Policy and Legislation
Côte d'Ivoire has long suffered from a lack of overall youth strategy and failed to address youth issues for several decades. Yet, after the politico-military crisis in 2011, the government made significant efforts to include youth challenges in its political agenda. Over the past years, the government enacted several strategies regarding health, education and employment taking into account youth concerns, such as the National Employment Policy (2012-2015) or the National Health Development plan (2012-2015).
In 2016, the government created the Ministry for Youth Promotion, Employment and Civic Services (MPJEJSC) to fill the gaps of previous administrations and to coordinate and monitor youth policies. In this context, the MPJEJSC led the process to develop the Youth National Policy (2016-2010), which was adopted in 2016. In order to win consensus, the policy was elaborated in cooperation with all the relevant stakeholders (private sector, technical and financial partners, civil society and youth organisations). The text of the policy provides a transversal and comprehensive framework for youth policies by adopting a horizontal approach. The policy is based on height key operational priorities, namely institutional environment, society and culture, regional and international cooperation, education and training, employment and economic inclusion, communication and ICTs, health, as well as monitoring and evaluation. In addition the text provides for the creation of a Youth Committee composed of government, private sector and youth representatives in charge of monitoring the policy's implementation. The enactment of the Youth National Policy represents a promising step toward the emancipation of young Ivorian people. However, the challenges are still considerable because of insufficient financial and human resources, heavy administrative procedures, leadership conflicts, lack of coordination, absence of adhesion from political actors and poor monitoring and evaluation tools.
Young people in Côte d'Ivoire still face significant health risks. In 2015, the youth mortality rate (15-29) was 574 per 100,000, far exceeding the global (149 per 100,000) and African average rates (354 per 100,000). Over the last years, communicable diseases (such as infectious and parasitic diseases) became the leading cause of death among Ivorian young people (33 per cent), followed by non-communicable and chronic diseases (32 per cent). Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, poor nutrition and sedentary are the main causes of chronic diseases. In 2010, one male teenager in two (15-19) was consuming alcohol; while more than a quarter of young males aged 13-15 were using tobacco. In this respect, young females face less risks of substance abuse. However, they are confronted with risks of early and unwanted pregnancy, abortion and gender-based violence. More than one young woman in three is a victim of her partner's violence, whether physical, sexual or emotional (EDS). Pregnancy and childbirth-related complications are responsible for the death of one young woman out of five in Côte d'Ivoire. Between 2005 and 2012, youth fertility rate has almost doubled, increasing from 76 to 129 per 1,000 in less than seven years. In 2012, almost one third of teenage girls already had a child or was pregnant. Such data demonstrate alarming gaps in access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and to contraceptive methods. More efforts have to be deployed regarding SRH, including for the prevention of HIV. Although HIV prevalence remains low in Côte d'Ivoire in comparison with the majority of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1.3 per cent of young Ivorian people were infected with HIV in 2012. Poorly educated and rural young women are the most at risk from HIV infection.
Côte d'Ivoire has made progress in increasing access to education: fewer young people are deprived of education and more and more youth have access to secondary education. However, illiteracy and school drop-out remain major issues. Every second young person is illiterate and more than 50 per cent of young people did not know how to read and write in 2015, with a higher proportion of young women (59.3 per cent). In 2013, more than one third of the youth population never attended school, while only 4.7 per cent had continued their education beyond the secondary level. Although the rates of secondary and tertiary school enrolment have increased over the last decade, they remain particularly low: in 2015, the net enrolment rate in low secondary school was 33.6 per cent, while the rate for upper secondary school was 11.7 per cent.
Rural youth and young women are particularly vulnerable to poor education outcomes. The majority of youth without education are young women (65.1 per cent) and rural youth (52.4 per cent). Only 7.6 per cent of rural youth get higher education. Similarly, young people from the lowest income households often drop out school before the secondary level, with only 3.9 per cent of them attending lower secondary school. Indeed, school dropout at primary school level is substantial, especially in public schools and in rural areas. According to the PASEC Programme, 7.2 per cent of primary school students dropped out of school in their second year (CP2) and 3.8 per cent in their fifth year (CM1). This demonstrates the poor quality of public education in Côte d'Ivoire. The pupils/teacher ratio is very low, at 42.5 students per teacher at the primary level in 2014 (World Bank). Primary school students' performances are poor, especially in public schools and rural areas, whereas private school students generally perform better. Private school also show better results regarding school-dropout, with a very small proportion of students dropping out of school. The government should thus allocate more resources to improve the quality of public education and ensure retention of vulnerable young people in the education system.
In spite of recent economic recovery, young Ivorian people face major challenges in the labour market. Young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) represented more than 35 per cent of the youth population (15-29) in 2013. However all these NEET youths are not necessarily inactive, as some of them are unemployed but looking for a job in the labour market: according to the World Bank, the youth unemployment rate (15-24) was only 5.8 per cent in 2014. Additionally, young people face precarious conditions in the labour market and have difficulties accessing paid employment. More than half of them are in vulnerable employment: in 2013, more than one out of four young Ivoirians (28 per cent) were contributing family workers, while 27 per cent were own-account workers. Only 18 per cent of youth were waged employees. In addition, most of them work informally, since 92 per cent of young people (15-29) were involved in informal employment in 2013 (ENSETE), mostly in agriculture. Precarious conditions do not stop there: under-employment affected more than one young person out of five in 2013 (21.3 per cent). In this context, young women are particularly disadvantaged. This is mostly due to gender-based discrimination based on cultural norms, religious practices but also persistent lack of access to education. Almost two-third of young women occupies a vulnerable employment status (68 per cent), including as own-account workers (40 per cent).
Again, young people living in rural areas and/or being poorly educated are more likely to face poor employment outcomes than urban and educated youth, such as inactivity or unemployment, underemployment, informality and poor wages. Rural youth are thus more likely to be NEET (44 per cent) than urban youth (18 per cent). However, urban youth generally face longer school-to-work transitions than rural youth, since the majority of jobs are still created in the agricultural sector. The NEET rate is particularly high among highly educated urban young people. This issue of skills mismatch demonstrates the failure of the education system to provide youth with the skills needed in the labour market. Youth school-to-work transition should be facilitated in order to limit loss of valuable skills and youth discouragement. The government should also tackle the issue of youth informal employment and precarious conditions, mainly due to poor education.
Youth participation in Côte d'Ivoire has significantly increased over the last years and young people are increasingly interested in associative commitment. Today, more than one fifth of youths are involved in youth associations or NGOs (21 per cent). Although youth civic engagement remains lower than for adults (63.6 per cent), more than half of youth were civically engaged in 2015 (Gallup).
However, the 2011 military-political crisis of the last decade impacted negatively on youth participation by increasing job insecurity, weakening youth organisations and undermining social cohesion and confidence. Despite their demographic weight, young people are rarely involved in decision-making processes and are still poorly represented on the political scene, as the majority of political parties are “gerontrocratic”. Several obstacles remain regarding youth exercising their right to vote, such as deficient electoral registration and remoteness of polling stations. In 2015, a majority of youth declared not being confident in the transparency of elections (58.8 per cent). In addition, youth mobilisation remains disorganised and marginal, while the majority of young people demonstrate weak interest in political issues. Voluntary programs implemented by the government, such as the National Programme for Volunteering (PNV-CI) and the National Civic Service Programme (PSCN) remain limited in their scope and only reach a minority of youth. In this respect, special efforts have to be made regarding young women as well as rural youth participation. The height youth federations recognised by the Ministry of Youth suffer from a lack of resources and poor coordination with state institutions. In this context, the operationalisation of the National Youth Council (CNJCI) in 2016 is a positive step towards better cooperation and effective youth involvement in the decision-making process.
OECD (2017) Examen des politiques et du bien-être des jeunes en Côte d'Ivoire
Word Bank (2016) World Bank Data – Côte d'Ivoire http://data.worldbank.org/country/cote-divoire