Think and act for entrepreneurship in Africa

Côte d’Ivoire

Digitization and professional integration: achieving digital integration in Côte d’Ivoire

The rise of digital technology has revolutionized the way we live, communicate, learn and, of course, work. This transformation is especially significant in Africa, where young people face both unique…

The rise of digital technology has revolutionized the way we live, communicate, learn and, of course, work. This transformation is especially significant in Africa, where young people face both unique challenges and countless opportunities in their quest to enter the job market.

 
To understand these dynamics and the potential implications of digital technology, we met with key players in the African education ecosystem in Côte d’Ivoire. A series of testimonials attesting to the growing importance of digital technology in education, and the need to support this movement.

 

” From helpful to necessary, from necessary to indispensable “

In just a few years, and even more since Covid came on the scene, digital has gone from helpful to necessary, and from necessary to indispensable. Professional integration, access to information, interaction, or simply adapting to contemporary demands mean that the adoption of a digital component in almost all training courses has become absolutely essential.  Today, digital technology enables young people to find their place in this fast-changing world, by facilitating rapid access to information and making learning easier.

Dia Jean-Fabrice – Head of Studies at the Institut Ivoirien of Technologie[1]

 

” Training the trainers ” 

The determination of the continent’s young people to embrace digital technology is obvious. But we still need to find a way to better equip them. Firstly, digital equipment and materials are still difficult to access for most people. Secondly, it is essential to invest in the training of trainers, to ensure that digital skills are properly passed on to young people, and to promote their successful integration into an increasingly digitalized world. Finally, we need to multiply the opportunities for young people to apply the skills they have acquired through internships or work-study schemes.

Jean-Delmas Ehui – CEO of ICT4Dev [2]

 

” A public policy focused on digital technology “

In addition to the difficulties involved in acquiring the necessary equipment and making training programs accessible, one of the barriers to digital development is the delay in implementing public policies in favor of digital, the lack of training for trainers, as well as the absence of incentives for companies to take on young people for practical placements.

Changes are needed to provide equitable access to digital resources and train players in education and industry: Fund the purchase of equipment and adequate infrastructure for institutions; encourage collaborations between educational institutions and digital sector companies to facilitate internships and practical learning opportunities; develop advantageous tax policies for companies investing in training young people and developing digital skills ; set up continuing education programs for teachers and professionals, to stay up to date with the latest technological and pedagogical advances.

Jocelyne Mireille Desquith – Assistant to the General Coordinator of the Government Social Program

 

” Sharing ideas and gaining visibility ” 

Digital is revolutionizing professional career management by offering a range of tools and resources that can be accessed at any time and from any location… as long as your area is covered by the internet network.

Beyond this aspect, digital offers young people a platform to make their voices heard and influence social change. Through social media, young people can share their opinions, experiences and demands with a global audience, helping them to broaden their impact and mobilize support for their causes, or echo the ideas they share.

– Achille Koukou – Managing Director of Tg Master University [3]

 

Digitalization offers immense potential for integrating young people into the African job market. However, concerted efforts are needed to overcome the obstacles and fully exploit these opportunities, in order to create a prosperous and inclusive future for all Africans. By implementing these measures, Africa can realize its full potential in the digital age, and provide its young people with the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world.

 


[1] Bilingual French-English institute of higher education dedicated to information and communication technologies, biotechnologies and business management. Read more 

[2] A startup specializing in the development and integration of digital and technological solutions for the agricultural sector. Read more

[3] School of excellence preparing for a double Bachelor’s degree (French and Ivorian) in Digital Management and Business Management. Read more

 

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Are universities in Africa excluding women?

Abidjan, early 60’s, the young Dicoh Mariam Konan starts studying chemistry at the Technical High School. She soon became the first female chemist in the Ivory Coast. Her portrait on…

Abidjan, early 60’s, the young Dicoh Mariam Konan starts studying chemistry at the Technical High School. She soon became the first female chemist in the Ivory Coast. Her portrait on the 25fcfa coins, still in circulation today, illustrates the impact of her career. It symbolizes a West Africa in progress, with educated women, while the period of independence is in full swing. 60 years later, this progress is slowing down, only 8% of Ivorian women continue secondary studies. A figure that applies to the rest of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. How to explain this situation?

Over the years, sub-Saharan women have found many socio-economic barriers to pursuing higher education. These include gender stereotypes and women’s place in society, a clear preference for boys’ education over girls, and poverty. Indeed, the cost of higher education generally falls more heavily on poor households than on rich ones.

Yet, studies show that women play a key role in the continent’s economy. According to UNESCO, the impact of girls’ education on national economic growth is undeniable: a one percentage point increase in girls’ education increases the average gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.3 percentage points and increases the annual growth rate of GDP by 0.2 percentage points.

These figures raise many questions:

  • What mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure sustainable access to higher education for girls?
  • How can we influence deep-rooted societal practices?

A look at 3 mechanisms set up by I&P Education and Employment, aimed at increasing the number of young girls enrolled in higher education institutions to enable them to find their place in the job market.

Overcoming the socio-economic barrier

At ISM Ziguinchor, 11:00 a.m., Elise, originally from the Sédhiou region of Senegal, is taking a management course. After having interrupted her schooling due to pregnancy, she received a scholarship for excellence from ISM Ziguinchor. The first institution of higher education in the capital of Casamance, the establishment is a fine example of parity, in fact, girls represent 55% of the staff.

The policy is clear: “When awarding scholarships, 60% of girls and 40% of boys. For equal competence, the choice is made for girls,” says Georges Bernard Ndèye, director of the school. When asked why girls, the answer is simple: “The desire to get girls out of their vulnerable situation.

Higher education has an additional cost for families living in rural areas or without a university who have to go to capital or secondary cities. For families this means additional costs such as transportation, accommodation, and food[2]. In Ghana, for example, among the poorest households, sending a young person to a higher education institution increases their non-food expenses by 37%[3], an unthinkable sacrifice for many.

Sending a student to college increases a poor household’s non-food expenditures by 37 percent in Ghana

Students and their families analyze the benefits of higher education versus the income if the young person worked right after high school. For Priska Manga, a doctor at Cheikh Anta Diop University, the first obstacle for girls is the family. Social norms (role of men and women in the family, marriage, maternity, etc.) also play a role. A Wolof proverb says “Diangou Djiguène amoul ndieurigne”, a woman’s studies are of no use. Investing in the higher education of young girls can be seen as a waste of time and investment for the most vulnerable families.

Parental education is a critical factor in decision making. When the head of the household has completed secondary school, children are 10 times more likely to pursue higher education than a child in a household with a lower educational level of the head. Thus, convincing vulnerable families of the importance of higher education for girls is necessary. But it is essential to couple this societal change with financial support mechanisms. The granting of a scholarship may be a condition for a young girl from a disadvantaged background to pursue higher education.

Local and adapted infrastructures

In 2016, ISM Ziguinchor, wishing to respond to the accommodation problems of its students, decided to create a branch in Kolda, a city located 500km from Dakar. At the beginning of the school year, the administration realized that the majority of the students were married girls, whose families did not want them to move away for their studies. Families want to keep their daughters within a family circle, to protect them, but also to avoid any incidents that would damage their reputations (unwanted pregnancies, etc.). Bringing the institution closer to female students in rural areas increases their access to quality higher education when social norms prevent them from going to the city alone. For student mothers, the provision of childcare facilities at the place of learning helps them stay in school. To help female learners focus on their education, UNICEF has set up a daycare system as part of the “Girl Power” project in Côte d’Ivoire. The project aims to strengthen the entrepreneurial skills of young girls in the suburbs[4].

  • Dormitories: when school becomes home

Families also use tutoring systems. The student (girl or boy) is placed under the authority of a tutor, usually a family acquaintance. When necessary, or when there are difficulties within the host family, the girls drop out of school. Another solution is to make the school the place to live. The construction of dormitories in schools allows families to find a reliable solution to the issue of distance from the place of learning. This solution is being tested in ESSECT Poincaré schools. Located in the city of Bouaké in Côte d’Ivoire, the school welcomes students from all over the region – mainly agricultural – and beyond.

  • The importance of decent and adequate health facilities

In addition to having a decent toilet, it is also a question of equipment adapted to female physiology and available in the sanitary facilities.

Once they enter the school, students spend a large part of their day there. In addition to the availability of facilities, it is important that they feel comfortable. Both private and public, restrooms are places that must meet the requirements of safety, hygiene and privacy[5]. Since joining the IP2E program, Mr. Ndèye considers that decent sanitary facilities are fundamental for the development of young girls. During their menstruation, girls need to have access to toilets with water, soap and garbage garbage cans where they can dispose of their sanitary protection[6]. The availability of these pads is also necessary. In addition to having decent toilets, it is also a matter of having appropriate facilities available in these spaces. When interviewed, girls express an interest in separate toilets. They often emphasize the criteria of hygiene and the desire for privacy and safety.

  • Ensure the protection and well-being of students

Providing a safe learning environment goes beyond infrastructure. Gender-based and sexual violence affects girls more than boys. It is present during higher education, but goes unreported. It can include harassment between students, harassment between professors and students, and the exchange of good grades or job offers for sexual favors. Within the IP2E program, all supported companies develop a “student safeguarding” policy. This policy aims to prevent and respond to different types of incidents (sexual violence, physical safety, etc.) and to increase awareness of these issues among students and staff. Institutions are developing mechanisms for reporting and handling complaints. These mechanisms help build trust and improve the learning experience of young girls.

Inspiring Role Models

At the Institut Ivoirien de Technologie (IIT), along with business and computer courses, students receive leadership and personal development courses. Prisca and Grâce, two second-year students, explain that these courses help “to know oneself, to find one’s strengths to overcome one’s weaknesses. They often discuss the girls’ development with their male classmates. For Grace, one of the reasons for not pursuing higher education is the lack of self-confidence in girls. This lack of confidence stems from the “low esteem” that those around them place on the education of young women.

Gender stereotypes are also found in the orientation. The so-called promising fields, such as science, are often assigned to boys. Fabricia Devignes, a gender expert at UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, explains that “the representation of women has an impact on girls’ education and learning outcomes.

In the companies of the I&P Education and Employment program, one institution makes the difference in the sciences: the USSD (Université des Sciences de la Santé de Dakar ). The Board of Directors of the USSD is chaired by a woman. In the university, 60% of the students are young women. When questioned, the female students explain that most of them come from families where their parents are already working in the health sector. To strengthen the resolve of these future doctors, USSD is also implementing a women’s leadership program. These are mentoring sessions during which women in the health sector will lead exchange sessions with the students. For Professor Ndir, it is by taking the example of female role models that there will be women leaders in the field.

Changing mindsets

In Tamale, northern Ghana, educational company Openlabs is bringing role models into the local community to change attitudes. To train girls in computer skills, Prince Charles, campus manager, and his team conduct outreach to girls as young as primary school, families, women’s groups, and religious leaders. To facilitate the exchange, some team members come from the targeted communities. Zeinab, a student from the Choggu community, spoke. She explains that it is possible to be a young woman, belong to the community and pursue higher education. Prince Charles went on to explain the financial benefits that the education of young women will have on these communities. He also explains the scholarships and discounts that Openlabs offers to young women.

In recent years, the historical gap in access to secondary education between girls and boys on the African continent has narrowed considerably and is now being reversed thanks to government efforts (in Senegal, in 2021: 52% of girls versus 48% of boys). This quasi-parity has highlighted a non-generic inequality, but rather a strong disparity according to the social and geographical origin of future students, and partly explains the low rate of continuation of higher education. Although few girls and boys pursue higher education in sub-Saharan Africa, girls from disadvantaged or rural backgrounds are at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of access to university.

Guaranteeing sustainable access to education for vulnerable girls requires providing mechanisms for financing higher education. For girls in rural areas, the multiplication of community-based higher education offers is also a lever to be implemented. The institutions must be safe places, where the well-being, safety and health of the students will be preserved. Finally, it is necessary to change mentalities, especially regarding the place of girls in scientific fields, in order to ensure that women fully participate in the development of the continent.

“The emancipation of women goes through education. If we manage to have more educated women, we will have women leaders everywhere.”

According to Dr. Priska Manga, “The emancipation of women is through education. If we can have more educated women, we will have women leaders everywhere. Disadvantaged girls need continued access to quality education in order to become self-sufficient and active in the development of their region[8]. Quality higher education develops and strengthens the skills needed to enter a highly competitive labor market, and enables them to claim a decent, adequate and equal income to improve their quality of life.


[1] https://www.globalpartnership.org/fr/blog/leducation-des-filles-releve-du-bon-sens-economique

[2] Darvas, Peter, Shang Gao, Yijun Shen et Bilal Bawany. 2017. Enseignement supérieur et équité en Afrique subsaharienne : Élargir l’opportunité au-delà de l’élite. Directions du développement. Washington, DC : Banque mondiale. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1266-8.

[3]Darvas & all

[4] UNICEF. Projet Girl Power. 2020. https://team.unicef.fr/projects/unicef-projet-girl-power

[5] Marion Simon-Rainaud. 2021. Mélanger les filles et les garçons a facilité l’accès aux toilettes », 7 mars 2021 ? https://usbeketrica.com/fr/melanger-les-filles-et-les-garcons-a-facilite-l-acces-aux-toilettes

[6] GPE. 2018. Comment les toilettes peuvent-elles contribuer à promouvoir l’éducation.

[7] BBC News Africa. 2019. ‘Sex for geades’: Undercover in West African universities. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-49907376

[8] C. Manse. 2020. Education des filles, émancipation des femmes. https://www.entreprenanteafrique.com/education-des-filles-emancipation-des-femmes/

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Innovative Investments Empower Women

This article was co-written by Ksapa and Investisseurs & Partenaires, and is also published on their website. The gender question is at the heart of the international debate. The eradication…

This article was co-written by Ksapa and Investisseurs & Partenaires, and is also published on their website.

The gender question is at the heart of the international debate. The eradication of discrimination against women and girls, the women’s empowerment and the parity between women and men are considered as key factors of development, respect of human rights, peace and world security. The Sustainable Development Goals have reaffirmed the key role of women’s empowerment in the democratic process, in order to take the necessary decisions on all aspects of sustainable development.

As such, Ksapa approached Investisseurs & Partenaires, a specialist in impact investing across the African continent, to discuss the implications of gender empowerment for the private sector. Together, we examine key figures on the challenges of gender empowerment, demonstrating its prevalence in rural areas of the African continent. Under the current conditions, how they can businesses and investors embed a solid gender perspective as part of their impact strategies to better address the challenges of the gender empowerment. Based on different initiatives led by Ksapa and I&P, we infer practical recommendations for mobilizing capital in favor of gender empowerment.

1. Key Issues in Gender Empowerment 

Gender empowerment implies, in essence, the equitable distribution of resources between men and women – as well as girls and boys. That is, in principle. In practice, gender empowerment may clash with deeply entrenched social attitudes – themselves translating into equally structural social, economic and cultural decisions.

  • Structural Disparities Between Men And Women

Men and women just like boys and girls are indeed not equal in the face of poverty and in their access to opportunities. Even less so in the context of interwoven climate, health and socioeconomic crises. Women account for less than a third of available human capital wealth in low and lower-middle-income countries. In South Asia, losses due to gender inequality are estimated at $9.1 trillion, compared to $6.7 trillion in Latin America and the Caribbean and $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, they amount to $2.5 trillion. As such, the OECD publishes the social institutions and gender equality index, designed to measure, discrimination against women in social institutions at the international level. For example, in 2019, this index was 37.0 in Senegal, 42.8 in Côte d’Ivoire and 34.5 in Ghana.

  • Socio-Economic Impacts of Gender Empowerment

Despite heavy stigma, women now control 32% of the world’s wealth and generate an additional $5 trillion each year – at a much faster rate than in the past. In addition, for every dollar of investment raised, women-owned startups generate $0.78 in revenue, compared to $0.31 for male-led companies. As a result, gender parity in the workforce could generate a 26% increase in annual global GDP by 2025.

  • Zeroing in on Women in the African Agricultural Sector

Agriculture accounts for nearly 25% of Africa’s gross domestic product. In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, women make up nearly half of the workforce in this sector.

Across the continent, agriculture is the largest employer of women, accounting for 62% of the female workforce. In certain countries like Rwanda, Malawi and Burkina Faso, more than 90% of women work the land.

Female farmers’ work in Africa as elsewhere is subject to critical disparities – notably in terms of the division of labor and prevalence of informal work. In African agriculture, women tend to opt for specific crops and techniques and their work is not equally rewarded. When their work is in fact subject to a formal contract, the latter does not necessarily bear their name, often in favor of their husbands. Similarly, female farmers tend to be involved in local markets and retail trade, where men are generally more involved in wholesale trade, with a region-wide scope.

2. Embedding a Strong Robust Gender Perspective in Impact Investment Strategies 

Poverty alleviation and food security depend directly on the development of systematic solutions for gender empowerment. The African agricultural sector’s capacity to nurture stable livelihoods hinges on innovative measures designed to foster farmers’ access to land, capital and means of production – especially where women are concerned.

That is precisely why the World Bank developed a gender strategy for international project developers. The document lists 4 key levers to reduce gender gaps:

  • Awareness-Raising: Improve gender gaps by reducing access differentials in health, education and social protection (e.g. school/work transitions, gender stereotypes in the workplace, sexual and reproductive health rights…).
  • Opportunity: Remove barriers to further and better employment, boosting women’s participation, their opportunities to generate their own income and access to productive assets (keeping in mind key considerations of the burden of care, access to mobility and formal employment…).
  • Empowerment: Strengthen women’s voice and empower them by encouraging men and boys to share decision-making processes around delivering services, reducing gender-based violence and managing potentially conflictual situations.
  • Property: Remove barriers to women’s ownership and control of property, effectively improving their access to land, housing and technology.

Based on this strategy, investors – and development teams in particular – are encouraged to consider the means to engage with their potentially impacted stakeholders. That way, they may indeed better identify and assess concrete gender gaps; a series of efforts ultimately encompassed in a gender action plan.

3. Practical Examples of Capital Mobilization in Favour of Gender Empowerment 

  • Introducing 3 Agricultural Businesses Supported By I&P

For the last two decades, Investisseurs & Partenaires has committed to financing and supporting the emergence of African entrepreneurship champions. As an impact investor, I&P seeks a positive social and/or environmental return in addition to a significant financial performance, the impact of which is measured through a continuous evaluation process.

This approach is applied both in selecting potential investees and in the support afforded to the selected companies. It is also characterized by the Group’s emphasis on measuring investees’ social and/or environmental impact, based on priority objectives and progress monitoring methods against the projected positive impacts.

As part of its gender strategy in particular, I&P actively seeks to develop a pipeline of small and medium enterprises, either managed by women or with a major impact for women. I&P therefore systematically includes gender-specific action plans in its portfolio companies’ ESG action plans (with increase targets on the number of female employees, access to management positions, specific training, etc.). As such, 33% of the companies supported by I&P are managed by women.

Similarly, 79% of I&P’s portfolio meets at least one of the criteria of the 2X Challenge, an initiative of development banks to define what would be considered a women-friendly investment.

Within the I&P portfolio, the three following companies illustrate how a gender perspective can be developed and adapted to the agriculture sector:

    • Soafiary (Madagascar): Founded in 2006 by Malagasy promoter Malala Rabenoro, Soafiary specializes in the collection, processing and sale of cereals (corn, rice) and legumes (beans, cape peas, lentils, soybeans) on the local and international market.
    • Citrine (Côte d’Ivoire): Citrine Corporation processes and transforms cassava into fresh attiéké (cassava semolina) and placali (cassava paste) in southern Côte d’Ivoire and more specifically in Grand-Bassam.
    • Rose Eclat (Burkina Faso): Rose Eclat is a family business launched in 1999 by Rosemonde Touré. A fruit and vegetable processing company, the company markets nationally and internationally processed and/or dried fruits and vegetables. It produces mainly mango but also bananas, okra, strawberries and onions – which are certified organic and comply with the food safety management system (HACCP).
  • Commonalities and specificities of I&P Investees

Emblematic of I&P’s work on gender empowerment in the agriculture sector, all three companies are committed gender equality and empowerment. Soafiary in particular translated this policy into a roadmap that encapsulates its commitments to gender equality and empowerment. This written document indeed outlines the company’s gender policy, as a concrete tool to monitor– both internally and externally – progress made and measures implemented by the company to foster gender equality.

All three companies prioritize the recruitment of women for seasonal jobs and do not apply any form of gender discrimination in recruiting for permanent jobs. Women are also involved in the corporate decision-making processes and hold various positions of responsibility. As a result, men and women have equal opportunities for career advancement, either by tapping into permanent or seasonal employment – all of this with comparable pay. Women also benefit from on-the-job training. Rose Eclat additionally gives women the opportunity to train outside the company for career advancement or to become self-employed.

The three companies also emphasize women’s physical and moral integrity in and outside of the workplace, ensuring they can access healthcare and social protection. Soafiary also set up a financial inclusion and banking system specific to women. Access to financial products and services allows women to anticipate the financing of their long and medium-term goals or to face unexpected events. Moreover, savings begets credit and vice versa.

  • Shared Perspectives with Ksapa’s SUTTI Initiative

Echoing I&P’s focus on training, Ksapa launched the Scale-up Training, Traceability, Impact initiative (SUTTI) for the development of responsible agricultural supply chains. Through this new platform, smallholders can access technical and operational training and education. The goal is optimize their crop and agricultural economic production, improve the quality of their livelihoods by increasing their income, diversifying activities and reducing poverty. Not only does this foster gender parity, it is also key to retain young farmers in rural areas.

Through the development of our own digital application, we combine analysis and evaluation, coalition structuring and pilot calibration, program implementation and impact monitoring. That is indeed how Ksapa measures SUTTI impacts and its contributions to gender empowerment in particular, in the form of their inclusion into the program. Through training, SUTTI supports gender empowerment, opening up the conventional division of labor and women’s potential to sell and manage the product of their labor and operate diversified income activities.

Because women bear the brunt of lacking financial inclusion, literacy and digital literacy, the SUTTI solution targets optimal accessibility for women. The program indeed focuses on diversifying smallholders’ income, thereby developing additional leverage for gender empowerment in agricultural areas.

In short, this approach aims to unlock the following 4 key challenges:

CORE ISSUES  RELEVANT SOLUTIONS
Low productivity tied to lacking access to information and services as well as climate change, major weather variability and pest and disease outbreaks  Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Awareness: Deliver face-to-face and digital sessions to support smallholders’ income generation through crop diversification, water efficiency and perhaps carbon credits. Through a digital application, videos and tutorials can indeed be shared that support practical tests and the direct implementation of GAPs across the farm. Decision support tools: digital apps can include a community chat feature that allows smallholders to share questions and decide how best to implement GAP. A marketplace function offers smallholders the opportunity to share price/volume information and decide just where and when to sell. Overcoming language and digital literacy barriers: Tailoring solutions to the needs of smallholders involves translating content into local languages and perhaps including a text-to-speech feature for the benefit of less literate farmers.
Lack of access  to appropriate financial/insurance products Develop financial solutions for smallholders, paid for example with tokens issued through a carbon offset system.
Women’s lacking access to digital services  Organize women-specific training groups (e.g., recruit 1 all-female cohort for every 3) to identify and meet the particular needs of female farmers. Adapt content accordingly (e.g., including gender perspectives, especially targeting on-farm health and safety training content).
Smallholders lacking access and ability to select markets and sales methods  Structure a supply of inputs to smallholders, paid for instance via  carbon offsets and revenue from a gamification tool – encouraging them to regularly fill-out impact monitoring questionnaires. Boost market access by supporting year-round crop diversification outside the production cycle of farmers’ main crop. Strengthen decision support tools – allowing smallholders to identify new marketing channels, track their transactions and identify the best options for buying/selling their crops

Conclusion

At the helm of their respective impact programs, I&P and Ksapa outline the following commonalities in their integration of a robust strong gender perspective as part of the impact investment strategies:

  • Prioritize gender empowerment in designing agricultural development projects; 
  • Identify the agricultural sector’s direct and indirect contributions to gender dynamics;  
  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities in developing a robust gender perspective; 
  • Allocate specific resources to empowering female farmers; 
  • Develop stakeholder engagement and grievance mechanisms specific to female farmers. 
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Youth employment: Africa should not train more, but train better

A couple of numbers are enough to understand how important the challenges related to the employability of young people on the African continent are. Currently, 15-24 year-olds represent 20% of…

A couple of numbers are enough to understand how important the challenges related to the employability of young people on the African continent are.

Currently, 15-24 year-olds represent 20% of the African population, but more than 40% of the unemployed [1]. By 2030, according to UNESCO projections, approximately 100 million young people will enter the African labor market due to the demographic structure of the continent.

Meanwhile, many companies and employers are looking for qualified [2] and therefore employable[3] individuals. There is a mismatch between available training programs and the specifics of the labor market, which is undergoing constant restructuring, in many sectors,.

Therefore, one could ask whether the great challenge today is not to train more, but to train better? Especially in the context of technical and vocational education and training, which obviously have a major role to play in promoting the integration of young people into the workplace.

In this article, we will explore three paths to improvement, based on the experience of an African SME in Côte d’Ivoire which specializes in professional training: the Institut de Management, de Gestion et d’Hôtellerie (IMGH), founded by Augustine Bro in 2009. Between December 2020 and July 2021, IMGH employees (managers, middle-managers, trainers) participated in capacity building training organized by GIZ Côte d’Ivoire.

Pathway 1: negotiate the shift to digitalization

Technical and vocational training courses are the first to have to adapt to globalization and the resulting technological changes, as they are oriented towards practice, learning, and the acquisition of work techniques. The transition to digital technology, which was supposed to be gradual, has been drastically accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, which has had a major impact on the training sector and has redefined the demands of the labor market.

The prerequisites to successfully negotiate this shift are first of all material. In West Africa, household connectivity is not guaranteed in many rural or isolated areas. In addition to internet coverage issues, there are also the costs of the packages needed to consult the online tools necessary for learning[4]. Finally, the acquisition of computer equipment to access the content of online courses is an additional burden for students.

IMGH Focus:

To overcome these material difficulties, IMGH has put training capsules online which can be consulted via computer and mobile phone. This initiative solved both the impossibility of holding face-to-face classes at the height of the Covid crisis, and the connectivity of learners, insofar as most had at least access to the internet via their smartphones. Financial efforts will still be required to ensure that all students have access to online courses.

Since the start of the Covid crisis, IMGH has adopted a mixed approach, combining face-to-face and distance learning. This format offers many advantages: self-paced learning, customizable content, cost savings, etc. It is also a proven model that will be able to adapt to future crises, whether they are health, economic, or political.

Beyond concerns about equipment and connectivity, the greatest challenge of this transition to digital could be that of the competence of trainers and the transmission of knowledge (theoretical knowledge, but also and above all, know-how – techniques, professional gestures, practice, behaviour,  quality,  values).

Some of these elements, already difficult to transmit in a face-to-face environment, are even more so in distance or hybrid teaching and require much more involvement and pedagogy from the trainers. Hence the need to train trainers and any other person involved in the transmission process beforehand.

Pathway 2: Update trainers’ skills

The quality and relevance of any professional training is directly related to the professional competence of the trainers.

In the case of vocational training, most of the courses offered are taught by teaching teams from the trade. This situation responds to the logic of transmitting techniques specific to each profession, which would otherwise be difficult to share. Nevertheless, this empirical knowledge, acquired thanks to years of experience in the field, tends to become fixed in time. The risk being that once transposed onto the job market, the skills transmitted to students turn out to be obsolete. Consequently, it is essential to constantly renew the skills of trainers.

The training of managers and middle-managers is also an essential aspect to take into account. In the age of digital transformation. The success of a new development strategy depends on the ability of all employees to adopt it. They contribute fully to the internal transformation of the company and thus participate in the process of skills transfer.

IMGH Focus

The GIZ training, which the IMGH team attended, is based on the logic of alternating practice and theory, which allows the knowledge acquired to be updated and transferred directly to the workplace thanks to a point of view and experience from outside the organization.

According to Augustine Bro, founder of IMGH, this training has enabled her entire team to be more aware of the changes taking place in the professional market and to adapt their training offers in the long term.

Pathway 3: Capacity building through the co-development method

Finally, there can be a more collective approach to the new problems linked to the transformation of professions. Updating skills and knowledge to adapt to the demands of the job market is a necessity, and being in contact with other professionals would be an effective way to overcome one’s own shortcomings and acquire new knowledge.

A professional co-development group is a development approach for people who believe they can learn from each other to improve their practice. Individual and group reflection is facilitated through a structured consultation exercise that focuses on issues currently experienced by participant[5].

Thus the co-development method makes it possible to directly approach the practical side of a job, or of a task to be carried out, in a concerted manner. In contrast to a normative approach that only offers a single point of view, co-development, through the plurality of contributions, increases the development perspectives tenfold. This approach encourages everyone to consider a situation from a different and complementary angle, to think much deeper and to adapt new and more productive solutions.

IMGH Focus

“The adoption of the co-development method has brought new life to our organization. A new and very positive dynamic has taken hold and everyone is now voluntarily contributing to it, whether it be in terms of training, management, or governance. For example, those who are more comfortable with computers do not hesitate to give a helping hand to their colleagues in difficulty, and those who are struggling with other issues do not hesitate to ask for advice or help. So far, this method has been nothing but beneficial, both in terms of accounting and the work atmosphere” – Augustine Bro

In summary

The mismatch between existing training programs and the needs of an ever-changing labor market hinders the economic development of African countries. Opportunities exist and are being created, but the continent is still struggling to provide a skilled and employable workforce.

Vocational training actors, such as IMGH in Côte d’Ivoire, need to offer up-to-date and relevant content. We have mentioned here some of the practices implemented by IMGH since the Covid-19 crisis and the GIZ training (digitizing its training offer, strengthening the skills of trainers and teams…), but many other ideas can still be formulated to bring relevant and quality vocational training to African youth!

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[1]  http://www.iiep.unesco.org/fr/en-afrique-la-transformation-de-la-formation-professionnelle-est-en-marche-13763

[2] Jean-Michel SEVERINO, RFI 20/01/19 https://www.rfi.fr/fr/emission/20190121-afrique-manque-emplois-qualifies-investir-formation

[3] En se référant à la définition donnée par l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT), l’employabilité est « l’aptitude de chacun à trouver et conserver un emploi, à progresser au travail et à s’adapter au changement tout au long de la vie professionnelle »

[4] https://www.entreprenanteafrique.com/les-ecoles-africaines-au-temps-du-covid-19/#_ftn6

[5] Adrien PAYETTE, Claude CHAMPAGNE, PUQ, 1997 ( https://www.puq.ca/catalogue/livres/groupe-codeveloppement-professionnel-573.html )

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Digital technology to increase school success rates in Africa

It is October 2018, 18 years since I left the school where I spent all my secondary education from the 6th grade to 12th grade. It was the local school…

It is October 2018, 18 years since I left the school where I spent all my secondary education from the 6th grade to 12th grade. It was the local school in the largest municipality of Abidjan, a large municipality with a high population density, but also and especially significant a school with a high student/teacher ratio, at that time: 80 pupils per class on average. In 2018 I found it split into 2 parts for better management of the excessive number of students, but in the same old buildings dating back more than 30 years.

Enthusiasm and nostalgia perfectly reflected my feelings when I go to present my project, a heart-felt project of great ambition: to raise the success rate for the Baccalaureate (at age  18) examination of this school, which is around 30%, similar to the Cote d’Ivoire national average for the Baccalaureate (40% on average over the last 5 years).

My name is Christelle HIEN-KOUAME, marketing and communication engineer, I have been an entrepreneur for 9 years in the field of communication and marketing, and I am passionate about the education offered to students in my country and my continent.

Help to raise the national school examination success rate, is it not too ambitious a goal?

Work in the education field is exciting and demands commitment because it concerns everybody – from the educational level of household employees to the professional performance of the employees in a firm, we are all impacted. So, for my part, it is essential to contribute in our way and with our means.

The project – www.prenezlesfeuilles.com

The initial project was to offer students a revision toolbox, a digital collection of homework and exams from the best schools in Côte d’Ivoire to:

– Prepare them to do well in their homework and exams, with tools adapted and customized: Homework and exams are defined by a school schedule in our education system

– Give them back their self-confidence, because, in reality, a child in the 3rd grade of a school well graded in the capital does not have the same level as a student in the same cycle in another part of the country!

Having defined my two primary objectives, I turned to digital solutions to offer an accessible, reliable, and innovative approach to the students. I started without any digital experience, and with only the funds of my communication agency. I collected homework from all disciplines and from institutions which had at least 70% success rate in the Baccalaureate.

My project was born. It was stolen in a neighboring country, and was therefore renamed one year later as www.prenezlesfeuilles.com, was officially presented to the authorities (Ministry of National Education), was appreciated, and finally allowed to be spread to students in all schools in the country. The difficulties of its beginning have given it more resilience, and more objectives to achieve. Making homework and exams available to students became restrictive. We had to offer more alternatives to encourage them to do their homework challenge them, motivate them to surpass themselves regardless of their series or disciplines chosen, and do better than we did in the past.

Evolution of the project

After an analysis of the success factors, one key factor seemed irrefutable (other than the environment and motivation): learning tools.

We then integrated three important tools to the platform: Motivation by reward by offering gifts for quizzes or exercises performed correctly within a given time frame, Orientation assistance by talking about jobs with different people, and enriching experiences, and Small general culture broadcasts on WhatsApp.

In August 2019 www.prenezlesfeuilles was acquired by ENEZA EDUCATION, a technology company, initiator of another innovative educational service via mobile that offers tutorials and quizzes via the SMS channel of mobile phones. Today, the Cote d’Ivoire student has access to the lessons of the entire school program explained in tutorials, and with quizzes allowing them to test their knowledge. The website www.prenezlesfeuilles.com helps students to prepare for future tests based on homework already done in the best institutions in the country.

The next challenge is to make this solution better known to all students and parents throughout the country and to prove its real impact on subscribers’ academic results.

I love to take challenges up! Like when I was 18 and I was the only girl in a science final year class in a high school in the commune of Yopougon (a working-class district in Abidjan), and succeeded at the Baccalaureate. Or like the challenge 9 years ago when I resigned from my job to set up as a young entrepreneur, and I had to assume my choice and everything that entailed. Taking up challenges is not for euphoria or pleasure but giving back a part of what we have graciously received from the family, the State and society. Because giving back is to be more alive!

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How businesses bounce back after conflicts: lessons from Côte d’Ivoire

Ibrahima Dosso and Florian Léon for The Conversation. For developing countries to have lasting development, they must have economic systems that are resilient to shocks such as climate change, natural…

Ibrahima Dosso and Florian Léon for The Conversation.

For developing countries to have lasting development, they must have economic systems that are resilient to shocks such as climate change, natural disasters and conflict.

Recent research has focused on evaluating the long-term effects of these potential economic shocks, and how to mitigate them. For example, several studies highlighted the fact that natural disasters and violent conflict have long-term effects on households.

In a recent study we looked at the resilience of businesses in Côte d’Ivoire after the 2010-2011 electoral crisis. Businesses play a vital role in Côte d’Ivoire’s economy. Small to medium-sized businesses alone employ nearly half the working population and account for around 20% of the country’s GDP. Yet few studies have looked at the mid to long-term effects of adverse shocks on businesses.

Côte d’Ivoire endured a protracted crisis when the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave office following his defeat to Alassane Ouattara in the presidential run-off election of 2010. This resulted in widespread violence. The death toll has been put at over 3 000 and the number of displaced people at 700 000. The political standoff ended in April 2011 when military forces loyal to President Ouattara arrested Gbagbo.

We found that businesses did indeed recover, but that there were disparities in how quickly they did based on their size. For example, businesses more able to rebound tended to be those that were smaller (10 employees or less) or those that had access to credit.

After a shock

Although economic activity may contract following a shock, it does not disappear.

Extreme events tend to stimulate the development of informal economic activity. In addition, surviving businesses may benefit from a massive influx of external aid (financial, human and material), or the disappearance of competition. The effects can be differentiated according to the specific characteristics of the businesses and according to their sector.

Despite the brevity of Côte d’Ivoire’s conflict, it had profound consequences. Economic activity was severely disrupted, with an embargo on many exports, the closure of banks, and limited access to certain goods – such as medicines and fuels.

After Gbagbo’s arrest, fighting rapidly died down and the economy was able to recover in the post-crisis years.

Our study involved monitoring the activity of all formal businesses in Côte d’Ivoire (both local and foreign) from two years before the crisis to three years afterward. This enabled us to gain an understanding of how businesses bounced back from the crisis.

Our results show that three years after the crisis, businesses had made up only half of their productivity losses. However, this average masks large individual disparities.

There are several reasons why smaller companies with less than 10 employees were able to bounce back more quickly.

First of all, smaller organisations are more flexible in the face of an uncertain future. Secondly, they are more oriented towards local markets, making them less sensitive to disturbances in infrastructure. Their management system is also far simpler, enabling them to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, and to logistical challenges.

Conversely, businesses with foreign investment, which are more externally oriented and therefore require access to foreign markets (ports and roads), suffered more than local businesses, both during and after the crisis.

These businesses were weakened by restricted access to external markets, in terms of both inputs and sales. Furthermore, they were probably hit particularly hard by the exodus of foreign workers.

Our study provides two other interesting results relating to previous research.

First, businesses using more highly qualified workers or employing more executives were particularly affected. This is because many qualified workers come from neighbouring countries, or more distant ones, such as France, and were the first to flee when the violence began. Many probably never went back.

Access to financing is a major advantage

Our research also highlighted the importance of access to capital to help with business recovery.

The businesses that were the least restricted financially prior to the crisis bounced back with the most ease. Banks suffering from the effects of the crisis probably favoured their older clients over other businesses. Banks in Côte d’Ivoire suffered an increase in delinquent loans in 2011, according to data from the banking commission of the West African Monetary Union (WAMU).

This result confirms a study on Sri Lankan businesses after the December 2004 tsunami, which showed that financial aid enabled a quicker economic recovery.

Helpful insights

Our research sheds interesting light on the construction of resilient economic systems. While calling on qualified workers and executives is crucial for business development, it can be a source of vulnerability when a shock occurs. Businesses that are too dependent on a small number of individual employees can be severely affected by their death or flight.

It is therefore important to find tools to mitigate these vulnerabilities by developing training for executives, engineers and technicians to grow the available pool of human resources, and by encouraging the return and re-training of these workers following a sudden shock (conflict or natural disaster).

Quick access to capital is also crucial for economic recovery. Emergency tools, such as IMF emergency loans, can be developed to facilitate the targeting and granting of loans post-crisis.

Furthermore, banking regulations can also be adjusted for extreme situations. For instance, a moratorium on capital ratios could be considered to enable banks to continue to finance current activity.

Lastly, it appears vital to extend this reflection beyond the banking sector (to insurance and capital investment companies, for example) and to use technological advances (such as mobile banking and fintechs) to mobilise and allocate funds in an efficient and cost-effective way.

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Voices of African women entrepreneurs (1/2): Patricia Zoundi Yao and Catherine Krobo-Edusei

65% of the wealth of the African continent is produced by women entrepreneurs according to the latest study published by the Roland Berger consulting firm at the end of September…

65% of the wealth of the African continent is produced by women entrepreneurs according to the latest study published by the Roland Berger consulting firm at the end of September 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, women produce 80% of the continent’s agricultural commodities and represent 70% of the continent’s agricultural force. 24% of African women aged 18 to 64 have started a business (compared to 17% in Latin America, 12% in North America, and 8% in Europe and Central Asia).

Despite these facts, African women still face many inequalities, particularly in terms of access to employment, remuneration and overall access to economic resources. What a contradictory situation… On International Women’s Day, the blog offers you 4 portraits of African women with inspiring stories!

 

Patricia Zoundi Yao

 

Patricia, who are you?

I am Patricia Zoundi Yao, an entrepreneur at heart as I like to define it. I head three structures, operating in different sectors of activity but all targeting people at the bottom of the pyramid. In 2009, I founded Quickcash, a money transfer service for the rural world. We are now transforming ourselves into an Agency Bank considering the needs and competition observed on the ground. This will allow us to dematerialize traditional banking services in rural villages. I also created Digital Hub, which offers digital services to young and connected customers. Finally, I work since 2014 in a structure dedicated to the agricultural sector, Canaanland. Since 2014, I have also been working in an agricultural sector structure, Canaanland, which provides support for women farmers (70%) and young people (30%). We train them to sustainable farming techniques and organic farming, and we support them in the marketing phase. Within 3 years, we plan to launch 5 franchises in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, which will follow three key principles: 0 deforestation, 0 pesticides and 100% inclusive. Small producers in particular are systematically included in our value chain.

 

Why did you choose the rural sector?

I myself come from the rural world. My parents are farmers, and I worked very early in the village-based business run by my mother. I only discovered Abidjan after my baccalaureate: I found it too modern and it has been difficult to find my place. In my entrepreneurial activities, I naturally turned to what I knew best. When I started my activities, I had not heard of the concept of “social entrepreneurship”. I learned about it for the first time around 2013-2014. I was doing something I loved, period. I have always been immersed in this environment, where people are actually sincere: they are not restricted, they are real.  You see the effort, the energy they give out, even if they are extremely poor.

 

What difficulties did you face as a woman?

Honestly, I didn’t have any problems related to my status as a woman. For me, being a woman is not a problem, it’s even an asset. I consider that this has given me essential skills and qualities to succeed in entrepreneurship: perseverance, the fact that you are the one who gets up a little early, who goes to bed a little late…

Of course, I faced difficulties throughout my career, but they are related to the business, not to the fact I’m a woman. Once again, I think it has rather helped me. Women can handle many things at the same time: the house, the kids. That’s why rural women are my role models: they manage to work in the field, take care of the children, the kitchen, the household… I’ve also heard that women are more passionate and dedicated than men… I don’t know if that’s true, but at least I am a passionate person! What drives me is to offer opportunities to women and young people, especially in rural areas, where there is not much going on. Sometimes we feel that success models are only found in urban areas.

 

An advice to give to (future) women entrepreneurs?

My advice is to get started, because we will never be “fully ready”. There is never a “good time”. We don’t know in 5 years what the new focus will be, but these days you can find training and financing opportunities fully dedicated to women. It is also important to focus on the solutions and not the problems. It’s very valuable to see things in a new perspective and take the leadership. Believe me, you have the skills and resources to get started and succeed!

 

 

Catherine Krobo Edusei

 

Who are you?

I am Ms. Catherine Krobo Edusei, I am 57 years old and I am a managing Director at Eden Tree Limited. Eden Tree is a leading producer and distributor of high-end fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs in Ghana.

 

Did you experience any difficulties because you are a woman? If yes, can you give us some examples?

It was difficult getting finance facility from the banks and venture capital funds at the beginning, for which if I had been a man it would have been possible. I also experienced difficulties working with men from certain tribes due to their outlook on what a Woman’s place should be.

 

Who are / are your model (s)? Why?

Oprah Winfry, Mia Angelou, Yaa Asantewa, Mrs Clinton were and are very strong women not afraid to shatter the glass ceiling. It is true that a woman has to fight twice as much as a man, cause men network in their various clubs, where opportunities are scooped up. So far Women do not do too well regarding networking and sharing opportunities amongst themselves.

 

An advice to (future) women entrepreneurs?

They should give it their all, focus, work hard, believe in themselves and they will not regret it.

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Improving health services through entrepreneurship: the case of the clinic PROCRÉA

Based in Abidjan, the clinic PROCRÉA offers a range of medical services dedicated to reproductive health. Founded in 2008, it stands as the leader in Côte d’Ivoire for medically assisted…

Based in Abidjan, the clinic PROCRÉA offers a range of medical services dedicated to reproductive health. Founded in 2008, it stands as the leader in Côte d’Ivoire for medically assisted reproduction, a technique that allows people who have difficulty having a child to successfully give birth. Popularizing this practice and making it accessible to the greatest number of people is at the heart of the vision of the clinic’s founder and current director, Dr. Myriam Kadio-Morokro BROU. A brief review of her career path, the obstacles she encountered and her motivations.

 

A career dedicated to medicine… and entrepreneurship

At the head of the clinic PROCRÉA, Myriam Kadio-Morokro Brou serves two functions: that of a doctor and that of a company manager. “Basically, I did not see myself working as a civil servant, which is the usual career path for healthcare practitioners in Côte d’Ivoire. Today I combine the two aspects of my activity, both of which fascinate me: practicing my profession as a doctor and managing the clinic as an entrepreneur.”

“I have always believed that entrepreneurship is essential to improve people’s living conditions. It is obvious in the sector of reproduction: it is a research profession, which requires us to move forward with our time and take certain risks”

Myriam Brou pursued her medical studies in Abidjan, where she completed a thesis on the biology of reproduction. She then moved to France to specialize in this area. At the Pierre and Marie Curie Faculty of Medicine, she specialized in reproductive biology, sterility therapy, molecular cytogenetics, and worked in several hospitals and laboratories. But her return to Côte d’Ivoire has always been an evidence:

“There is no reason that such fundamental practices should not be available in Africa! When I returned to Côte d’Ivoire in 2005, I decided to create a fertility center based on the European model but adapted to African realities.”

 

A private initiative with high impact

PROCRÉA’s offer is unique in Côte d’Ivoire, where there are very few local private initiatives in the health sector. This is explained by the fact that the vast majority of Ivorian doctors are civil servants. “Few doctors here have what we could call the “entrepreneurial spirit”, compared for example to Anglophone African countries. It is often difficult for us to find the right profiles, and recruitment is one of our main problems. The training component is essential within our team, which now has about fifty people”.

Specialized in reproductive health, PROCRÉA is working on a controversial subject, linked to many taboos in Côte d’Ivoire and the sub-region. “We are talking of delicate, sometimes intimate issues… which can also challenge certain beliefs. For example, it is still not very well understood that infertility can come from men, especially in rural areas. Mentalities are changing, but it takes time. One thing is sure: the needs are real!”

PROCREA expands access to medically assisted reproduction while guaranteeing the same standards as in North Africa or Europe. The patients are mainly from the middle class, and most of them would not have been able to afford to be treated abroad. The clinic is also looking to make this care accessible to the “lower” classes. The current reflection focuses in particular on microfinance, which could be a way to finance, at least partially, the treatment and follow-up provided by PROCREA.

 

The Clinic PROCRÉA is an interesting example of a private initiative seeking to improve local living conditions and healthcare access. Overcoming certain obstacles linked to the context (taboos, recruitment, financing, etc.), the clinic has become a leader in reproductive, maternal and child health in the past ten years. This success is due to the will of its founder, but also to the relevance of its care offer.

 

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