Côte d’Ivoire is a young country whose economy is strongly reliant on its natural resources, which are mainly agricultural (cocoa, coffee, cotton, palm oil and rubber), and mining. However, despite strong prospects for economic growth, the country evidences significant social inequality, with more than 42 per cent of the population below the poverty line and more than 60 per cent unemployed or working in the informal sector.
In addition, 38 per cent of the population is under 18 years of age. They live primarily in rural areas and no efficient higher education model exists to meet the demand. The current model fails to offer: (i) higher education that can meet the needs of the productive sector and improve students’ living conditions; and (ii) an educational model that maximizes the opportunities for the most vulnerable segment of the population to access higher education (currently less than 20 per cent attend universities).
Towards a Solution
Seeking to contribute to Côte d’Ivoire’s sustainable social development and economic growth through higher technological education, the Minuto de Dios University (UNIMINUTO) cooperated with an Eudist faith-based organization, Jesus and Mary Congregation in Côte d’Ivoire. Based on its previous academic experience in Colombia, the university sought to identify the availability, quality, accessibility and relevance of higher education to the country’s social and economic needs. UNIMINUTO found that Côte d’Ivoire’s current higher education system was not adequate to counter strong social and gender inequalities or efficient enough to address high unemployment, which leaves the majority of people no choice but to work in the informal sector.
In this context, UNIMINUTO proposed to establish the Institution Universitaire Technologique Eudiste d’Afrique (the Eudist technology university of Africa, IUTEA) based on the UNIMINUTO model applied in Colombia. This model will provide concrete solutions to the above challenges through:
- Balanced learning: education that fosters principles and values with a focus on social responsibility;
- Practical training: a balance between theory, practice, adaptation and use of laboratories and technologies; and
- Relevant and diversified training programmes aligned with the strategic sectors defined by the Government and the productive sector with specializations in various areas of knowledge.
To launch this project and strengthen the relationship between both governments, APC-Colombia provided support for meetings among institutions from the Ivorian and the Colombian Governments. Participants included Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, APC’Colombia, the Colombian Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs, Côte d’Ivoire’s Primacy and Vice Presidency, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and foreign institutions such as the Italian Episcopal Conference.
IUTEA seeks to develop educational opportunities for people, without distinction by race, sex, social class or religion, who do not have access to higher education because of quotas that affect their acceptance to public universities and the high costs of private ones. Additionally, IUTEA promotes the development of continuous training projects through Certificates of Professional Aptitude (CAPs) for people without secondary education who need to develop work skills and productive projects. Finally, IUTEA aims to develop research projects that can contribute to social development and economic growth and are related to the following areas: entrepreneurship, social innovation, food sovereignty and overcoming poverty through a solidarity economy.
Thank to resources provided through triangular cooperation among Italy, Colombia and Côte dIvoire, IUTEA was built in the Yopougon-Abijan district and the academic programmes were developed (eight in agroecology, administration, computing and civil constructions, offering four undergraduate degrees and four higher technical programmes). Additionally, 47 Ivorian teachers were trained to become IUTEA professors through the Virtual Course of Teaching in Higher Education. IUTEA obtained all the authorizations needed to open the university and initiate teaching activities in February 2018.
The project hired a local administrative work team; eight students from the first year of general education began their training at IUTEA; and 147 people were trained in agroecology courses-workshops on urban agriculture with recyclable materials.
If other countries are to replicate or adapt the UNIMINUTO model, their social, educational and economic contexts need to be similar to Colombia’s. Any entity that seeks support for the partial or total transfer of the UNIMINUTO model must:
- share the vision of UNIMINUTO in combating poverty and creating social inclusion;
- participate actively to build local capacity;
- demonstrate a high social awareness, particularly regarding principles of good governance, transparency and the optimization of available resources;
- have enough resources to finance the technical assistance; and