Who We Are and What We Do?

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is a continental platform convening policymakers, partners and stakeholders to support African countries to improve their education systems. We do this in 5 interdependent ways:

Forum for policy dialogue

Network of policy-makers, practitioners and researchers

Partnership between ministries of education and development partners

Catalyst for accelerating reforms in education

Platform for promoting critical knowledge, skills & qualifications

What is ADEA?

ADEA is first and foremost a forum for policy dialogue. It acts as a catalyst for reforms and promising policies and practices through the pooling of ideas, experience, lessons learned and knowledge. One of its major objectives is to encourage exchanges between ministries of education and between them and development partners.

Established in 1988 as a framework for better coordination among development partners, it has evolved into a pan-African institution built on a genuine partnership between African ministries of education and training and their technical and external partners.

Founded in 1988 at the instigation of the World Bank, it has evolved into a pan-African institution based within the African Development Bank (AfDB).

ADEA is also a network of policy-makers, educators and researchers, and, based on its capacity to foster policy dialogue and pool ideas, experience, lessons learned and knowledge, a catalyst for educational reform. It is recognized today as being a major actor in the processes of dialogue, sharing and learning for qualitative change in education aimed at promoting Africa’s development.

One principle underlying ADEA’s philosophy is that the responsibility for education rests with the governments of Africa. This is why ADEA is concerned with fostering a process that empowers African ministries of education and makes development agencies more responsive to the concept of national ownership. ADEA’s activities help strengthen policy dialogue between governments and agencies, between governments, and between development agencies. Its activities also enhance institutional and technical capacities within Africa by establishing networks for the sharing of information and the dissemination of successful strategies and innovations. Within this context, ADEA fosters regional, sub-regional and cross-country exchanges as well as partnerships with civil society institutions.

How is it governed?

ADEA is governed by a Steering Committee composed of African ministers of education and representatives of multilateral and bilateral development organizations who support education in Africa.

The Steering Committee is supported by an Executive Committee mandated to facilitate decisions on operational matters in order for the Steering Committee to be able to focus on policy and strategic issues. The Steering Committee is both ADEA’s governing body and ADEA’s primary instance for coordination among funding agencies, among African ministries of education, and between these two groups.

The Ministers of Education on the ADEA Steering Committee constitute the ADEA Bureau of Ministers. The Ministers represent the five regions of Africa (Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and Northern Africa). The Bureau of Ministers constitutes a framework for dialogue and consultation on the challenges and opportunities for the development of education in Africa.

In 2008, the ADEA and COMEDAF Bureaus of Ministers were merged, in accordance with the decision endorsed by the 10th African Union Summit in January 2008.

The ADEA Secretariat coordinates overall programs and activities, including that of the working groups. It promotes information exchange and communication, organizes the Biennales (now Triennales) and the Steering Committee Meetings, and publishes the results of ADEA’s work. It also develops and updates databases on education and manages programs such as the Education Research in Africa Award and the Africa Education Journalism Award.


ADEA was first established in 1988 under the name Donors to African Education (DAE). Today, ADEA is a pan-African institution based in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) and hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

 Its initial mandate was derived from the recommendations of the World Bank 1988 study entitled Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policies for Adjustment, Revitalization and Expansion.

The goal of DAE was to continue the policy dialogue initiated by that study and to act as a framework for improved coordination between development agencies. DAE grew rapidly to include the participation of most multilateral, bilateral and private development organizations.

1992 was a turning point when ADEA asked five African ministers of education to join the Steering Committee. During the same year, an independent Secretariat was established in Paris and housed at the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) of UNESCO.

In 1996 the Association’s official title changed from “Donors to African Education” to “Association for the Development of Education in Africa” (ADEA) in order to better reflect the partnership between ministers and development agencies.

In 1997, the number of ministers on the ADEA Steering Committee was increased from seven to ten.

2008 is a landmark year:

  • The ADEA Secretariat was transferred to Tunis, within The African Development Bank (AfDB), its new host institution.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding between ADEA and the African Union is signed, officially binding relations between the two organizations within the framework of the implementation of the Second Decade for Education in Africa.
  • The ADEA and COMEDAF Bureaus of Ministers are merged.
  • ADEA also launched its first Medium-Term Plan (2008-2012).

In 2012, following a long consultation process begun in 2011, a new Vision for ADEA’s future was approved and in 2013 a new Strategic Medium-Term Plan (2013-2017) was adopted to guide its implementation.

The Strategic Framework document stemming from ADEA’s 2012 Triennale to guide the implementation of Its recommendations was endorsed by the Heads of State attending the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in January 2013.

How does ADEA foster dialogue?

ADEA is first and foremost a Forum for policy dialogue on education and training in Africa. Policy dialogue is conducted through Steering Committee seminars, the Biennales and Triennales and other major events.

ADEA considers policy dialogue an essential element in the process of assisting African countries to plan and implement their education reforms. Policy dialogue is conducted through the Biennales/Triennales and other major events.

Biennales /Triennales are opportunities for informal communication and exchanges on major issues concerning education and development in Africa [See box on left], which are important to create engagement and trust among the different partners, be they African ministers of education, representatives from development agencies, private sector players, civil society representatives, or the youth. The Biennales/Triennales serve to promote frank and open exchanges among all stakeholders, which form the basis for common understanding and progress.

Policy dialogue is also promoted through ADEA’s Steering Committee seminars. These seminars provide a venue for high-level discussions between ministers of education and member agencies on priority issues for education in Africa. Some themes of the seminars have focused on are new initiatives and trends in development cooperation for education, the financing of education, the future of ADEA working groups in the present African context, and the Biennales/Triennales.

ADEA also facilitates regional and sub-regional cooperation and dialogue. In response to needs expressed by the Bureau of African Ministers, it organizes technical or sub-regional ministerial meetings on topics of common interest in order to foster greater cooperation between countries. The following themes have been explored: education and HIV/AIDS; ICTs in education systems; education in conflict and post-conflict situations; secondary education; contract teachers; bilingual and mother-tongue instruction; education for rural people; school fee abolition initiatives; dialogue between ministers of Finance and Ministers of Education; education for peace; skills, training and for jobs for the youth.

ADEA Biennales and Triennales

1993 The Implementation of Education Projects and Programs (Angers, France)

1995 The Processes of Education Policy Formation (Tours, France)

1997 Partnerships for Capacity Building and Quality Improvements in Education in Africa (Dakar, Senegal)

1999 What Works and What’s New in Education: Africa Speaks! (Johannesburg, South Africa)

2001 Reaching Out, Reaching All: Sustaining Effective Policy and Practice in Africa (Arusha, Tanzania)

2003 The Quest for Quality: Learning from the African Experience (Grand Baie, Mauritius)

2006 More and Better Education. What Makes Effective Learning in Schools and in Literacy and ECD Programs? (Libreville, Gabon)

2008 Beyond Primary Education: Challenges and Approaches to Expanding Learning Opportunities in Africa (Maputo, Mozambique)

2012 Promoting critical knowledge, skills and qualifications for Africa’s sustainable development (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

2017 Revitalizing education towards the 2030 Global Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063 (Diamniadio, Dakar, Senegal)

2022 Reflecting on the impact of COVID-19 on Africa's educational systems, and how to build resilience to sustain the development of skills for the continent and beyond (Mauritius)

Working Groups, Task Forces and ICQN

ADEA’s Working Groups and Task Forces provide ADEA with a unique perspective on specific issues. They undertake exploratory work and examine ways to improve the performance in their specific domain. Although the Working Groups are all structured and managed in a different way they all carry out research, capacity building, advocacy and networking activities.

Most ADEA Working Groups are based in African countries, within organizations whose thematic focus and mandates are close to that of the Working Groups. They may be led by funding agencies or African organizations. Currently, the Working Groups cover the following themes: Books and Learning Materials; Communication for Education and Development; Education Management and Policy Support; Higher Education; and Non-Formal Education. The activities of the former Working Group on Female Participation (WGFP) have been mainstreamed into The Forum for African Women Educationists (FAWE). FAWE continues to be involved in ADEA activities as a graduated working group and associate member.

In 2011, the ADEA Secretariat created a Task Force on ICT with a mandate to foster the relevant and effective integration of ICT into education and training in Africa. The Task Force made a major contributor to the 2012 Biennale and organized the 1st Ministerial Forum on the Integration of ICT in Education in December 2013.

In order to ensure that the recommendations stemming from ADEA work are translated into concrete action, ADEA has set up Inter-Country Quality Nodes (ICQNs) bringing together countries facing a similar challenge and strategic partners with expertise in a specific field. The ICQNs are led by Ministries of Education. Currently there are six ICQNs, which cover the following themes: Early Childhood Development (led by Mauritius), Literacy and Languages (led by Burkina Faso), Mathematics and Science Education (led by Kenya), Peace Education (led by Kenya), Technical and Vocational Skills Development (led by Côte d’Ivoire) and Teaching and Learning (led by Rwanda).

Since its inception ADEA has:

Promoted consensus-building and the development of common approaches to the major issues facing education in Africa

Reinforced African ministries’ leadership capacities

Raised agencies’ awareness that their own practices should be adapted to the needs of nationally-driven education policies, programs and projects;

Contibuted to increasing the knowledge on education in Africa through research, the sharing of good practices and publications;

Contibuted to the development of a growing network of education specialists in Africa;

Encouraged the sharing of African expertise through regional, sub-regional and cross-country cooperation and exchanges.

Other programs and activities

ADEA also has a publications program that aims at ensuring that the research and syntheses stemming from its activities as well as the lessons learned from its Biennales and other major meetings are disseminated. The program includes the dissemination of studies documenting African successful experiences brought to light by African Ministers of Education.

ADEA believes that strong media and communication skills are vital for encouraging educational development and change. To this end, in 2001 ADEA launched the “Akintola Fatoyinbo Africa Education Journalism Award”, which recognizes the best articles on education written by African journalists and published in the African press.

In 2009, ADEA also launched the Education Research in Africa Award. The Award aims to promote high-quality education research, produced by African universities, research centers and research networks. It is organized by ADEA and the African Development Institute (ADI) of AfDB, with financial support from the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation (KOAFEC).

ADEA has also developed information databases on education in Africa. ADEA Profile makes it possible to have detailed information on all activities carried out by ADEA. CV-Experts is a database of African and Africanist education experts.

Who participates in ADEA’s activities?

ADEA’s two principal constituents are the African ministers of education and cooperation and development agencies.

Although participation in meetings of the Steering Committee and of the Bureau (and Caucus) of Ministers is restricted, ADEA increasingly seeks out broader participation in its other activities and meetings. Because of its role as a forum to foster policy dialogue on issues affecting education and long-term sustainable development in Africa, ADEA recognizes the importance of reaching out to all who have a stake in Africa’s future.

ADEA uses a variety of mechanisms to reach out to various audiences. For instance, the Biennales (now Triennales) target decision-makers who are instrumental for policy-formation, implementation and for guiding ADEA’s program of activities. Furthermore, through working group activities and publications, ADEA is able to reach practitioners and other stakeholders working at the school and community level.

Participating in ADEA is an excellent way to build professional capacity, learn about education in different parts of Africa and have a voice in transforming policy and practice. However, experience has shown that the greatest benefit of ADEA is the network that it provides in which informal discussions take place. These exchanges foster trust, build government ownership of the educational reform process and have been critical in developing partnerships and improving relations between ministries of education and their technical and funding partners.

How is ADEA funded?

ADEA is funded through membership fees and other contributions

One primary source of funding comes through the membership fees that development partners and countries are required to pay in order to be a member of the Steering Committee. Another funding source comes through contributions provided by development agencies which are either earmarked for specific working groups or activities or go into the general budget. The resources are then used to finance policy dialogue, regional and sub-regional cooperation, Working Groups and ad hoc groups, publication, communication or knowledge management activities as well as the Secretariat’s operating costs.

What does the future hold?

ADEA, like Africa itself, is in transition. ADEA has evolved from a donors club to a pan-African organization based within the AfDB. It works increasingly with continental bodies such as the African Union to accelerate progress in education and to serve Africa’s development.

ADEA is becoming more rooted in African needs and realities, more ambitious in taking on new challenges and priorities. Like the continent it is designed to serve, it will increasingly be judged for its ability to demonstrate accountability at every level and provide concrete evidence of its outcomes and results. These changing demands and aspirations were first explored in the 2012 Vision Document. Since then ADEA has adopted a five-year Medium-Term Strategic Plan for the period 2013 to 2017 and the new Strategic Plan 2018 - 2022 that will guide the Association through the period of transformation and help it achieve its vision. The implementation plan, which proceeds in phases, identifies what it must do to support African governments in developing knowledge and skill-based societies, own way. ADEA’s work in the years ahead will be driven by a commitment to building an Africa with the critical knowledge, skills and qualifications required to ensure its sustainable development.