Engaging multinational enterprises on job creation for young women and men in Cote d’Ivoire

As the economy of Côte d’Ivoire slowly recovers after a long period of crisis, building a bright future for the young generation is crucial. The increasing number of multinational enterprises (MNEs) operating in the country are a promising yet largely untapped source for local job creation. Until now, jobs have been mainly filled by foreigners due to limited skilled labour available locally. The ILO provides assistance to the government, employers and workers organizations to address the situation by engaging MNEs on this national priority.

Fostering a partnership approach

Building on the recommendations of the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration), the ILO is providing technical assistance to Côte d’Ivoire since 2010 by fostering a public-private partnership approach to addressing one of the major challenge the country is facing: youth unemployment. The ILO intervention and assistance comprises data collection, dialogue facilitation, assistance for the formulation of joint action plans and their implementation.

Building a solid knowledge base

In 2010 the ILO surveyed approximately 30 multinational enterprises identifying ways in which they could through their business activities generate more and better jobs for local youth, both in their own operations and along their supply chains. The study was conducted in the framework of a UNIDO-ILO Youth Employment project financed by the Government of Japan. It aimed at encouraging the positive contribution of multinational enterprises to national economic and social development along the principles of the MNE Declaration, while at the same time ensuring that MNEs benefit through enhanced longer-term competitiveness and sustainability. This study entitled “Promouvoir la création d’emplois pour les jeunes dans les entreprises multinationales et leurs chaînes d’approvisionnement” looked specifically at employment creation prospects in the four economic sectors that were attracting most of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Côte d’Ivoire, namely agriculture and agri-business, banking, mining, and telecommunications.

Employers taking the lead: the Task Force on Youth Employment Promotion and Responsible Investment

The findings and recommendations of the study were presented to representatives of the MNEs, who subsequently established a multi-stakeholder Task Force on Youth Employment Promotion and Responsible Investment under the leadership of the Confédération Générale des Entreprises de Côte d’Ivoire, CGE-CI. This Task Force - comprising of representatives of MNEs, training and research institutions, universities and government institutions responsible for youth employment - ensured concrete follow-up to the recommendations of the study.

And a high level commitment from all actors leading to concrete action

A subsequent High-Level Policy Dialogue and technical workshop saw the participation of representatives of over 50 MNE representatives (all members of the Task Force) as well as of the government (Ministry of State, Ministry of Employment, Social Affairs and Solidarity, Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training, and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research).The policy dialogue provided a platform for key actors from both the public and the private sector to discuss how to translate their commitment to youth employment into concrete and joint action.

The participants adopted a policy statement highlighting the specific roles of government and businesses in contributing to youth employment creation. Action plans were developed for each of the four economic sectors (agriculture, banking, mining and telecommunications) covered in the study. The priority areas in each of the action plans were: 1) strengthening MNEs and SMEs linkages, 2) analyzing the impact of foreign and domestic investment on employment, and 3) scaling-up the MNE-Youth Employment initiative to the sub-regional level building on similar studies also conducted in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Translating commitments into action

The member companies of the Task Force on Youth Employment Promotion and Responsible Investment participated in a number of initiatives of the CGE-CI. Under the recruitment assistance initiative, for example, a network of Human Resources Managers of member companies initiated collaboration with the Agency for Employment Research and Promotion (Agence d’Etude et de Promotion de l’Emploi, AGEPE) on internship opportunities for hundreds of young women and men. A number of these interns were subsequently hired by the companies. Dialogue between MNEs, training institutions and the public employment services agency led to partnership agreements with a number of MNEs. Specific skills development needs were mapped per sector. The agro-industry sector, for example, committed to training 1,000 persons per year over a three-year period. Other initiatives included introducing fiscal incentives to promote youth employment and youth entrepreneurship.

On the agreed action plans, the following steps were undertaken:

1. The ILO undertook a second study “Le renforcement des liens entre les PME locales et les entreprises multinationales dans le cadre de leurs chaînes d’approvisionnement” in collaboration with the national research institute (Centre Ivoirien de Recherches Economiques et Sociales, CIRES) to assess the existing and potential linkages between MNEs and local SMEs to strengthen the supply chain dynamics. In July 2014, representatives of government, employers and workers participated in a workshop to discuss the recommendations of the ILO study. They adopted an action plan covering six strategic areas: 1) promoting local contracting, 2) establishing a permanent MNE-SME dialogue platform, 3) enhancing the human resources management capacity in SMEs, 4) evaluating the employment impact of FDI, 5) fostering an enabling environment for technology transfer from MNEs to SMEs, and 6) stimulating SME development.

2. At the request of the national investment promotion agency (Centre de Promotion des Investissements en Côte d’Ivoire, CEPICI) and CGE-CI, ILO technically supports the newly-established national commission in its plan to better evaluate the employment impact of foreign and domestic investment. Furthermore, ILO has been requested to play an active role in facilitating dialogues between government, business, workers, and new investors in Côte d’Ivoire.

3. ILO presented the experience in engaging with MNEs on the youth employment priority in Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia during to the annual meeting of the Fédération des Organisations Patronales de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, (FOPAO), the sub-regional employers’ organization for West Africa. A sub-regional plan of action was drafted that includes a regional study on the promotion of youth employment in partnerships with MNEs, pilot country-level initiatives, and a mining sector study.

From broader studies to deepening sectoral opportunities

Following up on “Le renforcement des liens entre les PME locales et les entreprises multinationales dans le cadre de leurs chaînes d’approvisionnement” study, ILO is now providing technical support to the Chamber of mines (Groupement professionnel des miniers de Côte d'Ivoire, GPMCI) to promote socially responsible business practices in mining in line with the principles of the ILO MNE Declaration on strengthening linkages between MNEs and local businesses. Mining is indeed a key sector for economic development in Côte d’Ivoire attracting many new investors and as such a possible driver for socio-economic development and economic diversification in the country.