Like many other countries in Africa, Côte d’Ivoire is working to address a gap between the skills taught in schools and those demanded in the job market. To this end, the authorities are bringing training in line with the needs of the economy and employers. With the economy expanding quickly, prompting a number of international firms to invest and start operations, the need is becoming more acute.
The education system was severely affected by the political crisis that ended in 2011, and years of underinvestment have resulted in difficulties in keeping up with the evolving skills sought by private sector employers. “There is a growing mismatch between the content of the training on offer and the job market,” Yssouf Touré, director of the language department at Agitel Formation, told OBG. “Public and private collaboration is essential in order to understand the needs of companies and institutions, and to devise adequate training.” This was also recognised in a 2017 World Bank report, which noted “the paradox of a rising gap between the need for skills to accompany and anticipate Ivorian economic development and the high unemployment rate of higher education graduates”.
Mindful of the skills gap, in 2016 the government launched the Education and Training Sector Plan 2016-25 (Plan Sectoriel Education/Formation 2016-25, PSE) to ensure a better coordination between training programmes and the needs identified in the country’s National Development Plan (Plan National de Développement, PND) 2016-20, the government’s roadmap to turn Côte d’Ivoire into an emerging economy. The 10-year PSE aims to diversify the training programmes offered by public higher education, especially through the creation of new universities with specialised degrees in the interior of the country. It directs public finances to the sectors with the most need, as well as to private schools that demonstrate that they are driven by quality. It also created new training curricula in collaboration with private institutions.
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Addressing the mismatch between training and the needs of the job market should start at the secondary school level. The World Bank report found a crucial need to direct more high school pupils to scientific fields, which currently account for only 2000 of the 83,000 baccalaureate graduates across the country each year. “The education sector must switch its emphasis to the country’s strengths, and move away from soft skills programmes and management degrees,” Réné Yédiéti, CEO of Librairie de France Groupe, told OBG. “We need more farmers, engineers and technically qualified young people who will be able to guide the country’s infrastructure projects locally, which in turn reduces our reliance on skilled foreign workers.”
One of the factors behind the skills gap is the fact the Ivorian system is still partly based on the curricula inherited from the French education system. As a result, training programmes were not developed with key sectors such as agriculture or tourism in mind. As for technical and vocational education and training, 0.2% of trainees are enrolled in agriculture programmes, compared with 72.5% and 27.3% for services and industry, respectively. “Higher education needs to take changes in the economy into account,” Souleymane Soumahoro, director of studies at the Ecole de Commerce et de Gestion, told OBG. “Côte d’Ivoire is now the world’s biggest cocoa producer, but we do not have enough students trained in this area. We have the same issue with tourism, and there is a lack of programmes in mining and energy. We need more vocational courses that will allow students to be hired after graduation.”
Efforts are under way to help address these issues. In April 2019 Côte d’Ivoire opened – with the support of the World Bank – the African Centre of Excellence dedicated to climate change, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. The CFA37.7bn ($64.8m) centre will train students for master’s degrees and doctorates. Moreover, the University of Man launched tourism, mining and energy degrees in the 2018/19 academic year.