Educating Côte d’Ivoire’s youth key to growth

Educating Côte d’Ivoire’s youth key to growth
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Four years after a post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, in which 3,000 people were killed, the greatest risk to political stability and security in the country is its uneducated youth. Since the end of post-election crisis in 2011, vested interests in Cote d’Ivoire continue to hinder reforms to allow for more investments in education.

Since the end of the post-election crisis in 2011, two elections have been held in Uganda, which indicates that the political process is progressively improving. Although the party of former president Gbagbo shunned the legislative elections of December 2011 and the municipal and regional elections of April 2013, clashes with pro-Gbago militias have reduced. Within the government coalition, however, tensions seem to be on the rise.

Uncertainty remains despite elections

Whereas the two elections show that the political process is progressively becoming normalised, there is still widespread insecurity in many parts of the country, particularly the northern region. Unidentified armed gangs, generally believed to be ex-combatants, continue to carry out attacks on roads near Bouaké and on major roads across the northern region.

On Tuesday, 18 November 2014, thousands of Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) soldiers blocked streets in many cities, (including Abidjan and Bouaké, the second largest city in Côte d’Ivoire, with a population of about 536,189), in protest of alleged unpaid arrears of about USD 75 million. The soldiers went so far as to take over the state media buildings.

Former Forces Nouvelles rebels, who had helped put President Alassane Ouattara in power in 2011 and had been incorporated into a reconfigured state military, formed a majority of the protesting troops.

Youth education key to economic growth, reduced violence

While these are some of the risks facing Cote d’Ivoire, the greatest risk to political stability and security is the large uneducated, working population. Currently, Ivorian labour market does not stand a chance, as it cannot compete favourably with its regional peers due to prevailing low levels of education in the workforce.

The greatest disservice Cote d’Ivoire has given to its political system is its failure to educate its youth. Despite the fact that Cote d’Ivoire has favourable demographics (potential large workforce), with 59 per cent of the population under the age of 24, the country has failed to turn its population into skilled workers.

Currently, at least two thirds of unemployed youth are between 15 and 24 years of age. Unfortunately, an investigation of current government education policies shows that the situation may not improve anytime soon.

The government of Cote d’Ivoire needs to take urgent steps to revive the ailing educational system of the country in order to prevent unemployable youths from becoming instruments of violence in the event that the ongoing crisis in the northern region escalates.

Given the prevailing security concerns in Cote d’Ivoire’s northern regions, and the large number of weapons in circulation across the country, there are indications that the October 2015 presidential election could serve as a catalyst for renewed large-scale armed conflict.

For a state with limited resources seeking to prevent a return to conflict, youth education promises the dual benefits of preventing youth from entering a cycle of violence, and ensuring future economic growth.

About Author

Tolulope Ola-David

Tolulope Ola-David is a Political Risk Analyst specialising in the political climate and social conditions of Africa.