Civil engineer Gerard Paillat has seen the future of this West African nation, and it has less room for well-paid white men like himself.
A decade ago, Paillat said, few people minded when he joined an army of French people working in the Bureau of Large Projects, which builds roads, buildings and dams in the Ivory Coast.
No longer. The cost of the outsiders and resentment by increasingly better-trained citizens have compelled some African bureaucracies to reduce the number of Western workers.
“The resentment exists,” said Paillat, 47. “Expatriates are expensive. You can find Ivorians who are not as expensive who are able to do the work.”
He said the expatriates in his office earn, on average, $2,500 to $3,400 a month while Ivorians are paid $670.
Ivory Coast, a former French colony, was pressured by its own people to embark on “Ivorization” a decade ago.
Since then, the number of French workers has dropped from 3,900 to 670, said Patrick Roussel, head of mission for France’s Ministry of Cooperation and Cultural Affairs.
“The policy of Ivorization is completely natural and understandable,” he said. “France has welcomed and encouraged such a policy.”
Despite the decline in one of the last vestiges of colonialism, considerable resentment remains in many countries over the presence of foreigners not only in civil service, but in business and management of development aid.
In Ivory Coast, many ministers still retain a “conseiller, " or adviser, a shadow bureaucrat paid by the French government to whisper the Western way of doing things into the ears of the upper echelon.
Cyrille Ahiadife, a science professor and chemical engineer in Togo, said the outsiders earn salaries “way out of proportion to their qualifications.”
“In the teaching field, France sends (expatriates) without experience who come to Africa and receive salaries five times higher than their African counterparts, who have the same professional training,” he said.
Togo has about 3,000 French civil servants, but the ranks are thinning quickly because of “an anti-French sentiment in some circles,” a French diplomat said, on condition of anonymity.
Senegal had 870 French people on the payroll in 1990, but the Foreign Ministry said the number has fallen to less than 600.
Some African officials say they must hire Westerners because they lack experts in many fields. They also feel a need to bring talent from more successful economies to the most impoverished continent in the world.
“We have to interchange,” said Ousmane Diop Blonden, manager of a furniture company with Ivornian government contracts.
But many Africans are rankled by the remaining influences, particularly in France’s former African empire, where the French retain substantial economic interests.
The showcase regional consortium in West Africa, the multinational airline Air Afrique, hired a white airline executive from France five years ago to turn it around. His contract was renewed in January despite a $13.6-million loss and an attempt to replace him with a former prime minister of Niger.
Congo, unable to control a guerrilla movement, signed a $50-million contract with an Israeli firm this year to retrain elite military units. It asked the French army to retrain the regular army and national police force.
In March, France sent paratroopers in a show of support to Cameroon, a former colony embroiled in a border dispute with Nigeria, which has strongly criticized the French presence in its smaller neighbor.
Nicephore Soglo, president of Benin, employs a Frenchman as his personal secretary.
Ghana, the first African nation to gain independence, was among the first to replace white civil servants. It did so by investing in education and sending hundreds of students to study abroad.
But Western lending institutions, fearful of the corruption endemic in Africa, often require their own managers as conditions of loans and development grants.
Because of this, Ghana, a former British colony that began an ambitious restructuring program in 1983, found itself awash in consultants overseeing the aid money. The expatriates are paid in dollars.
Lawmaker Kosi Kedem told Parliament in March that 25% of the development money Ghana receives goes for the salaries of expatriates involved.
“Some of them just come to siphon loans given to the country,” grumbled Kofi Deke, an engineering consultant.
Such resentment is understandable to Paillat, who said the number of French workers in his department had fallen from 160 to 60 since he joined it in 1985 and is expected to reach 20 by year’s end.
“The new generation is different than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” he said. “You didn’t have the competition you do now. It’s really better for the country.”