With a 2016 GDP growth rate of 7.9% far outstripping most of sub-Saharan Africa, Côte d’Ivoire has the right economic conditions to bring about substantial and permanent developmental change. However, a February 2017 report by the World Bank titled “The Skills Challenge: Why Côte d’Ivoire Must Reform Its Education System” highlighted that significant reform in the education sector will be a precondition for manageable and sustainable development. The urgency of educational restructuring is closely related to the country’s youth bulge – in 2014, 41.8% of the population was under the age of 15.

Sustaining Growth

The authorities’ mission is clear: ensure adequate public and private investment reaches all levels of the education system, such that the country’s economic growth can be fed and sustained by an educated and skilled workforce. While the government is succeeding in increasing the number of children receiving primary and secondary education – in large part because of the 2015 measure of compulsory schooling for children aged six to 16 – much work remains to be done. Closing gaps in educational access due to geographic and economic factors, ensuring greater cohesion between higher education and the job market, improving the integration of ICT systems into centres of learning and strengthening sector governance will all need to be addressed.

Enhancing the way that the education system currently prepares graduates for their careers could bring clear benefits in terms of economic development and the country’s ability to provide jobs. A stronger relationship between education, training and the corporate world will likely have an impact over the medium term. “The private sector is currently taking primary responsibility for the establishment of partnerships between educational establishments and economic actors,” Adama Koné, CEO of Ecole de Commerce et de Gestion (ECG), told OBG. “The public sector should play a larger role in fomenting academic-industry cooperation to better prepare new graduates for the job market and ensure the availability of labour.”

Sector Outline

The education sector is headed by the Ministry of National Education, Technical and Vocational Training (Ministère de l’Education Nationale, de l’Enseignement Technique et de la Formation Professionnelle, MENETFP), and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Responsibility for strategy and policy falls to the Task Force, a ministerial action group created in 2007 to oversee the ongoing review and development of government plans.

The state’s goals for the sector are to increase access to basic education, improve quality and governance, and adapt vocational training to labour market needs – progression which was set back as a result of the 2002-07 and 2010-11 conflicts. Education is one of the government’s long-term priority sectors, as outlined in the 2016-20 National Development Plan (Plan National de Développement, PND). Under the second axis of the PND, education is responsible for accelerating “human capital development and social well-being”. In line with this priority position, the government has envisaged allocating almost CFA5trn (€7.5bn) to education for the duration of the PND. Funds are to be derived from a combination of public and private sector investment.

The principles and action points supporting the pursuit of these objectives are contained in a series of guiding documents, including the Letter on Education Policy, adopted by the government in 2010, and the Sector Plan for Education 2016-25 (Plan Sectoriel de l’Education, PSE), published in April 2017. The PSE, which replaced the 2012-14 Mid-Term Action Plan, was printed with the help of a $220,000 grant provided by the Global Partnership for Education, an international sector stakeholder and donor group involved in education in 65 countries.

By The Numbers

The government’s prioritisation of education can be understood by studying the sector’s key indicators, on which Côte d’Ivoire performs poorly compared to regional and global standards. A February 2017 World Bank feature piece titled “Growth, Economic Diversification, and Education Reforms: A Recipe for Success in Côte d’Ivoire” reports that 63% of Ivorian students finish primary school compared with 72.6% in Africa and 92.8% in middle-income countries. “Those who do complete primary school have lower literacy and math skills than fellow students in other French-speaking African countries with, for example, a math score of 476 in Côte d’Ivoire as opposed to 594 in Burundi.” According to the article, less than half (44%) of the population over the age of 15 was able to read and write in 2015, compared to rates of 77%, 60% and 56% in Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, respectively. The gaps widened in secondary school, with girls, children living in rural areas and low-income families being the most affected.


Furthermore, pupils who attend public school often do so in less-than-ideal circumstances. Data from the World Bank put the average teacher-to-pupil ratio for primary school at 1:42 in 2015. In 2016 39% of public primary schools had drinking water stations, 35% had canteens, 41% had working toilets and 22% had adequate hand-washing facilities. Access to primary education remains imbalanced between urban and rural areas, with the north and north-west being particularly underserved. Additional challenges to the primary education system include recurring strikes by both teachers and students over issues such as pay, benefits and grants.

Despite the introduction of free education in 2015, the supplementary costs associated with sending children to school create a financial barrier for many of the country’s lower-income families. The government is investing in free school kits and school supplies in response to this, with CFA9bn (€13.5m) spent on their purchase and provision in 2016. That same year CFA17bn (€25.5m) was invested in cafeterias and food for children during school hours with help from the UN’s World Food Programme.

Retention & Gender Disparity

Retaining students as they progress through the system is another of the government’s biggest challenges. State figures for the 2014/15 academic year show that 36% of the relevant student population completed lower secondary level education, while 20.1% finished the upper secondary level. Weak secondary school completion rates can largely be explained by notable geographic gaps in the public school network. “Côte d’Ivoire is greatly lacking educational institutions at the secondary level, which covers education for 12- to 16-year-olds and 16- to 18-year-olds,” Kabran Assoumou, Cabinet director of the MENETFP, told OBG. “For children to continue their education after primary school, they need to go to the city. But many are too young to survive on their own and end up having to return to their villages without finishing their studies.”

Another issue is gender disparity, which is evident at all levels of the education process. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the net enrolment rate at the primary level stood at 74.7% for girls and 83.7% for boys in 2015. Only gross enrolment rates are available for other levels, with 36.6% of girls attending secondary level education compared to 51% of boys.

Further down the line, 7.3% of women are enrolled in higher education as opposed to 11.2% of men. In a July 2017 World Bank press release titled “Côte d’Ivoire: Policies Supporting Gender Parity Could Bring $6-8 Billion to Country’s Economy”, Pierre Laporte, country director for Côte d’Ivoire at the World Bank, said, “The country needs an extra push to support its women that in turn could bring excellent benefits and move the country into the middle-income status.” The first step towards gender parity would be in the field of education, added Jacques Morisset, the World Bank’s chief economist for Côte d’Ivoire.


While baseline indicators remain low, consistent prioritisation of education in government budgets since 2011 has led to concrete improvements at both the primary and secondary level. The percentage of out-of-school children at primary school age has declined significantly, falling from 43.3% in 2009 to 20.7% in 2015. Correspondingly, the total net enrolment rate in primary schools increased from 56.7% to 79.3% over the same period. The primary education completion rate rose from 41.7% in 2012 to 59.6% in 2015, according to UNESCO data.

At the post-primary level, enrolment rates in lower and upper secondary education increased from 49.1% and 25.4% in 2011/12 to 53.8% and 28.1% in 2014/15, respectively, according to a 2016 report by the Ministry of Development and Planning. While the number of students attending upper-secondary education may seem low, a 31-percentage-point increase in the enrolment of technical education and vocational training between 2011 and 2014 indicates that many teenagers are electing to begin training for employment rather than pursue further academic education.

These rises in student numbers were matched by investments in school infrastructure and teacher training: the number of primary school classrooms increased from 64,645 in the 2010/11 school year to 76,564 in the 2014/15 year. During the same period, the number of teachers rose by 9.1% and the number of community schools as a percentage of total schools rose from 1.5% to 7%. In the 2014/15 school year Côte d’Ivoire had 1373 secondary education establishments, up from 1206 in 2011/12.

Enhancing the way education is delivered and its long-term impact might also require a comprehensive evaluation system for educational provision. “The capacity of the educational sector, at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, is improving but quality standards have not kept up. There is a need to establish an independent rating mechanism for institutions in the sector, to provide visibility on the quality of education across Côte d’Ivoire,” Adama Koné, told OBG.


The government aims to continue investing in the enrolment and completion of primary education. To this end, CFA875.5bn (€1.3bn) was allocated to the 2016-20 PND to help achieve universal, inclusive and quality primary education. Meanwhile, CFA259.3bn (€389m) was budgeted for secondary education development, focusing on infrastructure rehabilitation, construction and personnel hiring.

To address the large drop-off in pupil numbers between primary and secondary levels, the government is pushing through plans to rapidly expand its secondary education network. “It is a priority to construct community colleges. We plan to have 990 by 2025, 47 of which are already open. The goal is to have one institution for every three villages. In this way, students will be able to finish the third level of their studies without having to leave their village area, after which they will be old enough to move to the city for higher education,” Assoumou told OBG. “Côte d’Ivoire is financing the building of these new schools along with the US Agency for International Development and the French Development Agency (Agence Francaise de Développement, AFD).”

Expanding school infrastructure is also intended to help address the safety issues many girls face when they move to larger cities alone to continue their studies. Specifically, the MENETFP is building boarding schools for young women. According to Assoumou, six of these facilities are already in the planning stages, backed by financing from the Islamic Development Bank. Furthermore, the 2016-20 PND allocates CFA19.1bn (€28.7m) to ensuring higher rates of enrolment and completion of education for girls.

PSE 2016-25: Within the PND’s overarching aim of achieving sustainable economic growth through industrialisation and a strong middle class, the document reiterates the centrality of education – particularly the development of human capital. The three points on which the plan focuses are: improving the quality and diversity of education and training on offer; increasing demand for education by improving the scholarly, communal and familial environments; and improving the management and governance of the system. In order to achieve these goals, the PSE 2016-25 targets education spending of no less than 20% of GDP and 30% of government expenditure, excluding debt repayments, until 2025. The percentage of GDP Côte d’Ivoire spent on education – 21-22% between 2013 and 2015 – compares favourably with the average for sub-Saharan Africa, which stood at 16.6% in 2013, according to the World Bank.

With a large youth population to educate and increased enrolment at the core of its goals, the majority of public funds are allocated to the dayto-day running of the system, with operating costs estimated to account for 88% of the total education budget in 2017. This proportion is set to decrease, but operational spend is still expected to be 84% of all expenditure in 2018 and 83% in 2019. This is in line with an expected gradual decrease in the size of the school-age population, which is set to decline from 50% of the total population in 2012 to less than 46% by 2025. Investment, meanwhile, is set to rise accordingly, from 12% of total expenditure in 2017 to 17% in 2019.

Funds are largely being directed towards fulfilling the promise of providing free and compulsory education for children aged six to 16, with 61.7% of the total education budget going towards achieving this goal in 2017. The figure is set to rise to 71.4% by 2025 in line with projected enrolment growth.

It is no surprise that primary education draws the largest proportion of government funding. According to statistics from international organisation Programme d’analyse des systèmes éducatifs de la Confemen, 91.8% of male and 82% of female children in Côte d’Ivoire enrol in the first year of primary school, but just 50.8% and 34.4%, respectively, enrol in the first year of secondary school. In 2017, for example, 49% of budgeted operational costs and 51% of investment funds were allocated to primary education in the PSE.

The proportion of investment funds dedicated to primary education is set to gradually decrease in the years to 2020, in line with an increasing focus on vocational training, higher education and research. From 51% in 2017, the PSE will decrease this level to 32% in 2020. Conversely, investment in vocational training is set to grow from 7% of the total in 2017 to 25% in 2020. This parallels expected growth in higher education and research, which will increase its share of government investment from 12% in 2017 to 19% in 2020.


The day-to-day costs of public education until 2020 are expected to be almost entirely financed by government funds, although external sources will be needed to cover a shortfall of CFA35.5bn (€53.3m) in that time frame – a figure that amounts to less than 6% of total operational costs. After 2019 the PSE projects that government finances will be more than sufficient for the daily costs of the education system.

In terms of educational investment, however, the PSE predicts external aid will have a proportionately larger role to play, helping to make up a 40% shortfall in government funding over the four-year period. Fortunately, the education sector in Côte d’Ivoire is a recipient of financial support from a host of international backers. According to the PSE, the AFD is the most generous external donor. From 2017 through to 2020, educational funding provided under the AFD’s two Debt and Development Contracts (Contrats de Désendettement et de Développement, C2D and C2D 2) is expected to amount to CFA190.4bn (€285.6m). Other major sources of sector funding between 2017 and 2020 include the Islamic Development Bank, which has pledged CFA43.6bn (€65.4m), and the World Bank, with an investment of CFA30bn (€45m).

Private Sector

The private sector’s financial contribution grew only slightly in the 10 years to 2015, from 22% in 2005 to 25% in 2014. This slow increase is mainly due to the fact that the private sector has not had a large impact at the primary level, where the majority of growth in overall student numbers is due to the government’s compulsory push. The private sector accounts for just 12-13% of the educational offer at that stage. This proportion increases as students continue their education, with private schools accounting for 49% of all offerings at the lower secondary level and 55% at the upper secondary level.

Other types of private sector support might also contribute to enhancing the sector over the coming years. Ivorian firm Investisseurs et Partenaires announced in November 2017 a partnership with the Switzerland-based Jacobs Foundation, geared towards youth development, to establish the Education Impact Fund in Côte d’Ivoire. The fund will allocate financing as well as managerial training, for start-ups that focus on rural education provision. The fund’s creators have announced two types of financing instruments: seed financing will allocate funding ranging from €10,000 to €60,000, whilst bigger support instruments geared towards advanced stages of firm development will offer amounts of €60,000 to €200,000. The fund aims to expand educational opportunities by encouraging entrepreneurial solutions for the sector, with the goal of supporting 10 education-focused small and medium-sized enterprises by 2021.


Enrolment in vocational education and technical training (enseignement technique et formation professionelle, ETFP) has almost tripled since 2005, reaching 105,353 students in 2016, of which 46% were female. Despite this high percentage of female representation, persistent gender divides exist in the segment, with girls accounting for 60.7% of students taking service sector courses, but just 8.6% and 18.3% of students enrolling in courses related to the fields of agriculture and industry, respectively. The private sector dominates the ETFP segment, where it provides 95% of the courses on offer. In addition, the fact that technical and vocational training establishments are mostly concentrated in urban areas means a government strategy to increase the economic and geographic accessibility of these institutes might help boost enrolment further. Vocational training programmes are also getting a boost from international cooperation. Morocco’s Office of Professional Training and Employment Promotion (Office de la Formation Professionnelle et de la Promotion du Travail, OFPPT), which manages the kingdom’s public vocational training programmes, is set to assist Côte d’Ivoire expand its own training schemes. The programme, financed by $30m from the Islamic Development Bank, is part of a broader support agreement between the bank and Ivorian authorities. The OFPPT will help Ivorian education authorities set up a vocational training programme to train instructors on agriculture and the agro-industry. Financial support will also be allocated to the establishment of four new training centres located in the towns Bonoua, Agboville, Dimbokro and Dabou. “By 2025 the number of secondary school graduates entering higher education is expected to double to around 200,000 people,” Bamba Sory, CEO of Agitel Formation, a private engineering school, told OBG. “This will undoubtedly cause pressure on hosting facilities and the supply of trainers, resulting in an increase of demand on the private sector. It is imperative that there are both quantitative and qualitative improvements in the training and teaching offered.”

Higher Education

The private sector is also heavily involved in higher education, accounting for 44.5% of facilities in 2014. One reason for the popularity of private higher education is its reputation for being reliable. “Parents choosing to send their children to private higher-level educational institutions see it as more stable than the public sector, which still experiences a lot of strikes,” Ysouff Touré, officer for languages at Agitel Formation, told OBG.

Good Business 

A major growth area for private institutions has been business courses. “You can see a new appetite for management courses, particularly those at schools with ties to North American business administration programmes,” G Yawo Lolonyo Dogbé, an educational skills development consultant, told OBG. One such school is the International University of Grand-Bassam, which has formed ties with Georgia State University, the University of Houston and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Another prominent facility is Abidjan’s ECG. Soulaymane Soumahoro, director of studies at ECG, told OBG that the school has a job market placement rate of 77%. “There is a level of economic growth at present that requires the creation of new business schools,” he said.

One advantage private institutions have in delivering business courses is the close partnerships they can establish with domestic and multinational companies. Agitel Formation, for example, has relationships with multinational foods producer Nestlé, as well as transnational African companies such as Ecobank and the telecoms provider Moov. ECG has private industry connections as well, including with the French supermarket chain Carrefour. Nonetheless, Soumahoro argues that there is still a need for more partnerships and closer cooperation with the private sector. “Not all businesses understand the need for partnerships,” he told OBG. “Banks especially should better understand the benefits of attracting students and financing their training.”

On the topic of gender parity, Soumahoro believes government policy is having a positive effect on the number of female students. “We have noticed increases in the past few years and today I have more female students than male students. There is political will and the state is encouraging this growth,” he said.

Post-Secondary Needs

While private business schools tend to have a high rate of job market placement, stakeholders in both ETFP institutions and places of higher education attest to the mismatch between the programmes offered and the needs of the job market. In 2016, for example, ETFP students in industry and agriculture accounted for 72.5% and 0.2% of the total, respectively, although the sectors contributed roughly 20% and 18% to total GDP that year.

Caroline Michèle Okei, director of studies at Michèle Yakice International Training School, a fashion college in Abidjan, also believes that more regulations are needed in post-secondary education. “There are no guidelines for salaries in the fashion sector – someone who has finished a higher technical degree as a stylist or designer does not know how much they can earn. We don’t have that structure in place,” she said. “The Certificate of Professional Aptitude is the only relevant state degree; there are no other degrees that validate continued education in the textile sector. Because students don’t have many prospects to develop in their field, a lot of them go abroad to Morocco or other countries in the Maghreb for further training.”

Research and development (R&D) is another underdeveloped area in post-secondary education. The PSE notes the need for greater synergy between public and private educational offerings, particularly in the R&D realm, where there is a lack of integrated policy and strategically directed investment. This sentiment is echoed by Fousseny Koné, CEO of Atlantique International Business School, who told OBG, “To bridge the gap between education curriculum and the job market, establishments are seeking to develop partnerships with private sector firms. By putting an emphasis on practical learning, students will be better placed to find jobs and thus provide an additional incentive to undertake tertiary education.” According to Laman Koné, founder of HEC Abidjan business school, quality of education at the post-secondary level is suffering due to a lack of competition. “The fact the government determines which student goes to which university – and provides scholarships accordingly – means that there is little incentive for institutions to improve the quality of their education, and generally limits competition among establishments,” he said.


One of the major issues facing the higher education sector in Côte d’Ivoire is internet access. While there is ministerial support for the integration of ICT into the country’s universities, the available infrastructure in many cases lags behind the political will. The PSE outlines several key objectives with regards to ICT, including the development of human resource capacity in the field and an information management system (système d’information et de gestion automatisé) to enable informed education planning decisions. Nonetheless, the physical network infrastructure remains insufficiently developed to make full use of these plans.

In the case of universities, Laurent Cortese, project officer for education at the AFD, told OBG, “Students should have access to the latest resources. A lot of countries have implemented what are called national research and education networks (NRENs) that connect all the universities and enable collaboration and the sharing of resources. Without such a system in place, as in Côte d’Ivoire at present, individual universities end up buying separate internet packages. This is a lot less cost effective, and students and researchers do not have access to up-to-date pedagogical resources.” By the end of 2016 NRENs had been successfully established in nine African countries: Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

Virtual University

As an option for the tech-savvy youth generation, composed of people who possess stable internet connections, in December 2015 the authorities created an online university by decree, named the Université virtuelle de Côte d’ Ivoire (UVCI). With the intention of broadening access to higher education, UVCI offers distance learning programmes and open online courses in cooperation with other Ivorian and international universities. In June 2016 a partnership was formed between the government and the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, a global network of French-speaking higher education and research institutions, to use the UVCI to further develop and promote the digital education environment in Côte d’Ivoire.

Mobile Access

In terms of utilising internet expansion to further provide educational services, the main challenge might be how to adapt digital educational programmes to the changes in usage patterns. The transition from fixed internet services to mobile access will need to be part of this equation.

According to the Telecommunications/ICT Regulation Authority of Côte d’Ivoire (Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications/TIC de Côte d’Ivoire, ARTCI), the number of mobile subscriptions climbed from 7.5m to 32.3m between 2007 and the third quarter of 2017. Understandably, the majority of these mobile connections are still accessed through basic telephones with little, if any, internet access capabilities.

However, that is changing thanks to the expansion of cheaper smartphones. The number of mobile internet connections in Côte d’Ivoire more than doubled from 8.1m to 16.9m between the third quarter of 2015 and the third quarter of 2017, according to figures from the ARTCI. Meanwhile, the number of fixed internet connections in the country shrunk from 133,556 to 91,225 between mid-2013 and mid-2017 (see ICT chapter). This transition to mobile digital access must inform digital education policies, whether they focus on educational content development or on the support of start-ups to expand educational access.

In the meantime, other government programmes are also helping to provide the necessary infrastructure for digital education. After launching a programme to equip users with computers though government loans that allowed 7615 Ivorian students to access hardware, the government is now attempting to improve household usage. In 2015 the Ministry of Communications, Digital Economy and the Post established the One Citizen, One Computer, One Internet Connection programme to help Ivorian families access IT equipment. Over a five-year period, the programme is expected to channel financing for 500,000 families to acquire tablets or portable computers, and mobile 3G internet connections. The scheme will allocate loans to buy computers with prices ranging from CFA120,000 (€180) to CFA239,000 (€385.50), allowing recipients to repay their loan over a six-month period.


Action plans for each level of education and an understanding of areas needing improvement set Côte d’Ivoire on a clear path towards achieving its goals, including student retention for the length of the educational cycle, additional public secondary schools in rural areas and the effective placement of graduates in the local job market. While the state is stepping up efforts to provide universal education for children at the primary and secondary levels, the private sector is taking the lead in matters pertaining to higher education. Provided the government’s fiscal situation continues to be strengthened by robust economic growth, the marriage of strong political will and robust international support should ensure a continuation of progress made since 2011.