Côte d’Ivoire is investing in achieving sustainable high growth levels, for which it requires a strong education sector. The government has its eyes set on expanding basic education access, improving education quality and governance, and enhancing the link between education and the job market. Despite efforts carried out in recent years, there is still room for improvement. In addition to ongoing initiatives, the government has set out a series of actions, outlined in the 2016-20 National Development Plan (Plan National de Développement, PND), under which it allocates an ambitious indicative budget totalling close to CFA5trn (€7.5bn) for education, including public and private contributions.


Côte d’Ivoire’s education sector is recovering from over two decades of unfavourable economic conditions, combined with political turmoil and armed conflict, during which government expenditure on education more or less stagnated. Only recently has slow growth in government expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP started to show, according to UNESCO, increasing from 4.34% in 2008 to 4.72% in 2014.

At the same time, government expenditure on education as a percentage of total state spending has remained flat at approximately 20%. This contrasts with the government’s goal of achieving a 26% public expenditure target for education by 2020, as stated in the sector’s 2012-14 Mid-Term Action Plan (Plan d’Action à Moyen Terme, PAMT), which aims to strengthens the fundamentals of education provision across the country. Notwithstanding this, public expenditure on education as a whole still registered annual growth of 4.3% between 2011 and 2013, reaching some CFA655.9bn (€983.9m). Government spending on education during this period totalled CFA1.3trn (€1.95bn).

Public Planning

The education sector is administered by three different public entities: the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training, and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Education policy is based on a series of guiding documents, including, in particular, the Letter on Education Policy (Lettre de Politique Educative) adopted by the government in 2010, and PAMT 2012-14. Their content is in turn reflected in the 2012-15 National Development Plan (Plan National de Développement, PND), which was adopted in March 2012 with the aim of reducing poverty to 16% by 2015 and setting a course for the country to become an emerging economy by 2020. A task force bringing together all ministries in charge of the sector was also set up in 2010. It coordinates the development of long-term projects, supports ministries in the search for funding and participates in the monitoring of project implementation.

Objectives & Updates

In short, the government’s goals on education are to increase basic education access, improve quality and governance, and adapt vocational training to labour market needs, all of which reflect the country’s need to recover from the drawbacks experienced in recent years as a result of political strife and armed conflict.

Though the PAMT expired in 2014, the government has yet to publish an updated action sector plan. To that end, in February 2016 the Global Partnership for Education, an international stakeholder and donor group working on education issues in 65 countries, approved a $220,000 grant to Côte d’Ivoire for the development of the 2016-25 Education Sector Plan. The organisation’s development grants are intended to help countries perform strategic, consultative and analytical work to develop their sector strategies.

In the meantime, the existing framework continues to offer guidance concerning government priorities and actions in this sector, as does the 2016-20 PND. Education plays a key role in the PND’s overarching aim of developing the country into an emerging market economy with a strong industrial base and to reduce poverty. The plan calls for better education and social services, and outlines indicative budget allocations for distinct sub-sectors.

Primary Education

 Universal primary education is a key government objective. To achieve this, the government has advanced a series of initiatives, with the support of international agencies and local stakeholders, including, among other things, rehabilitation and construction of education infrastructure, teacher training and hiring, and purchases of education material and equipment.

According to official figures, the number of classrooms increased by 18.4% between 2011 and 2015, going from 64,645 in the 2010/11 school year to 76,564 in 2014/15. In the latter year, 80,155 teachers taught 3.37m students, of which 47% were girls. The number of teachers itself rose by 9.1% from 2010/11, when it amounted to 73,466, while that of students grew at an annual average rate of 4%. The share of private and public schools remained relatively unchanged during this period at 13% and 80%, respectively. However, community schools rose from 1.5% of the total in 2011/12 to 7% in 2014/15.

UNESCO data indicates that the total net enrolment rate in primary schools also improved in recent years, increasing from 56.76% in 2009 to 79.25% in 2015. While welcome, this trend hides a lingering degree of gender disparity in primary education access, with a 74.71% rate for girls against 83.74% for boys in 2014. Access to primary education also remains uneven depending on whether people live in urban or rural areas, with the north and northwest being particularly underserved.

Similar gaps can be observed with the primary education completion rate. While having improved in general, going from 41.71% in 2012 to 59.62% in 2015, as per UNESCO statistics, primary education completion rates remained lower for girls (52.86%) than boys (66.28%) in 2014. In addition to this, a significant share of children remain outside of the school system, largely due to financial constraints. Despite this, the percentage of out-of-school children of primary school age has declined significantly in recent years, reaching 20.7% in 2015, down from 43.3% in 2009. Overall, though, there is still room for improvement to achieve universal primary education in Côte d’Ivoire. The government indicatively allocated CFA875.5bn (€1.3bn) in the 2016-20 PND to achieving universal, inclusive and quality primary education, in addition to another CFA19.1bn (€28.7m) to ensuring higher rates of enrolment and completion of education for girls.

Secondary Education

Developing secondary education is a priority to which the government has allocated a budget of CFA259.3bn (€389m) in the 2016-20 PND. Focusing on infrastructure rehabilitation, construction and equipping, as well as personnel hiring, this investment is expected to build on progress achieved in recent years. Secondary education facilities, for instance, have increased only slightly in numbers over the past five years. In the 2014/15 school year, Côte d’Ivoire had 1373 secondary education establishments, of which 74% were private, up from 1206 in 2011/12. Classroom numbers, on the other hand, grew by 61% during the same period, from 15,965 to 25,709.

As for student numbers, government data indicate an annual average growth of 12% in lower secondary school, against a 2% decline in upper secondary education between 2011 and 2014. This decrease in upper secondary education numbers has occurred in favour of technical education and vocational training, according to authorities, with the latter increasing by 31% during the same period.


Overall, the distribution of students among the public and private sectors is quite even, at 49% and 51%, respectively. However, with just a quarter of schools operated by the state, the ratio of students per establishment remains lower in the private sector compared to the public sector.

Gross enrolment rates in secondary education, have increased since 2011/12, according to a 2016-20 PND report “Diagnostic Stratégique de la Côte d’Ivoire sur la Trajectoire de l’Emergence, Tome 1”, published by the Ministry of Development and Planning. In 2014/15 they reached 53.8% and 28.1% for lower and upper secondary education, respectively, against 49.1% and 25.4% in 2011/12. Gender disparities, though, persist at this level as well, with 42.6% girls enrolled in lower secondary education and 23.3% in upper secondary education, as compared to 60.9% and 32.5% of boys, respectively.

Secondary schooling completion rates remain low. Government figures show that in the 2014/15 school year they stood at 36% and 20.1%, for lower secondary and upper secondary education, respectively. According to the “Diagnostic Stratégique de la Côte d’Ivoire sur la Trajectoire de l’Emergence, Tome 1” report, this is due in part to high repetition levels (15.3% in 2014/15) and pregnancies of school-aged girls, with 4250 cases registered that year.

Technical & Vocational Training

During the 2014/15 school year, secondary technical education relied on a network of 288 establishments, of which three were public and 55% located in Abidjan. A total of 55,505 students attended courses in such establishments, with 6726 teachers. According to government data, student numbers increased at an average annual rate of 33% between 2011 and 2014, although the repetition rate stood at 47.4%. Faced with a growing demand, the government has allocated CFA66.3bn (€99.5m) to secondary technical education under the 2016-20 PND, aimed at rehabilitating, building and equipping education facilities and hiring teachers.

During the 2014/15 school year 59 public establishments and 245 private establishments and cabinets provided vocational training. In 2014 these establishments had capacity for 52,000 students, compared to an annual demand of 75,000. Private establishments accounted for 30.7% of enrolment, compared to 21.1% in 2012/13, illustrating a rising share of vocational training being undertaken in the private sector. Courses related to the services sector accounted for 57.2% of students in 2014.

In 2012 the country approved a vocational training reform, which has allowed for progress in a number of areas, including the establishment and implementation of partnerships, the identification of 13 professional branches, the elaboration of professional benchmarks for various sectors, and the creation of training, evaluation and certificate standards. Having allocated CFA144.1bn (€216.2m) to vocational training under the 2016-20 PND, the government aims to further improve the governance, infrastructure, human resources and facilities of this area of tuition (see analysis).

Higher Education

Ivorian higher education in 2013/14 comprised 33 universities and 155 colleges, of which five and two, respectively, were public. Of the country’s public universities, two are located in Abidjan (the country’s largest, Félix Houphouët Boigny, and Nangui Obrogoua), while the rest are established in Bouaké, Korhogo and Daola.

Overall, 176,504 students attended higher learning institutions in 2013/14, with 98,070 (or 55.6%) enrolled in public establishments. Women represented 36.5% of the total number of students.

“In Côte d’Ivoire, female enrolment in higher education stands at around 40%, which is lower than the sub-Saharan average,” Koffi N’Guessan, CEO of Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouë tBoigny (INPHB), told OBG. “Female enrolment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields – as seen in the INPHB – is even lower, only reaching 25% and pointing to a real need to encourage more women to participate in these faculties.

While providing quality higher education is a stated goal, the segment faces several challenges, including insufficient infrastructure and human resources, as well as quality concerns and a poor throughput to the job market. According to the last job survey carried out in 2013, 70.8% of 14-24-year-olds and 35.6% of people aged 25-35 were unemployed. Of those with advanced degrees, 42.1% were unemployed, slightly above the overall rate.

“In my opinion, the capacity of the educational system is enough to cater to the needs of the market. The challenge, however, is its quality. To address this, we need to move to a standards-based system, where schools are properly accredited and regularly assessed,” Adama Koné, CEO of Abidjan’s Ecole de Commerce et de Gestion, told OBG.

With an budget allocation of CFA575bn (€862.5m) identified in the 2016-20 PND, the government seeks to improve higher education governance, infrastructure, equipment and personnel. This includes the construction of at least one university campus in Adiaké and three new universities in Man, San Pedro and Bondoukou. The new universities are set to open by the start of the 2017/18 school year.

Expanding To Meet Demand

The private sector is also looking to invest in new tertiary education infrastructure and equipment in the expectation that the predominantly young population will provide a steady stream of students in the medium to long term. According to World Bank data, in 2015, 42% of Ivorians were 14 years old or younger.

Seri Parfait, CEO of Ecole Supérieure des Hautes Études Technologiques et Commerciales, told OBG the country has seen its private higher education system develop steadily in recent years as a result of demographic expansion and steady GDP growth. “However, the biggest driver is the need for qualified labour in Abidjan and San Pedro,” Parfait said.

Aka Kouamé, general manager at Abidjan University Institute, is betting on the country’s demographic composition, together with improvements in secondary school completion rates, to fulfil his institution’s projected expansion. Abidjan University Institute, which has 1950 students, is planning to build a new campus. “We believe there is an unmet demand in higher learning, which requires the construction of additional infrastructure and use of modern equipment, as well as a practice-oriented learning approach,” Kouamé told OBG.

Labour Market

Jérémie N’Gouan, CEO of Pigier Côte d’Ivoire, a private higher education institution established in 1956, told OBG that university representatives are increasingly working in conjunction with the private sector to develop programmes that correspond to the needs of the labour market.

However, more work is yet to be done to more closely align the sector with the needs of the country’s economy. “In general, there should be an increased effort by educational institutions to emphasise more pragmatic programmes that teach concrete skills for the workplace, as opposed to more strictly academic and theoretical programmes,” Laman Koné, president and founder of Hautes Études Commerciales d’Abidjan, told OBG.

N’Guessan said more coordination between academia and industry is required, if the gap between education and the labour market is to be reduced.

Three-Tier System

In December 2012 the country started implementing a three-tier system – licence-master-doctorate (LMD) – aimed at improving the quality of higher education, as well as enhancing the employability of students as they transition to the job market after their studies. The positive results of this shift can already be seen, in some cases. For Kouamé, the adoption of the LMD system has facilitated student mobility thanks to credit equivalence and transferability. “With the LMD, our students spend increasingly more time in exchange programmes abroad, including in such countries as France, Belgium and Canada, as well as Morocco and Tunisia,” said Kouamé.

The LMD system has also generated a greater balance between theoretical and practical teaching. Yet, despite this, as Souleymane Soumahoro, director of studies at Ecole de Commerce et de Gestion, ECG, which offers courses in trade and management, told OBG, “It is still difficult to get student internships in the local market, as not enough companies offer such learning opportunities.” ECG has sought to overcome this challenge by working directly with the job market in a variety of sectors.

ECG, which has 600 students, has seen, along with many other institutions, a decline in student numbers as a result of the country’s recent conflict. However, as Soumahoro explained to OBG, the school expects to recover to the level of its average student attendance numbers in 2016, which, in addition to Ivorians, has welcomed people from Lebanon, Morocco, Gabon, Cameroon and Togo.

With the LMD in place, ECG is among the institutions working to establish international academic partnerships, beginning with French universities.

Digital Learnin

 As a part of efforts to modernise education, Côte d’Ivoire is additionally embracing technology to optimise learning and training systems. This move is also meant as a means of inclusion, reaching out to children with limited access to schooling, while on the other hand, absorbing the rising number of students entering higher education in the face of constrained capacities. A number of small and large-scale initiatives have thus been initiated in recent years, with the state and the private sector alike intervening to help set up and equip institutions with the necessary digital learning programmes and materials.

Despite its delay in transitioning towards the LMD system, Centre African de Management et de Perfectionnement des Cadres (CAMPC), an international institution focused on continued education, is planning on investing in e-learning development. As Gilbert Yawo lolonyo Dogbé, CAMPC’s director of education, explained to OBG, “We are often called to provide services, including workshops and seminars, for companies located outside Abidjan. Developing e-learning platforms would help shorten the distance, especially given existing limitations in terms of transport infrastructure and accommodation in many areas of the country.”

In its efforts to promote digital education, the government set up the Université Virtuelle de Côte d’Ivoire, UVCI, in December 2015. The UVCI is entirely dedicated to online and distance learning and aims at providing students with an alternative option in the face of limited capacity at existing bricks-and-mortar facilities, thus expanding access, enhancing the quality of higher education and improving employability among young graduates.

In June 2016 the government entered a cooperation agreement with Agence Française de la Francophonie (AUF), a global network of French-speaking higher-education and research institutions, to bolster the activities of the UVCI. To that end, the AUF will provide assistance to help with the development of online content and the establishment of digital manufacturing laboratories, among other tasks. The agreement is part of an existing deal between the AUF and Côte d’Ivoire dating back to 2013 to help modernise and reform Ivorian higher education.

Getting Connected

A state-backed project to provide each Ivorian with access to a laptop or a tablet at a subsidised cost, and called “One Citizen, One computer” (un citoyen un ordinateur), is also testament to the country’s efforts to shift into the digital era. That said, connecting these devices to the internet remains a challenge. Though there were around 8m internet subscribers in 2015, many regions remain underserved in terms of connectivity. The government’s backbone project, however, should help mitigate the gap. Launched in 2012, the national backbone is an ambitious infrastructure strategy with the aim of ensuring better access to broadband internet by 2018. It is expected to increase penetration rates nationwide (see IT & Communications chapter). The project is expected to have a ripple effect not just on education, but also other sectors such as health care.

Teacher Recruitment & Training

As in many African countries, a shortage of qualified teachers is a challenge for authorities. In May 2016 the task force in charge of multi-year education projects recommended the recruitment of at least 6000 primary school teachers annually over the next 10 years.

To this end, in November 2016 it was announced that the competitive recruitment of teacher’s assistants – suspended in the country for four years – would resume in 2017. Nevertheless, the shortage of sector professionals affects all levels of the system, including higher education. “If we seek to improve the quality of education, additional investment is not just needed in infrastructure, but also in terms of trained faculty,” N’Gouan told OBG.

The country’s efforts to enhance the quality of teacher training institutions have meanwhile been supported by the UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust Project, which aims to enhance training of teachers through ICT in eight African countries. First initiated in 2013, the $700,000 project in Côte d’Ivoire has so far established nine training centres and trained approximately 400 teachers. The project’s second phase, which is expected to commence in 2017, was announced in July 2016 by Qian Tang, assistant director-general for education at UNESCO, during his visit to Côte d’Ivoire. Tang met with Kandia Kamissoko Camara, the minister of national education, and also visited global technology solutions provider Huawei, which according to Tang, was ready to provide equipment to develop these new training centres.


 Ambitious public planning and private sector interest in taking advantage of favourable demographics and investment opportunities, especially in areas as education infrastructure construction and rehabilitation, are coming together to support the achievement of government goals, including granting universal basic education access, improving education quality and governance and enhancing the link of education to the job market.

While the full implementation of education reforms on vocational training and the LMD system may contribute to the development and employability of future generations in Côte d’Ivoire, engendering sustainable economic growth will require further work. Key on the agenda are increasing enrolment and completion rates, dispelling existing gender and geographical disparities in the country. Both the public and private sectors should continue playing an important role in this sense, not only in infrastructure rehabilitation and construction, but also equipment purchases and personnel training.