Viewpoint: Alassane Dramane Ouattara

Côte d’Ivoire is proud to return to the family of nations after the arduous crises it has gone through. Through the determination of the Ivorian people and the support of our external partners, we have achieved appreciable results in the fields of politics and security, as well as the improvement of our population’s living conditions. These combined efforts have enabled Côte d’Ivoire to become one of the most dynamic economies in the world, and led to our election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2018-19 period.

Abidjan must be the starting point of a strategic partnership between Europe and Africa. We must aspire towards the highest ambitions, rightfully demanded by young people in both Europe and Africa, for our continents to move forward together with hope and serenity. Therefore, we must make strong and innovative decisions. In order to do this, we need to find solutions that will act as levers for the implementation of the changes needed to overcome three major challenges.

First, we have the youth of Africa, with over 60% of the population under the age of 25. This constitutes an opportunity, but also a risk if we do not offer young people the education, jobs and hopes to which they legitimately aspire. To do this, better education and training across the African continent are paramount. Today, less than one in two young people have access to middle school education and less than one in four has access to secondary education. On average, technical and vocational education accommodates less than 10% of the total headcount. Consequently, these challenges facing the educational system prevent thousands of young people from finding a job, and thus fulfilment.

To remedy this situation, courageous and ambitious reforms, backed by investment in the educational and training system, will be necessary. One concrete measure may involve a higher concentration of resources and efforts from European development funds directed towards the fields of education and training. Likewise, European nations should provide greater access for young Africans seeking to pursue higher education or training on their soil.

Africa will need to continue pursuing ICT and digitalisation, in order to ensure it finds itself on a secure footing in the knowledge economy, given that in the future several forms of employment will not resemble those found today.

The second challenge concerns the threat to peace and stability that Africa and Europe are the targets of. This requires a strong coordinated response, based on the G5 Sahel framework, which will enable us to combat terrorism more efficiently. I welcome the engagement of France in support of the G5 Sahel, and encourage the EU, European countries and the United Nations, to do more to entrench this vital initiative. Our security will also depend on our capacity to handle the crisis in Libya, where current events offer us a grim glimpse into the country’s situation.

Third, I would like to mention climate change, which is one of the biggest hazards facing future generations. We must all, countries of the north and the south, respect the commitments agreed upon in Paris in 2015 during COP21, in order to reverse current trends in global warming and thereby avoid the disastrous consequences climate change would bring upon countries in the global south.

All these challenges constitute major issues for the African continent, but also for Europe. It is imperative that we find audacious, innovative and sustainable answers to these problems. These solutions require important financial resources that are far beyond those available within African countries. Our plea will therefore be for Europe to increase both public and private investment in transport infrastructure, energy and the digital economy. This will, in turn, improve the competitiveness of African economies.