ICoast tourism attracts $5bn from Arab investors

Tourism lags far behind coffee and cacao in Ivory Coast's economy -- the government wants to more than double its share of GDP by 2025 (AFP Photo/ISSOUF SANOGO)

Abidjan (AFP) - Ivory Coast announced Tuesday that Arab investors had pledged $5 billion to support its programme to attract foreign tourists to the West African nation.

The tourism ministry said "a round table of investors in Dubai" on Sunday and Monday expressed interest In Ivory Coast and in total, the minister for tourism and leisure, Siandou Fofana, "enlisted from them pledges worth just over $5 billion" (4.49 billion euros).

Ivory Coast's charm offensive in the United Arab Emirates included a delegation with recently retired star footballer Didier Drogba and A'Salfo, lead singer with the pop group Magic System, who gave two concerts.

The initiative, dubbed "Sublime Cote d'Ivoire" (Magnificent Ivory Coast), was launched in May.

"Our goal is to become the fifth biggest destination for tourism in Africa by 2025," Fofana said in the ministry's statement.

If objectives are reached, tourism would account for 12 percent of GDP compared with 5.5 percent today, and jobs in the tourism sector would grow from 270,000, as of 2016, to 365,000.

The economy today is hugely dependent on rural earnings, especially cacao and coffee.

The plan is to attract tourists to the remote west of the country, a region of unspoiled mountains and beaches.