Having being largely neglected for decades, rapid economic growth in Djibouti has brought the higher education system back into the foreground. While the possibility of receiving an academic education was once a dream for young people in Djibouti, it is now a state priority. With more than half of the population under the age of 25, the role and potential of higher education is growing. The sector has witnessed significant developments since the foundation in 2006 of the first and still the only university in the country. Since his first term, President Guelleh has primarily focused on driving the growth of the knowledge-based sector, which it is hoped will lead to a better future for the country and its society. The government has stated that it sees higher education as the most critical tool for reducing the high rates of unemployment in Djibouti. Indeed, the Djiboutian economy faces no difficulties in creating job opportunities due to the dominance of the tertiary sector. However, filling these jobs is the difficulty, as the lack of education among the population results in shortages in qualified staff in many sectors.
The government has taken a number of steps towards solving this issue. The establishment of the University of Djibouti nine years ago was an important component in the country’s vision for development. The aim of establishing the university was to meet the demands of the labor market. Thanks to the state’s support for the education system, the university grew in a very short time with 7,480 students this year, a 25% increase on the year before. The university offers a broad range of undergraduate programs, including law, science and economics. Since maritime activities have become the backbone of the country’s economy, the university has concentrated on engineering courses, personnel training and related courses in order to meet the demand in Djibouti’s labor market for highly educated workers. The faculty of engineering, which opened in 2013, intends to educate a new generation of engineers in the country. Although the university has seen consistent growth since its foundation, only 2.5% of the labor force has tertiary education at the moment, and the inability to recruit top quality employees is still an obstacle for both the public and private sector in Djibouti. In the long term, the demand for higher education will be greater due to the increasing number of development projects, including new ports, airports and power plants.
The government encourages foreign investors to take part in the country’s educational development. The Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development (AFESD) was the first financier to support the university, providing $28 million for the construction of a new university complex.
The Ministry of Higher Education is the sole supervisory authority overseeing institutional operations. It estimates the budget required every year to maintain the university’s progress and the quality of education. The latest budget meeting decided that 2.4 billion DJF ($13.5 million) will be reserved for the year 2015. The university also receives international support. The government encourages foreign investors to take part in the country’s educational development. The Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development (AFESD) was the first financier to support the university, providing $28 million for the construction of a new university complex. The main aim of this project is to provide a modern education system in the country. Indeed, Djibouti aims in the long term to become a leading education center, supplying bachelor degrees and post-graduate education to students from neighboring countries. As part of this plan, the University of Djibouti has introduced the Oracle software system in order to achieve its ambition of becoming a regional hub of excellence in education. The implementation of this software clearly reflects the country’s development vision and suggests that Djibouti is on the right path.
The University of Djibouti is the sole francophone university in the Horn of Africa. This unique position is a factor which distinguishes it from other French-speaking institutions. At present, it enjoys ongoing academic partnerships with more than 30 institutions in other countries, serving to increase its international profile and possibilities for collaboration. The University of Djibouti has not faced any difficulties acquiring recognition at the international level, but there is still plenty of work to be done with respect to developing higher education in the country. Despite the positive steps taken, the country has a long way to go to ensure quality and competition within the sector. The Ministry of Higher Education’s only source of funding is the state. The country still lacks many types of educational institutions that would be necessary to promote growth.