Partnering for Impact in Côte d’Ivoire: A Blueprint for Public-Private Collaboration in Education Financing

Children in a cocoa community school. Photo by International Cocoa Initiative.

A coalition of business and philanthropic investors, led by the Jacobs Foundation, came together with Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Education to help the country provide education for remote and rural communities and scale up evidence-based solutions around foundational learning.

Côte d’Ivoire is one of West Africa’s economic powerhouses. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it was one of the world’s fastest growing economies, boosted by its position as a top supplier of cocoa and raw cashew nuts.

But persistent social inequalities and structural challenges have hindered the benefits of such economic success reaching the poorest, and put additional pressure on public services, including education.

Today, more than 1 in 5 primary school-aged children do not participate in the formal education system. Girls and children from poor rural households in particular lag far behind. What is more, almost 800,000 children are estimated to be engaged in hazardous work in cocoa production, such as the use of sharp tools or exposure to agrochemical products.

A coalition of business and philanthropic investors, led by the Jacobs Foundation, came together with the ministry of Education to help provide education for remote and rural communities and scale up evidence-based solutions around foundational learning.

GPE’s Multiplier provides an incentive and up to US$13 million of grant funding within this innovative partnership to get more marginalized children in school and learning, thus boosting close to US$39 million in total co-financing committed by the coalition of investors.

Laying the groundwork: building a coalition to advance quality education

In 2015, the Swiss-based Jacobs Foundation launched its largest ever country program in Côte d’Ivoire, Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC), endowed with CHF50 million (approximately US$55 million) to contribute to systemic change through quality primary education and early childhood development.

Up to that point, some cocoa and chocolate producing companies had already been supporting projects to improve access to education in their sourcing communities, including support for out-of-school children to rejoin formal schooling, and investment in school infrastructure.

But there was scope for strategic and better alignment among all these actors and national education plans, and most importantly, appetite for collaboration.

TRECC’s proposal to pool together the know-how and finances from these private sector and philanthropic partners was well received. Twelve companies and two philanthropic foundations, UBS Optimus Foundation and Bernard van Leer Foundation, joined the TRECC program.

This started a shift in focus, from access to education to quality in learning: What was really happening inside the classroom? Were children learning? Were children optimally supported in their early years? Were they reaching the expected proficiency levels? If not, why so and at what risk?

Backing national priorities

Collaboration with ministries and the government from the outset was a critical success factor. Over the last five years, a constructive, trust-based policy dialogue was established and nurtured with the ministry of National Education and other line ministries involved in the TRECC program.

Building upon the achievements and learning, in 2020 the Jacobs Foundation launched, and provided seed funding for, a new initiative—Child Learning and Education Facility (CLEF).

CLEF is a pooled financing facility with a target capitalization of CHF150 million (ca. US$ 170 million) aligned with the national education sector plan and designed to combat child labor by promoting effective learning and early childhood development support at scale, starting with areas of greatest needs in cocoa-growing regions.

The government, 14 cocoa and chocolate companies and two foundations have already committed to supporting the facility. It has a primary focus on improving foundational literacy and numeracy skills for 5 million children at primary level.

It will also accelerate investments in school infrastructure with 2,500 new classrooms. Parental awareness for education will be supported with up to 10 million parents and caregivers targeted through the initiative.

Catalyzing investments to amplify impact

Transforming education systems is a bold and ambitious goal. Pooling expertise, resources and thought leadership to achieve this goal is at the heart of GPE’s new strategy (2021-2025).

GPE, as the world’s only partnership and fund dedicated exclusively to delivering quality education, aims to engage like-minded philanthropic and business actors to achieve change at scale, align and compound investments, innovate and shape education policies.

One way of doing this is through GPE’s Multiplier, an incentive-based financing instrument that supports countries to mobilize expertise as well as more and better funding for education. Securing funding from GPE’s Multiplier is not automatic, and depends on meeting several criteria, including sourcing new and additional external support for the education sector plan.

Over the last three years nearly 30 countries have used the Multiplier to collectively mobilize more than US$1 billion in reported co-financing for education. This money—and the expertise and ideas that come with it—has been crowded in from a diverse group of partners, ranging from philanthropic foundations to multilateral and regional development banks.

In the case of Côte d’Ivoire, the expertise and additional funding from the CLEF partnership enables the government to access US$13 million from GPE’s Multiplier. The Multiplier serves as a key catalyst for CLEF’s realization as it provides additional co-financing to advance foundational literacy and numeracy, a key priority within the country’s education sector plan.

Combining CLEF’s resources and expertise with GPE’s Multiplier also implies better alignment between different stakeholder agendas.

With less than a decade left to achieve SDG 4 of quality education for all, we are at a crossroads.

The combined impacts of school closures and the unfolding economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 threaten to roll back two decades of education progress. The need for innovative public-private partnerships that unlock financing at scale has never been greater.

The mobilization of GPE, Jacobs Foundation and a coalition of non-sovereign donors jointly advancing Côte d’Ivoire’s education goals, plans and policies, hand in hand with the national government, can serve as a blueprint for action in the sector.

This blog was first published through GPE’s Education Above All blog page on January 28, 2021 and was co-authored by the Jacobs Foundation.