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September 07, 2008

Ivory Coast advised to overhaul cocoa sector

Ivory Coast's cocoa sector needs to be comprehensively modernised to deliver its full potential, the deputy chief of the World Bank for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili, said on September 5.

"It is not going to be sufficient to change the management in the cocoa sector," she told a press conference. "The cocoa sector requires a comprehensive restructuration so that the governance issues - that have not enabled that sector to deliver the optimum of its potential - will be tackled."

President Laurent Gbagbo ordered an investigation last year after allegations the cocoa and coffee marketing cooperative had embezzled more than 100 billion CFA francs (152 million euros, 224 million dollars) earmarked for the purchase of a chocolate factory in the United States.

Police have arrested several top officials involved in the cocoa industry, as part of the large corruption probe since June.

The Ivory Coast produces some 40 percent of the world market in cocoa and six million people are employed in the cocoa industry.

"We are also working on a cocoa strategy with the government," said Ezekwesili on a two-day visit to the country.

Staff from Ivory Coast's coffee and cocoa marketing body earlier launched an unlimited strike over back pay that is paralysing exports, an official for the body said.

"The unionists have ransacked" the hall dealing with export operations, leading to a "paralysis" in the coffee-cocoa trade, said senior official Kouassi Konan.

But Konan downplayed the effect of the walkout -- launched September 2 by strikers demanding two months of unpaid salary -- on the organisation's different branches.

He also said the strike had no connection with the ongoing corruption probe.

AFP

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