Côte d’Ivoire: Yves Brahima Koné, head of the Coffee & Cocoa Council, sets his sights on the East

By Florence Richard

Posted on Thursday, 12 May 2022 11:18
Yves Brahima Kone, managing director of the CCC's board, attends the national cocoa days marking the opening of the cocoa season 2017-2018 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Picture taken September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Yves Brahima Koné is working hard to consolidate and reform Côte d'Ivoire’s coffee and cocoa sector by improving farmers' wages, traceability, forest protection, finding new markets and fighting against child labour.

In Abidjan’s Plateau district, from his office on the 23rd floor of the ex-Caistab tower – his temporary workspace until he moves into an ultramodern glass building due to open in 2025 – Koné has set his sights on Asia and the Middle East. The director-general of the Conseil du Café-Cacao (CCC), the public body that regulates the sector in Côte d’Ivoire, has just returned from Abu Dhabi.

For several days in March, he had a series of meetings there. He met with the oil-rich monarchy’s authorities and, above all, representatives from investment fund management companies as well as cocoa processing organisations, including TALC Investment, Agthia Group PJSC and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), which are also expected in Côte d’Ivoire.

In the midst of the spectacular skyscrapers of the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this agronomist engineer plans to open a CCC office in the near future, with the hope of accelerating the marketing and promotion of Ivorian cocoa in these emerging markets. “We had very, very good meetings. There, people are ready to collaborate with us. At the moment, they buy from Amsterdam, whereas they could buy directly from us. Indeed, 70% of our production goes to Europe, but it is not consumed there: the commercial circuits can be shortened,” says the CCC boss.

‘Decent income differential’

Koné, a discreet key man in the industry, is the kingpin of the presidential strategy for Ivorian cocoa (2m tonnes per year) and the implementation of the ‘decent income differential’. It has done this in partnership with Ghana, which, since the 2020-2021 campaign, has required bean buyers to pay an additional $400 per tonne in order to increase farmers’ incomes.

The announcement of this deployment in the Middle East and Asia echoes the Ivorian president’s recent words. “You know, the world is multipolar today. If the Europeans don’t want to buy our cocoa, there are others who will buy it. If the Americans don’t want to buy our cocoa, there are others who will be able to buy it,” Alassane Ouattara told journalists from RFI and France 24 when asked about Europe’s threat to suspend imports of products resulting from deforestation and the US embargo in the fight against child labour in plantations.

Since being appointed head of the CCC in 2017, Koné has been tasked with reforming and consolidating an ailing sector, which according to the World Bank, accounts for 15% of the country’s GDP. In 2020, he conducted a producers’ census and discovered that there were 993,031 of them. “There were four or five attempts at a census before I arrived. We succeeded by entrusting this mission to our teams, internally, and not to the private sector as was planned,” says Koné. “We had the will to succeed, and at a lower cost.”

Smart Card

These growers will soon all be issued with a magnetic card that will ensure their financial security and serve as a guarantee of the product’s origin to consumers who buy it. After a first symbolic handover at the beginning of April, this multifunctional smart card will start being deployed throughout the country in June.

First of all, it should make it possible to better secure the remuneration of growers, half of whom live below the poverty line. “This card is equipped with a bank chip: the farmer can receive money on it and use it when paying for things. Every year, about 10 robberies, often fatal, take place,” says Koné. “So we want to provide an alternative solution to carrying cash for cooperative presidents and growers.” The card will also make it possible to check whether the prices guaranteed at the beginning of the season are being respected.

Furthermore, it meets the traceability requirements set by international environmental standards. “This card makes it possible to know where the product comes from thanks to a QR code that gives access to the name of the planter, his photo, information on his family, the plantation’s geolocation and its production potential.”

We believe that within four years there will be no more production in the forestry sector.

About 15% of production is said to come from classified forests – a figure that is far from the reality, according to some NGOs – out of 3.2 million hectares of plantations identified. “We believe that within four years there will be no more production in the forestry sector,” says Koné, who has also announced that 100 agents responsible for identifying minors working illegally in the plantations, where 29% of the workers are school-aged children, will be deployed in the country.

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