Interview: Moussa Diaby

In which sectors could research and development (R&D) efforts have the greatest impact?

MOUSSA DIABY: Côte d’Ivoire has four centres of excellence, two of which are housed at our institute. One is focused on environmental issues, while the other is concentrated on the recovery of waste and the creation of value-added products. Targeting specific areas is important to create a competitive advantage and equip the workforce with knowledge and skills that can translate into fruitful projects. Indeed, the creation of high-technology clusters will be key to further economic expansion.

Côte d’Ivoire ranks first in the world in terms of cocoa production and is also a top producer of other essential crops. However, we must bring added value to these raw products. Through local processing we will be able to create new goods that enhance the country’s involvement in higher-value segments. Côte d’Ivoire has several strengths to help it meet these goals, including vast expanses of arable land, but it is particularly exposed to climate change. Traditional agricultural techniques are not enough to meet growing demand for food. R&D will help us adapt our core operations to produce new and resilient outputs that will enable our country to grow.

How do you assess Côte d’Ivoire’s ability to equip youth with the skills needed to excel?

DIABY: The government is working to develop the economy, a goal that can only be achieved with well-trained human resources and specialised professions. In order for the country to successfully reach this point, it will be necessary to review current training methods, which have already evolved significantly in recent years.

Looking to the future, it will be important to establish very high academic requirements in order to support the level of national development that is envisioned. From the agriculture sector to energy and ICT, the country’s priorities need to be reflected in the evolving structure of educational programmes. We need a transformation of the country’s human capacity-building initiatives to allow the next generation to reach their full potential.

In what ways can the private and public sectors work together to develop local capacities that respond to the needs of the labour market?

DIABY: The private sector plays a key role in developing high-quality human resources. Elite academic institutions prepare students for employment, and if there is a gap between the education of the people trained and the skills needed in the labour market we will fail to fully take advantage of new economic opportunities. As such, universities and companies need to work together to define the needs of the economy and adapt training accordingly. Beyond the matching of skills, it is important to develop cognitive abilities and pedagogical training, as well as promote lifelong learning to be able to continually adapt to an always-changing job market.

What can be done to attract a greater number of Ivorian students to science and technology?

DIABY: The most important steps that can be taken to attract more people to fields in science and technology are to ensure the economic attractiveness of employment prospects in these areas and develop the country’s industrial fabric.

Once a country achieves economic stability, which Côte d’Ivoire has enjoyed for over a decade, it is essential to invest in science and leverage the innovative changes that are taking place around the world. Science and technology are key for development, and people will orient themselves in careers that allow them to thrive. Our youth is looking for this kind of dynamism, and it is up to us to support an orientation towards science at every schooling level.