Women’s Rights in Côte d'IvoireWomen in Côte d’Ivoire have grappled with gender discriminatory practices for years. Examples include political exclusion, limited access to land and marginalization from high-paying jobs. According to the National Statistics Institute, 75% of rural Ivorian women live below the poverty line. Without access to basic social services, the chances of reaching economic independence are low for these women. Gender constraints highly limit women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire.

4 Facts About Women’s Rights in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Land Rights: The primary source of wealth in Côte d’Ivoire is land as the economy mainly depends on agriculture. About 66% of the land is used for agriculture and 43% of women participate in the agricultural workforce. However, women often lack rights to land due to customary laws that favor males, depriving women of economic empowerment. A lack of access to land also impacts women’s access to credit services that would also help women economically.
  2. Unpaid Care Work: In many societies, women shoulder the burden of household chores and caregiving duties. This is also the case in Côte d’Ivoire. According to U.N. Women, “women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men.” As a consequence, women have less time to participate in paid work and engage in educational opportunities that would help them rise out of poverty.
  3. Fertility Rates: Côte d’Ivoire’s fertility rate is high. In 2019, it averaged 4.6 births per woman. High fertility rates increase health risks for children and their mothers. It also lessens human capital investment, decelerates economic growth and aggravates environmental threats. High fertility rates correlate with inadequate access to family planning methods, low educational attainment and low levels of empowerment. Studies show that, worldwide, more “empowered women desire significantly fewer children” in contrast to less empowered women.
  4. Politics and Education: Women lack a voice within the public, social and political domains. The male-centered culture of Ivorian society does not accept the leadership of women in the public arena. In February 2021, just 11% of Ivorian women held positions as members of parliament. Despite the presence of women in Côte d’Ivoire’s government, women’s electoral weight is limited by minimal female representation so women are unable to hold true decisional power in politics. Moreover, in 2018, 40.5% of women were literate compared to 53.6% of men, putting women at a clear disadvantage.

Upholding Women’s Rights

The Organization of Active Women in Ivory Coast (OFACI) is a non-governmental organization founded in 1999 that focuses on fighting for women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire. Its goals include increasing the literacy of girls and encouraging women’s leadership in social, political and economic environments. By creating programs to educate and support women, OFACI hopes to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination against women. OFACI has 10 observation locations across the country that monitor and report on women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire on a monthly basis. The organization has recently been pushing for, at minimum, a 30% representation of women in politics.

Recent progress in the country includes a marriage bill that was approved by the Council of Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire in 2019. Its main goal is to legislate equality between men and women in marriage through specific provisions. These solutions include new rules for the nullity of marriage, inheritance rights and marital property distribution. Another aim of the bill is to increase the age of legal marriage. This legislative progress provides hope for women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire.

UN Women Shea Butter Program

Another example of an innovative program that targets women’s empowerment is a climate-smart agricultural program launched by U.N. Women in Côte d’Ivoire in 2017. The program, funded by the Government of Japan, seeks to empower rural women in the shea butter production sector. The traditional method used to produce shea butter requires intense labor. The resulting product fails to meet international quality standards so the women who work in this field struggle to make high profits. Since October 2017, U.N. Women trained 300 women on improved production practices and upgraded equipment in manufacturing facilities to meet international standards. The program also assisted women in the shea butter industry with financing and market access.

Despite the discrimination against women in Côte d’Ivoire, change is coming. NGOs and the government are stepping up to ensure greater equality among women and men and uphold the rights of women in the country.

– Virginia Arena
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire
Female genital mutilation is the process of partially or totally removing the external female genitalia, and is a violation of the human rights of women and girls around the globe. While many strive to ban this non-medical practice, FGM still has a grip on many countries. One such country where FGM is prevalent is Côte d’Ivoire. Here is some information regarding the practice of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the measures to eradicate it.

Female Genital Mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, is a country located along the south coast of West Africa. With a population of about 25 million, FGM practices affect approximately 36.7% of women ages 15-67, the highest prevalence being 60% to 75% among the ethnic groups of the northwest regions of Nord, Nord-Ouest and Ouest. However, girls and women of all ages and from all different regions of Côte d’Ivoire are at risk of FGM.

The prevalence of female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire stems from two reasons, the first being social and cultural traditions. Those who perform the actual cut are typically the older women that make it their living and perform the procedure without anesthesia and the use of medical facilities. Pressure for older girls to undergo FGM often takes place when the prospective husband and his family will not accept a bride that has not experienced it.

The second reason for FGM’s prevalence in Côte d’Ivoire traces back to the large migrant population coming in and out of the country. Many migrants originate from countries where there is little to no legal action against FGM, such as the border nations of Guinea and Mali. The frequent crossing of borders attributes to the high percentages of women and girls who experience FGM in the northwest regions.

Harms of Female Genital Mutilation

Of the four major types of FGM that the World Health Organization (WHO) identified, Côte d’Ivoire practices Type 2. There are no health benefits to any type of FGM, as the non-medical practice mutilates a normal organ of a woman’s body. Instead, FGM harms those who undergo the procedure, and the victims become increasingly at risk to develop health complications in the present moment or in the future. Women and girls who experience FGM largely suffer from the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Infection
  • Urinary and vaginal problems
  • Childbirth complications

Steps Against Female Genital Mutilation

The government of  Côte d’Ivoire created legislation targeting the practice of FGM. Article 5 of the Constitution of Côte d’Ivoire prohibits “female genital mutilation as well as any other forms of degradation of human beings.” Law No. 98-757 of 23 December 1998 criminalized the practice of FGM in all forms, which includes actions by medical professionals and by those who aid in its performance.

Since the creation of Law No. 98-757, few people who practice FGM have experienced prosecution. The Ministry for Women and the Protection of the Child and Solidarity is a major government authority in Côte d’Ivoire. It protects the country’s women and girls and ensures equality in economic, social and cultural areas. From 2008-2012, the government put a National Action Plan in place that protects women and girls from sexual violence, including FGM. Since the National Action Plan’s end, there have been no new talks to implement a new plan.

Looking Ahead

While more work is necessary to completely end female genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire and the Ivory Coast, the work of those advocating to end FGM is making a difference in the local communities. Many are starting to see the harms that the practice inflicts. Small steps are still steps toward a brighter future for the women and girls affected.

– Grace Ingles
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Cote d'Ivoire
The West African country of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, is home to approximately 26 million people. The country is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans, and it boasts beautiful beaches and wildlife preserves. It is also the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. The country has shown resilience as well as growth and development over the past decade. Côte d’Ivoire is among the fastest-growing countries in the world, with an economy that has expanded an average of 8% annually since 2011. So, with all this advancement, why does 46.3% of the population still live below the poverty line? Here are three main causes of poverty in Côte d’Ivoire.

3 Main Causes of Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Gender Inequalities: The maternal mortality rate in Côte d’Ivoire is 645 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is significant compared to the U.S. and Italy which suffer 14 and 2 deaths per 100,000 live births respectively. Additionally, only 42% of girls complete secondary school in Côte d’Ivoire compared to 55.5% of boys. Because women make up about half of the world’s population, it is proven that empowering women through better healthcare, education and social opportunity increases the standard of living as well as providing a significant boost in economic productivity for the entire population. Côte d’Ivoire has recognized a need for change, and revolutionary legislation emerged in the new 2016 constitution. This created legal imperatives to eliminate all forms of violence against women and promote their voices and representation in an elected assembly. Although much work is necessary, legal protection for women is a huge step in the right direction.
  2. Public Health: Even though infrastructure has improved in recent years since the 2002 civil war, healthcare systems have struggled in Côte d’Ivoire. There are about 0.2 doctors and 0.5 hospital beds per 1,000 patients. Tuberculosis and malaria are also significant health threats with reports of two million cases of malaria in 2012. However, the biggest healthcare challenge the country faces is HIV/AIDS. The disease affects 6% of the population and has left 320,000 children orphaned as of 2018, which means Côte d’Ivoire has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in West Africa. On the upside, the government has made important financial commitments to help combat the spread of disease. Not only has domestic funding for HIV/AIDS been increased to $10 million, but the government is also working to reduce or eliminate medical fees, a significant barrier to testing and treatment.
  3. Fluctuations in Export Prices: Cocoa, coffee and palm oil are incredibly important exports for Côte d’Ivoire. Nearly two-thirds of the population work in farming or agriculture. Increased prices as well as fluctuations in weather and insect activity can greatly affect the year to year success and productivity of Ivorians, which impinges on livelihoods. Recently, 800,000 Ivorian farmers living in rural areas—about half of whom are female—have benefited from the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP). This program contributed agricultural processing equipment and provided an average of 22% increase in the household income for the farmers.

The Good News

Although people are struggling, much positive change is coming to Côte d’Ivoire including developments in farming and agriculture, medical innovations and increased education for women. The country is achieving aid through domestic reform as well as international aid. These efforts are helping the people of Côte d’Ivoire out of extreme poverty and increasing the standard of living.

Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Côte d'IvoireFollowing the conclusion of a civil war in 2011, the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, has experienced economic growth rates averaging around 8% per year. Despite its growth, the nation still struggles with endemic poverty and hunger. It ranks 165 out of 188 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Under President Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire has focused on the economy and the middle class, launching an ambitious National Development Plan in order to transform Côte d’Ivoire into a middle-income economy by 2020. Ouattara’s government has also made some strides to combat severe hunger in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly regarding child care. Côte d’Ivoire’s fast economic growth is admirable. However, it is also crucial to understand the problems afflicting the world’s most vulnerable people, such as hunger, and not just economic growth.

7 Facts About Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Côte d’Ivoire has been successful in combating one of the worst consequences of widespread hunger: stunted growth in childhood. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of stunting and wasting for children under the age of five dropped to 21.6% and 6.1%, respectively. The average rates for developing countries are 25% and 8.9%.
  2. Another area of progress in combating hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is in promoting the exclusive use of breastfeeding for babies. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of exclusive breastfeeding rose from 12% to 23.5%
  3. The World Food Programme (WFP) has worked with the Ivoirian government to combat hunger in Côte d’Ivoire at the childhood level. The WFP distributes school and take-home meals at primary schools across Côte d’Ivoire. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the organization was set to expand its coverage to 125,000 schoolchildren in insecure zones. 
  4. Côte d’Ivoire has also experienced success in fighting severe food insecurity. This issue had previously disappeared from the country before returning in 2019. The overall food insecurity rate has declined from 12.8% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2018.
  5. Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire employs over half of the labor force and takes up 84% of the arable land. Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire largely grow cash crops, such as cocoa. (Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world.) A successful harvest is vital for Ivoirians to be able to feed their families. To that end, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has distributed agricultural kits throughout the country in an effort to improve productivity and competitiveness.
  6. Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is significantly impacted by the fact that 46% of people in Côte d’Ivoire live below the poverty line ($1.22 per day). Poverty is concentrated in the North and the West, which are more rural and insecure. Food insecurity is a bigger issue in these areas. It is more difficult to implement food distribution and agricultural aid programs there.
  7. The WFP gave Côte d’Ivoire a Global Hunger Index of 25.9 which indicates a “serious” problem. Such a ranking stems from the triple threat of malnutrition, undernutrition and overnutrition. Overnutrition is a newer problem that disproportionately affects the adult women population. However, malnutrition and undernutrition in Côte d’Ivoire have deep roots in food insecurity. The issues stem from a high dependency on the quality of the local harvest and a widespread lack of support among small farmers for food crop production.

While poverty and hunger in Côte d’Ivoire remain endemic, the government and a variety of international organizations have made significant progress in their struggle. This is particularly true at the childhood level. Developing market competitiveness and advancing economic growth is necessary. However, it is important to assist those who need the most help, like those who experience severe hunger and malnutrition.

Franklin Nossiter
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in Côte d'IvoireTuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial illness spread through breathing contaminated air droplets from an infected individual. TB is also transferable by drinking unpasteurized milk containing Mycobacterium bovis, or Bovine Tuberculosis. The bacterium primarily affects the lungs, which is known as pulmonary TB. More than 90% of individuals with TB have a latent form and do not experience overwhelming symptoms. With tuberculosis being one of the leading causes of death in Côte d’Ivoire, the government is making numerous efforts to help those with the illness. The health agencies in Côte d’Ivoire, using assistance from the government and other countries, are mitigating the spread of TB through medicine, proper healthcare and bringing awareness to the communities. Here are five facts about the rising issue of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire.

5 Facts About Tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. More than 8,000 people died from tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018. In addition, there were 36,000 reported cases of TB. While active efforts are being made to try and control the spread of TB, the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire struggle to afford treatment, healthcare and testing. With over 46% of the population living in poverty, it is difficult for most of them to find access to hospitals and testing centers. TB is highly endemic in Côte d’Ivoire, meaning it is extremely prevalent within many of the impoverished Ivorian communities. For every 100,000 citizens, 23 of them will die from tuberculosis. Among those 100,000 citizens, more than 148 of them will be diagnosed with a form of TB. It is increasingly important that a global effort is made to bring awareness to this illness and help the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire receive proper medical treatment. Thankfully, the transmission of TB has been on the decline within the past few years. In 2000, 367 people per 100,000 citizens of Côte d’Ivoire were diagnosed with TB. This contrasts 2018 in which less than half the number of citizens were diagnosed (only 142 per 100,000 individuals).
  2. There are multiple factors that lead to the spread of tuberculosis. TB can be spread through Côte d’Ivoire by living in poverty, existing in a post-war environment and having HIV/AIDS. Ivorian citizens living in impoverished circumstances suffer from malnutrition and weakened immune systems. This makes contracting TB far easier for those with an inferior healthcare system and little access to basic resources. Living in poverty also means less access to tests for TB, which makes it hard to know who is infected. The war-torn climate of the country weakens the healthcare system. This causes a wider outbreak of TB with fewer people being treated. Political unrest and violence also force citizens to escape to other parts of the country. The emigration of families moving from northern cities to rural settlements in the south of Côte d’Ivoire increases the spread of TB while limiting immediate access to healthcare. Abidjan is one major city that faces overwhelming cases of tuberculosis. HIV/AIDS renders immune systems weak and increases individuals’ susceptibility to TB. The comorbidity between HIV and TB in Côte d’Ivoire is extremely high. In 2018, more than 7,000 of the 36,000 citizens with TB were also treated for HIV/AIDS. The Ivorian Ministry of Health (MOH) works with organizations like Measure Evaluation to track the spread of diseases like HIV and TB and increase testing in high-risk areas. The efforts have so far been successful.
  3. There are currently four treatments for tuberculosis. As of 2020, there are four recognized medicinal treatments for TB: Isoniazid (INH), Rifampin (RMP), Pyrazinamide (PZA) and Ethambutol (EMB). These medicines must be taken for three to nine months as directed by a medical professional. This ensures that the bacterium is killed. Skipping a dose, because of inaccessibility to a prescription or otherwise, causes a tuberculosis infection to come back stronger. While most forms of TB are curable with medicine, Côte d’Ivoire is plagued with strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis. In 2018, there were more than 2,000 individuals with a drug-resistant type of tuberculosis (DR-TB). These individuals are harder to treat since any known medicine is ineffective against the strain of TB. Luckily, 82% of people who are treated for tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire recover successfully. With the help of well-trained medical professionals and funding from other countries, the government of Côte d’Ivoire can better treat and identify those with TB.
  4. Tuberculosis is primarily observed in young men. Men ages 20-40 years old experience TB more frequently than any other demographic. Most of these men are working-class and have little education. Because men are also frequently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Côte d’Ivoire, they are at a greater risk for contracting TB. As the rates of HIV/AIDS increase in the male population (a 3:1 sex ratio), the tuberculosis infection rates have also increased.
  5. World organizations and other countries have greatly aided in treating and ending the spread of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire. With help from NGOs and world health outreach programs, TB in Côte d’Ivoire has decreased. In 2007, TB was the 7th leading cause of death, however, a decade later in 2017, TB has dropped to the 8th leading cause of death in Côte d’Ivoire.

One important organization is The Stop TB Partnership. By pairing government agencies with other foundations, research agencies and private sector resources, this organization aims to create a TB-free world. In 2014, various partners met with specialists from the Programme National de Lutte contre la Tuberculose to design a national committee tasked with controlling and treating tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire. The members of these groups were responsible for designing a plan for infection control, allocating monetary and human resources and outlining the structure of the new committee. Through this workshop, the anti-TB program in Côte d’Ivoire established clear strategies for tackling the problem of tuberculosis. Stop TB developed oversight committees, regulations for how resources are spent and a plan for reducing the spread of TB.

According to the United Nations, Côte d’Ivoire is on the way to reaching various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The U.N. is actively helping Côte d’Ivoire eradicate illnesses like HIV, malaria and TB by the year 2030 through free doctor visits and accessible medicine.

It is crucial that the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire receive the proper treatment and financial assistance to help them overcome the tuberculosis endemic. It is imperative that those diagnosed with this illness are immediately identified and properly treated. With strategic planning, proper funding and extensive training for medical professionals, the infection rate of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire is expected to decrease in the coming years.

– Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire, a tropical destination nestled in the south-western coast of Africa, is home to 22 million people who struggle to access clean water and sanitation facilities. The sanitation practices and systems in Côte d’Ivoire have faced setbacks from political instability and rapid urbanization. With the help of international aid, the country can increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities. By repairing infrastructure and reallocating funds, the sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire is on track to be up to par in the foreseeable future.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. The sanitation crisis in Côte d’Ivoire is partly due to political unrest. Since the Second Ivorian Civil War in 2011, the country has experienced unrest that has pushed sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire to the bottom of the political agenda. Because of the sociopolitical crisis, large numbers of people have fled to settlements where there is little access to purified water or clean bathrooms. This displacement, paired with immigration from bordering countries like Ghana, caused the sewage systems and water purifying plants in Côte d’Ivoire to become overwhelmed and even harder to fix.
  2. Almost half of the population struggles to access clean water. In Côte d’Ivoire, 35% of individuals living in rural settlements do not have access to clean drinking water. Around 9 million people in the country are unable to reach a sanitation facility that houses bathrooms, showers, and places to purify water. Côte d’Ivoire is working to improve this; in 2010, only 14 million citizens had access to safe drinking water, but in 2015, more than 16 million people had access to basic drinking water.
  3. The sewage and water sanitation systems are outdated and neglected. Because of the ongoing political distress, important maintenance of sanitation systems has fallen by the wayside. In 2016, The World Bank started the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project, providing Côte d’Ivoire with a $50 million credit. Regular upkeep of water purifying plants and sewage pipes is crucial to public health.
  4. Tainted water supplies affect infants. One study found that E.coli fervently contaminates infant formula when areas store municipal water rather than treating it immediately. Around 41% of households in the study appeared to have E.coli present in the water they used for infants’ formula, increasing the infant mortality rate. Fortunately, since 2010, the infant mortality rate in Côte d’Ivoire has decreased from 107.2 per 1,000 births to 80.9 per 1,000 births.
  5. Contaminated drinking water increases water-borne illness. Many people must seek unsafe alternatives in the absence of properly cleaned water. Drinking or using contaminated water to cook can cause cholera, dysentery, typhoid and giardia, to name a few. Public health depends on government action to improve the sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire, which includes providing access to clean drinking water.
  6. The inaccessibility of clean water disproportionately affects women. Women and girls are typically responsible for bringing clean water to their homes. Because they must walk long distances alone to fetch water, they face an increased risk of others abducting or harassing them along their route. Girls also forfeit attending school because 0f this responsibility. According to the UNDP, the school enrollment rate for girls is 33% in comparison to a 45% enrollment rate for boys.
  7. Two of the country’s top 10 leading causes of death are a result of poor sanitation. Malaria and diarrheal diseases are two of the leading causes of death in Côte d’Ivoire. The lack of access to working bathroom facilities has caused many citizens to defecate outside, leaving cesspools for mosquitoes to breed and spread malaria. Drinking contaminated drinking water causes diarrheal infections.
  8. Côte d’Ivoire launched a team to tackle the sanitation issue. In November 2019, the Minister of Hygiene and Sanitation established a brigade of workers to help cities build working sewage systems and accessible sanitation facilities. The country is employing SODECI and other sanitation companies to clean up the community by picking up litter, cleaning gutters and cutting grass; they also encourage people to keep the area around where they live and warn of illegally dumping into water supplies.
  9. Many organizations work to help sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire. Habitat for Humanity has mobilized hundreds of workers to install water pumps and teach locals how to maintain them. USAID researches sustainable technology, develops prototypes and creates working models for new technology such as double pit latrines. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) monitor and track the spread of various illnesses related to poor sanitation and provide funding to governments to help with these issues.
  10. Côte d’Ivoire received millions of dollars during COVID-19 to help with the sanitation crisis. In May 2020, The World Bank agreed on a $35 million credit to allow the government of Côte d’Ivoire to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit will help the government install water treatment plants, restructure sewage systems and provide access to clean water and other resources needed to maintain proper hygiene.

Although these facts show Côte d’Ivoire’s sanitation challenges, they also indicate some of the initiatives to develop the country’s sanitation. The sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire should improve greatly throughout the next few years and continue beyond if aid from the international community and other organizations persists.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Digital Cash Transfers in Cote d’IvoireCote d’Ivoire had been consumed by civil conflict at the beginning of the century. However, the conflict ended in 2011, soon after the election of Alassane Ouattara. Since then, Cote d’Ivoire has been one of the fastest-growing countries in the world. However, its growth has failed to reach large portions of the population as the country still struggles with a 46.1 percent poverty rate while an additional 17.6 percent of the population lives on the edge of poverty. In 2014, the World Bank Group started working to initiate digital cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire to assist the poorest and most disconnected.

The Rise of Mobile Money in Cote d’Ivoire

From 2012 to 2018, the number of active mobile money users grew from less than 1 million to more than 9 million. Of note, the number of mobile cellular subscribers increased from 18.1 million to 33.81 million during the same time frame. With a population of less than 28 million, it is evident how popular the use of technology is becoming in the country. Ivorians have adapted to using mobile money for several reasons:

  • Person-to-person cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire are easy to operate.
  • Due to high fees and the historic failure of several banks in the country, more Ivorians are turning away from licensed financial institutions. In 2017, 34 percent of Ivorians had mobile money accounts compared to 15 percent with bank accounts.
  • There is a rising trend in the digitalization of secondary school feels.
  • Migrants are digitally transferring remittances back home.
  • Paying bills digitally is growing.

How the Cash Transfer Program Works

According to the World Bank, the program operates as follows: “(i) a targeting system for cash transfers; (ii) a social protection household registry; (iii) a cash transfer payment system using digital mobile money technology; and (iv) management information system and capacity-building.”

For the actual transferring of money, the government of Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with the digital financial service organization, Orange. The Account of the Ministry of Social Protection sends a wire transfer to Orange. Then, it creates e-money and puts it into the digital accounts of the intended recipients. The recipients can then access and use their money electronically or cash-out.

Initial Constraints of the Program

Despite the widespread use of mobile devices in the country, there are a few issues with the implementation of the program. Many beneficiaries already owned mobile phones. However, others are given a device through which the program struggled to adapt. Financial literacy has been another issue as some beneficiaries are unsure about how much to withdraw and how much to save. Moreover, the lack of understanding of the importance of the PIN number resulted in some beneficiaries sharing sensitive information, thus compromising their accounts. Regulatory issues such as the requirement of a state-issued ID also created challenges in ensuring beneficiaries are eligible to continue to receive their transfers.

Successes of the Program

Peer-to-peer and community-oriented training focus on increasing knowledge surrounding the operation of devices and building awareness about security best practices with accounts. Those without a proper state-issued ID have been informed on how to obtain one. In addition, exemptions have been provided which allow beneficiaries to designate a trusted transfer recipient within the household or community. This led to 100 percent of beneficiaries receiving their payments in 2018.

By going digital, administrative and transactional costs are limited. As of April 2019, 300,000 poor individuals have benefitted from the program, more than half of whom are women. Additionally, as of the same date, 720,000 individuals have been registered with the social program’s registry. This expands the number of potential future social program beneficiaries.

Overall, the implementation of cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire is an excellent example of how technology can assist those who are most financially vulnerable and most disconnected from the rest of society.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Building Schools Using Recycled Plastics
Education in Cote d’Ivoire continues to be a major challenge in the country which has had a literacy rate of 53.02 percent among 15 to 24-year-olds as of 2014. In fact, more than 2 million children are out of school due to a lack of infrastructure. Classrooms are often full beyond capacity with more than 100 students. Fortunately, West Africa is building schools using recycled plastics as a ground-breaking initiative to change the status quo.

The Fighting Women

Abidjan, a city in Cote d’Ivoire, produces about 288 tons of plastic waste every day. The country recycles only 5 percent of the waste, and when it is, it is usually women that do so informally. These women recover the waste and use it to make money.

A women’s group called The Fighting Women makes a living from collecting plastic and selling it for recycling. However, The Fighting Women is now a part of a project that will not only clean up the environment but will also help improve education. The Fighting Women is an organization of 200 women that collect plastic. A woman named Mariam Coulibaly runs the organization and she has been collecting trash for 20 years. Coulibaly’s organizational skills are what made the project possible. The plastic that these women collect go into bricks in order to build schools.

Conceptos Plasticos

UNICEF in Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with Conceptos Plasticos, a for-profit plastic recycling Colombian company that will turn plastic to bricks and build schools for children. This project will help reduce the issue of overcrowded classrooms and give children the opportunity to attend school.

In 2018, the first African recycled plastic classroom emerged in Gonzagueville. It only took five days to build this classroom as opposed to the nine months it would take to build traditional classrooms. In addition, within the first year, two small farming villages, Sakassou and Divo, constructed nine demonstration classrooms. These new classrooms included bricks that are cheaper and lighter than traditional ones, and also last longer.

Before the new plastic classrooms, children would go to school in traditional mud-brick and wood buildings. The mud-brick would erode from the sun and rain, and require repairs constantly. However, the newly built plastic classrooms are way better and longer-lasting. The classrooms are fire retardant and stay cool in warm weather. In addition, the classrooms are waterproof, have excellent insulation and can fight off the heavy wind. UNICEF and Conceptos Plasticos are planning to build 500 classrooms for more than 25,000 children with the most urgent need in the next two years.

Further Success of the Project

On July 29, 2019, a plastic converting factory opened in Cote d’Ivoire, which is also the first of its kind. This factory produces easy to assemble, durable and low-cost bricks others can use to build classrooms. The factory will solve a lot of major education challenges that children in West Africa face. According to UNICEF, kindergarteners from poor areas will be able to join classrooms with less than 100 students for the first time. Once the factory is fully functioning, it will recycle 9,600 tons of plastic waste a year and provide a source of income for women that collect trash. Moreover, there are plans to expand this project to other countries where there is a high percentage of children that are out of school.

Now, children are able to sit comfortably in classes that were once too overcrowded. This project of building schools using recycled plastics has not only constructed classrooms, but it has also reduced plastic waste in the environment. Although there is still a large number of children out of schools, this innovative project to help build schools in West Africa has been tremendously successful and has impacted the lives of many women and children.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Industrialization of the Ivory CoastAlthough the Ivory Coast has a high poverty rate of 46 percent, its gross domestic product growth rate ranked number 10 out of 224 countries. High GDP growth implies increased productivity, which also leads to industrialization. The Industrial Revolution caused productivity to skyrocket along with mass industrialization and thus brought the poverty rate down. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast might be the key to eliminating the high poverty rate.

The Current Economy of the Ivory Coast

Rising prices of cocoa in 2018 and increased crop production marked a positive turn for the Ivory Coast since at least two-thirds of its population works in the agricultural industry. The Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa. Although the amount of cocoa in the market surprised even analysts, the Ivory Coast must still transition from agriculture into manufacturing and service industries. This follows the same pattern of evolution that the U.S. and Japan took as they were industrialized. The transitional period will be long and gradual as industrialization is a major change to an economy.

To sustain one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the government is investing more than $7 billion in infrastructure between 2018 and 2023. Most of the investment was directed to the capital and major port city Abidjan. “We want to be an emerging country but to achieve that, we will need high-quality infrastructure to support the economy,” states Amede Koffi Kouakou, Minister of Economic Infrastructure. Kouakou explains work must be done to fix the roads damaged by floods. A train network and bridges to Abidjan are other investments currently underway. The roads are in poor condition. However, an infrastructure boom is a sign that the country is prepared to become an emerging economy.

The Benefits of Industrialization

Japan presents an industrialization success story. From the 1880s to 1970, Japan grew rapidly and became a powerful economic leader by the 1980s. Japan is now highly developed and is the third-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, just behind the European Union and the United States. The process of becoming one of the most powerful economies took enormous effort and focused on infrastructures, such as building roads, schools and hospitals. Japan decreased its poverty rate from an unusually high number, the exact figure is unknown, to 16 percent as of 2013. In comparison, the U.S. has a poverty rate of about 15 percent. Ultimately, the progress Japan made originated with industrialization.

Job creation would be a major benefit of the industrialization of the Ivory Coast. Poor farmers flock to jobs and receive training. In turn, they become a valuable asset to companies and the particular industry. Another benefit is the advancement in farming equipment and machinery. These advancements will increase productivity and improve the quality of crops. This results in a more automated agricultural industry where machines do the arduous work and leave extra income to buy products and services.

“In developed countries, economic growth is driven by industrialization underpinned by strong manufacturing. We need to engage African leaders and policymakers to promote industrialization on the continent if we are to accelerate Africa’s transition into a middle-income continent,” states Joseph Mungarulire, director-general of the National Industrial Research and Development Agency in Rwanda. Mungarulire explains that Africa is mostly supported by agriculture, not industry, which leads to slow industrialization and high poverty.

A Pre-Requisite for Industrialization

Industrialization of the Ivory Coast must begin with a strong, stable government that welcomes private investment whether abroad or within its borders. Thankfully, China sees opportunity in investing in Africa. By 2018, China had invested more than $60 billion in Africa. Part of this investment is for building railroads, a simple but life-changing idea that brings jobs and people, just as it did in the U.S. from the 1830s to 1860s. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast, along with investments by the public and private sector, might be the solution to reduce poverty in the country.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

treating hiv in west and central africa
As of 2017, 1.8 million adolescents around the world are living with HIV. This accounts for five percent of total HIV cases. Approximately 1.5 million, or 85 percent, of these adolescents, live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of this, 61 percent live in Eastern and Southern Africa and 24 percent live in West and Central Africa. The region with the second-highest HIV rates for adolescents in the world is West and Central Africa. Ending HIV in West and Central Africa requires strong national and international efforts to protect and treat children and adults.

One of the largest problems in the region is a lack of HIV testing. According to Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, a majority of children living with HIV are not receiving the proper care because they have never been tested and do not know they have the disease.

One way to resolve this is to ensure testing is being done at primary health facilities in communities, with a family-centered approach. It is equally important to increase testing and treatment for pregnant women. Only 47 percent of pregnant women with HIV in West and Central Africa were able to use antiretroviral medicines, which prevent transmission to the unborn child.

Gender Matters

Among adolescents, there are often gender disparities in HIV infections. In many parts of the world—including South Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa—more boys than girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were newly infected in 2017. Whereas in West, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa significantly more girls than boys were infected. In West and Central Africa, 66 percent of the new were girls, while only 34 percent were boys.

Women and girls in this region are particularly at risk of HIV because of cultural, social and economic inequalities. They are less likely to attend school. Girls that are uneducated are twice as likely to become infected with HIV than girls who have attended school. Additionally, uneducated girls are at a greater risk for partner violence, increasing the risk for HIV.

Access to healthcare is also a significant issue. Women’s inability to see a healthcare provider prevents life-saving testing and treatments. Approximately 50 percent of girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are not allowed to make personal health decisions.

International Efforts

Ending HIV has long been a focus of international humanitarian organizations. Recently, with the increased focus on preventing HIV infections among adolescents, UNAIDS created ALL IN! This collaboration improves knowledge about HIV, as well as how it can be prevented and treated. The goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020, aiming for ending the epidemic by 2030.

UNAIDS reports that HIV has already decreased in some of the most severely affected countries due to the adoption of safer sexual practices by adolescents. Often, school is crucial to providing the necessary sex education.

Efforts to reduce HIV in West and Central Africa is not only being done by international organizations such as UNAIDS; governments and their partners are taking initiatives to better prevent and treat HIV in youth and adults.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the government made the decision to stop charging people for HIV testing and treatment services. Fees have long been a barrier for those who live in poverty. Currently, only 46 percent of those in Côte d’Ivoire living with HIV were accessing treatment. Hopefully, this initiative will begin to increase this number, helping nearly half a million people.

Treatments and Strategies

Those who are at a high risk of HIV in West and Central Africa but have not yet contracted the disease can take the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen. A pilot study is taking place in Burkina Faso, focusing on providing this preventative treatment to the most vulnerable. This includes homosexual men, who often avoid medical treatment due to the stigma surrounding their sexuality.

Once the study, which began at the end of 2018, is completed the plan is to expand PrEP across the nation and, eventually, the entire region. Benjamin Sana, a participant in this pilot study, is thankful for the treatment and believes that PrEP has the potential to save lives.

In response to a new survey, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president led the development of a Revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework for 2019 to 2021. Since 2010, Nigeria has tripled the number of people who receive HIV treatment and adopted an effected test and treat policy in 2016.

The new strategy aims to ensure services are being delivered to the people who need them the most, even in remote areas with less health care access. One of their primary goals is to ensure that no more children are born with HIV in Nigeria, according to the president.

These efforts in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, as well as other countries in the region, will hopefully have a significant impact on the future of HIV in West and Central Africa, saving thousands of lives.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr