(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast will spend 32 billion CFA francs ($55 million) to create jobs in the north in a bid to offer an alternative to jihadist recruitment.

The funds are to be invested in projects aimed at impacting thousands of young people over the next three years, Prime Minister Patrick Achi told reporters in Tougbo, near the border with Burkino Faso, on Saturday. 

It’s part of the government’s broader program to spend 3.2 trillion CFA francs over the same period to improve the living conditions of Ivory Coast’s 26 million people. 

“The root cause of most crises and instability in our sub-continent is idleness, which drives some young people overcome by despair and attracted by the mirage of easy gains, to acts of destabilization of which they do not perceive the scope,” Achi said. The median age in the world’s top cocoa producer is 19. 

Ivory Coast’s northern gold mining and cotton-growing region was the target of attacks in 2020 and 2021. The government has linked the violence to an Islamic insurgency in West Africa that began in Mali and has spread to other countries in the region.

“We’re not at peace, the jihadists haven’t tried recruiting here yet, but they have in Bole,” about 30 minutes away, said Dramane Ouattara, a 25-year-old unemployed carpenter from Kafolo, where the attacks took place. “We’re scared to go to sleep at night not knowing when they may strike next.”

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Ivory Coast’s economy grew at least 7% annually from 2012, President Alassane Ouattara’s first full year in office, until the coronavirus hit in 2020. But his detractors accuse him of concentrating efforts in the economic capital, Abidjan, and neglecting other areas. 

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