Financing Education in Africa: The Commitment We Need

The “Promise of Education”

Education is an inalienable right of every human being. It promises to free all citizens from the shackles of ignorance, poverty, and disempowerment, and endow them with the capacity to be architects of their own destiny, and catalysts of entrepreneurship, innovation and global citizenship. Education promises to “inherently and instrumentally” improve human capacity, dignity, and individual wellbeing without which there can be no meaningful national development, social progress, and the transformation of the world.

Putting Education Financing on the Front Burner

Africa’s huge youthful population can be a “demographic dividend” only if it is provided with quality education and appropriate skills. An estimated 133 million (more than 50%) of the sub-Saharan region’s youth are illiterate (African Economic Outlook, 2013). To achieve the goals of the global and continental agendas of repositioning access, equity, quality education, and skills development as key drivers of inclusive growth and sustainable development, African countries must provide a level of predictable and sustainable investment in education that exceeds that of other developing regions. Although a number of education financing initiatives exist at the global and continental levels, they neither cater for the diverse needs of African countries nor fully assure easy accessibility, sustainability and inclusivity. Besides, Africa cannot be given prosperity, independence, self-reliance and dignity by somebody else. It is the continent’s responsibility (President Paul Kagame).

The African Education Fund (AEF)

Africa’s vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena” is only realizable if African countries equip their citizens with 21st century skills, for a knowledge-based society in a global and competitive environment. 

The African Education Fund is a unique, Africa-initiated, continental strategy and mechanism for confronting the mammoth challenge of financing education. This funding mechanism, which will be designed, led and managed by Africans is imperative for transforming Africa’s education and training systems to unleash the full human potential of the continent and create lasting opportunities for African people to acquire cutting-edge skills and effectively compete in the global economic and technological arena. The goal of AEF is: not to substitute but to complement; not to compete but to collaborate; and not to be mutually exclusive but to be mutually inclusive of existing funding mechanisms at the national and international levels.

The Consensus

The African Education Fund is a vision many stakeholders interested in education in Africa have had but could not actualize. It is no longer a mirage. It was given life and voice at the highest political levels at the ADEA 2017 Triennale held in March in Dakar (Senegal) under the theme “Revitalizing Education towards the 2030 Global Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063”: From H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal through Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB); to the respective special envoys of the President of the Republic of The Gambia and the President of the Republic of Angola; several African Ministers, the Vice President, Sector Operations of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB); the Administrator of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF); and other stakeholders, the consensus is that AEF has become imperative for real and sustained transformation of African education and training systems.

You Have the Final Word

As in the past, Africa will be one step behind other regions in the Fourth Industrial Revolution without highly skilled human capital. There are several education financing mechanisms but a paucity of funds to achieve Africa’s education goals. There is excessive rhetoric about the potential of existing initiatives to meet African education needs but reality belies the rhetoric. The truth is that the present education financing arrangement alone cannot meet the education needs of the African continent. The initiatives cannot be morphed into what Africa needs because they have divergent agendas. 

The African Education Fund will be wholly devoted to the African education transformation agenda. It will enable Africa to produce generations of innovative, entrepreneurial and global citizens who will thrive and make “Africa Rising” a reality. It is an education fund for Africans by Africans that resonates with Africa.

We know our challenges and we have the solution; all we need is the courage and commitment to administer the alchemy. ADEA’s special appeal to distinguished and eminent African Heads of State and Government, therefore, is for them to consider endorsing the establishment of the African Education Fund. It is time to change the course of history by a singular but crucial decision. By this historic step, Your Excellences will leave behind an indelible legacy in the annals of education history in Africa. It is only through solidarity and unity that we can unlock a bright future for all African citizens and posterity.