airport.

As I travel via the popular ride hailing app, Yango, from the airport to La Maison de Kouadio hotel in Cocody, I felt very much at home as Abidjan vividly reminds me of Lagos in many striking similarities.

Firstly, the Henri Konan Bedie (former president of Cote d’Ivoire from 1993 to 1999) road is reminiscent of Lagos Third Mainland Bridge with surrounding ocean to both sides of the route culminating in a toll junction almost exact replica of the popular Lekki toll gate.

My very first travel essential on reaching any destination is to get connected to the internet right from the airport all through my stay and this I achieve by acquiring a local SIM card with an adequate data package.

With the French-English language barrier, Google-Translate became my most trusted communication tool with the locals in Abidjan helping me to traverse the busy city from the massive, yet calm market in Treichville where I tasted the popular ‘suya’ steak by Hausa Nigerien to experiencing the boat transportation from the Treichville station to the boisterous city of Yopougon.

The place is a very noisy, yet densely populated area that evokes ‘Oshodi’ in Lagos. Interestingly, no motorcycle transportation in every part of Abidjan including Yopougon. ‘Gbaka,’ local name for the J5 bus, is a popular means of transportation in this part of the city.

Abidjan is another accommodating city typical of the African continent. The dominant Christian and Islamic religions are very much visible here with gigantic synagogues and mosques in many areas across the city.

Despite the language barrier, people are generally warm and friendly and very willing to provide assistance.

One more thing – the probability you will hear the Nigerian Yoruba language being spoken in one out of every five streets you visit in Abidjan is very high.