BEIRUT: Lebanese expatriates in Ivory Coast account for 35 percent of the African country’s economy, the head of the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce for Trade and Industry in Abidjan said Monday.
Joseph Khoury’s remarks came at a conference with Foreign Minister Ali Shami and the director general of the Foreign Ministry Haitham Joumaa in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, during Shami’s four-day visit to Ivory Coast, the National News Agency reported.
The conference focused on the role Lebanese play in Ivory Coast’s economy and the need to strengthen and preserve that role.
“Lebanese own 50 percent of the industrial sector, 99 percent of malls, and 80 percent of the fish trade and export industry, 60 percent of the construction sector, 75 percent of the import and export in wood, and 70 percent of the publications sector,” Khoury said, adding that Lebanese own 4,000 institutions that provide labor for 300,000 workers.
In April, 8,000 Lebanese expatriates fled the war-town Ivory Coast as many were caught in the crossfire of fighting between newly elected President Alassane Ouattara and former president Laurent Gbagbo, who had clung to power after his election defeat.
In a statement released on Apr. 27, Lebanese Ambassador to Ivory Coast said that Lebanese in Ivory Coast were facing massive losses of property and livelihoods.
An estimated 90,000 Lebanese expatriates live in Ivory Coast, 90 percent in Abidjan.
Joumaa emphasized the importance of showcasing Lebanese expatriates in a positive light.
“[We should] explain to the Ivorian public that we are not here to take advantage of their resources ... we are faithful to this country and our success is vital,” Joumaa said during the conference.
During the conference, Shami praised the work of the Lebanese government and the Foreign Ministry during the fighting in the African country, urging Lebanese not to interfere in the internal affairs of their host country.
As the conflict in the West African country intensified, Lebanese consul to Ivory Coast Reda Traboulsi urged the Lebanese government to protect the community, as accusations that Lebanon had sided with Gbagbo raised fears over the safety of expatriates.