In Côte d'Ivoire, PhD graduates struggle to find a job

The academic year is coming to an end in Ivory Coast, and the same question arises for all graduates: what to do? On May 10, the small world of research welcomed the decision of the Minister of Higher Education, Adama Diawara, to open 700 new positions for holders of a doctorate

In Côte d'Ivoire, PhD graduates struggle to find a job

The academic year is coming to an end in Ivory Coast, and the same question arises for all graduates: what to do? On May 10, the small world of research welcomed the decision of the Minister of Higher Education, Adama Diawara, to open 700 new positions for holders of a doctorate. That's 25 more positions than planned. A small victory but a victory all the same for the Collective of unrecruited doctors of Côte d'Ivoire (CDNR-CI), which was advocating with the government.

In December 2022, he had organized a march towards the prime minister's office, in the Plateau district, to protest against the low employment opportunities in the public. The police then rounded up 46 people, tried a week later for "disturbing public order" and sentenced, for almost all of them, to four months in prison suspended. At the root of the anger of these unemployed graduates, this astonishing paradox: public establishments are short of teacher-researchers while graduates are struggling to find jobs.

In 2014, a report from the Ministry of Higher Education estimated that Côte d'Ivoire needed 5,000 doctorate holders. No reassessment was made afterwards, but the country has since acquired three new universities… without hiring following. According to the CDNR-CI, 3,000 graduates are currently unemployed. Minister Adama Diawara counts 1,919 of them.

“This crisis is systemic and structural, explains Bogui Diakra, spokesperson for the collective. It comes first from a bad application of the LMD [licence-master-doctorate] system. This system, intended to standardize diplomas throughout the world, came into force in Côte d'Ivoire during the 2012-2013 academic year. Doctoral schools had to be set up at the same time to regulate the flow of incoming doctoral students, so as to avoid the overflow of graduates at the end of the chain.

“Unfortunately, this measure has not been able to see the light of day so far, regrets Bogui Diakra. The plethoric number of students trained under these conditions and the absence of regular and sufficient recruitment have naturally created a record explosion in the number of unemployed doctors in Côte d'Ivoire. »

"Training at a discount"

In addition to the 25 job openings, the CDNR-CI managed in May to extract promises from the government on the centralization and simplification of application submissions, allowing applicants to reduce staggering application fees. Doctoral schools should also be set up during the year, other recruitment campaigns launched in the public service, and proposed reorientations towards secondary education or private universities.

In the long term, it is this last solution which seems to have the favors of the executive, according to the speech delivered on November 21 by Prime Minister Patrick Achi. "Having a doctorate is a choice," he said. Unfortunately, we cannot find positions for all of you. You don't have to do the job you graduated from. You can convert to other things. »

However, the private sector is no more fond of these neo-doctors than the public. Bogui Diakra recognizes a "mismatch between most of the skills acquired in our universities and the Ivorian job market". Nearly 76% of the skills acquired by Ivorian graduates during their training are unusable on the job market, according to a study carried out by the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Microeconomic Development Research Center (Cremide ). And among private recruiters, there is generally no value given to diplomas obtained in an Ivorian university.

In a forthcoming book entitled Retour du campus. Descriptive and analytical chronicle of university unionism in Côte d'Ivoire, Johnson Zamina Kouassi, professor at Félix-Houphouët-Boigny University and secretary general of the National Coordination of Teachers-Researchers and Researchers (CNEC), paints a distressing picture: “Degrees are devalued and devalued nationally and internationally. At the national level, few business leaders offer a first job to graduates from the country's universities because these business leaders doubt the intellectual potential of first-time job seekers. According to them, the university environment contributes to cheap training: the teaching provided (…) does not promote competence and excellence because university institutions no longer meet global academic requirements. »

Professor Kouassi points to the poor quality of education provided in universities, the "plethoric number" of students and the "disturbing obsolescence" of establishments, which lack everything: tables and chairs, blackboards, Internet connection and even to the electrical system. The documentation centers are insufficiently supplied, the laboratories not sufficiently equipped.

An opaque rating system

An observation shared by Cheick Camara, a doctoral student who began his studies in Abidjan before continuing in France, in Clermont-Ferrand. "I was doing a mathematics-computer science degree at the University of Cocody [now Félix-Houphouët-Boigny University], we didn't even touch a computer! We are given lessons to learn, and after that it is up to us to manage. »

To which is added an extremely opaque scoring system, with "additive lists of successful candidates coming out of who knows where", which casts doubt on the probity of the juries. With course notes and reading tips, students exchange the numbers of the "right people" to contact... and to bribe. It is possible to make up for a bad grade by slipping a ticket to the TD manager, or even to hire the services of a young graduate to write his master's thesis or his thesis. “Depending on the complexity of the subject and the length, prices start at 100,000 CFA francs [150 euros], blows a former student, disgusted. Even the teachers do that, except they take more money. It is a very profitable business. »

To escape this formidable mixture of "incompetence, contempt and corruption", Cheick Camara resumed his studies from scratch at the faculty of Clermont-Ferrand, specializing in development economics. Like him, more than 10,600 Ivorian students were on international mobility in 2019, including 63% in France, according to an OECD study, which notes that this number increased by 76% between 2014 and 2019.

Ironically, the government recently took pride in the success of Yassine Sangaré, who at the age of 25 became the youngest doctor of law in Côte d'Ivoire. Forgetting that these brilliant studies were carried out in Morocco, France and the United Kingdom, where the young woman now teaches at the University of Coventry.