Ex-Credit Suisse CEO Signals He’ll Run for Ivory Coast President

(Bloomberg) -- Former Credit Suisse Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam signaled his intention to run for president of Ivory Coast in October next year.

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Thiam convincingly won a bid to lead the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast at a congress last year. The 61-year-old former banker will seek the party’s nomination to run for president at a forthcoming convention, he said in an interview with Paris-based newspaper Le Monde on Monday.

“Our extraordinary December congress tasked me with the preparations for the 2025 presidential election,” Thiam said. “I will be a candidate at the next PDCI congress to be the party’s candidate for the 2025 presidential election.”

Politics in Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa grower, has been dominated for more than two decades by two men: current President Alassane Ouattara, 82, and former leader Laurent Gbagbo, 78. Thiam’s announcement comes days after Gbagbo accepted his party’s nomination as its presidential candidate.

Gbagbo returned to Ivory Coast in 2021 after being acquitted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity committed during a conflict that erupted when he refused to concede defeat in a 2010 election. He’s since been pardoned by Ouattara, but has yet to have his civic rights restored — a necessary step to vote and to run for office.

Thiam spoke after a meeting with Ouattara on Monday, saying he’s prepared to “build on the progress” Ivory Coast has made under the incumbent’s leadership.

Pension Funds

Thiam called for a greater focus on growing the pension fund industry in Ivory Coast to encourage more savings and provide a pool of capital to finance development in the West African nation. That would enable the country to avoid relying too heavily on debt as a funding mechanism, he said.

“It’s the savings accumulated by millions of people over years that makes it possible to provide businesses and the economy with equity financing, thus avoiding excessive recourse to debt,” he said.

Thiam left the country after a 1999 coup, and during a two-decade career abroad held positions at Aviva Plc, Prudential Plc and Credit Suisse, where he became the first Black executive to lead a European bank. He returned to Ivory Coast last year.

Thiam has said his main objective is to return the PDCI, which ruled the West African nation for decades after independence in 1960 but hasn’t ruled the country since 1999, to power next year.

The PDCI has yet to set a date for the convention that will decide who its flag bearer will be.

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