Combatting jihadism by investment

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Ivory Coast is accelerating investment in schools, hospitals and jobs in its northern region to provide alternatives to violent extremism, the prime minister said.

Northern Ivory Coast is far from commercial centres and borders Mali and Burkina Faso, where Islamist groups are active and increasingly cross the border to wage attacks.

Recruitment of local youth is a growing concern, Prime Minister Patrick Achi told journalists, adding the state will beef up border security with its Western partners.

“There are investments underway in the north to build more schools, hospitals, and industry and occupy our youth to keep them away from the call of terrorists,” he said.

“Ivory Coast and its partners will face the terrorist threat by strengthening security in the north.”

Groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State expanded their reach in the Sahel region in recent years, recruiting youths who see few opportunities where state institutions are weak.

Achi said more than $430 million was invested in building 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 investments that will follow in 2022 to boost local processing of cotton and cashews, he said.

President Alassane Ouattara said earlier this year Ivory Coast would spend one percent of its GDP on equipment to prevent terrorists entering the country.