Ivory Coast is accelerating investment in schools, hospitals, and jobs in its northern region to provide alternatives to violent extremism, the prime minister said on Monday.
Northern Ivory Coast is far from commercial centres and borders Mali and Burkina Faso, where Islamist groups are active and have increasingly crossed the border to wage attacks.
Recruitment of local youth is a growing concern, Prime Minister Patrick Achi told journalists, adding that the state will beef up border security along with its Western partners.
“There are investments underway in the north to build more schools, hospitals, and industry and to occupy our youth to keep them away from the call of terrorists,” he said.
“Ivory Coast and its partners will be able to face the terrorist threat by strengthening security in the north.”
Groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have expanded their reach in the Sahel region in recent years, recruiting youths who see few other opportunities where state institutions are weak.
Achi said that more than $430 million has been invested in the creation of a dry port in Ferkessedougou, the main town near the northern border, as well as in an integrated agro-industrial centre. The project is part of a series of large investments that will follow in 2022 to boost local processing of cotton and cashews, he said.
President Alassane Ouattara said earlier this year that Ivory Coast would spend 1% of its GDP on equipment to prevent terrorists from entering the country.