“You can count on the AfDB as partner in delivering education for Africa”, says Adesina

14/04/2016
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Partnership – between the public, the private and the ‘third’ sector of NGOs and Foundations – was the theme of an event hosted by the Global Business Coalition for Education on Thursday in Washington. “We need to preach revolution, as things have to change”, said the Portland Trust. The Wellbeing Foundation continued: “We cannot exist; we cannot pursue; we cannot progress without partnerships.”

While much of the debate focused on the primacy of continuing to provide education in emergency and humanitarian situations worldwide and the forthcoming new platform to fund education in emergencies, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, set out the wider and longer-term educational challenges of the continent of Africa, in the face of which the Bank has invested US $1.6 billion in some 50 individual projects in the last 10 years.

Thirty per cent of the world’s illiterate people are in Africa, he said, as are nearly half of the world’s children who are out of school, he said. He examined the health and economic consequences of this lack of education, and linked them with Africa’s other challenges, not least the energy imperative, with 90% of Africa’s primary schools having no electricity. 

He set out the Bank’s education work in vocational training and higher education, and – at the international level – as a player in the global policy dialogue at the 2015 Seoul World Education Forum and the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. At the national level, he confirmed that the Bank is supporting Public Private Partnerships in education and skills development, through building with industry and business incubators, or with private universities in countries such as Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Rwanda, Tunisia or Zambia.

 “The Bank is preparing a bold initiative aiming to mobilize financial resources to address unemployment and underemployment among Africa’s youth; a critical bottleneck to sustainable economic growth,” he said. “Through the ‘Jobs for Youth in Africa Initiative’, we intend to invest $5 billion over the next 10 years and create 25 million new jobs. These investments are expected to create opportunities for 50 million young people through skills development, and job creation in Agriculture, Industry and ICT. We also estimate that the Jobs for Youth Initiative will generate over $30 billion in income gains for Africa in the next ten years.”

The event heard from a wide range of speakers from government, business, NGOs and foundations. It discussed practical examples of cooperation, such as a Norway-US-Orange collaboration to produce a smartphone Learning Application for children in Syria. The meeting discussed financing options for novel approaches – like Social Impact Bonds – and the challenges of collecting and measuring data. The Global Partnership for Education made it clear that the partnership with the private sector needed to go up a gear. 

The event was organised by the Global Business Coalition for Education, which has over 100 members worldwide committed to finding solutions on how the private sector can partner with the public sector to create education solutions for children around the globe. The Coalition raised $75 million for the London Conference to fund emergency support for Syria, in March 2016. 

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, asked the audience to remember not just the second anniversary of the kidnapping of almost 300 young Nigerian schoolgirls at Chibok, Nigeria, in April 2014, but also the fact that a successful ‘Safe Schools for Nigeria’ Initiative had emerged from it, as an effective public-private-third sector partnership. 

Brown asked the audience to lend their support to two things – the work of the International Commission on Financing Global Education set up by Norway, and the progress of the new humanitarian fund for education due to be launched at the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016. “Nothing is more soul-destroying for a boy or a girl than the lack of hope”, Brown said, “When he or she can’t plan for her future when no school or college is available. I urge you: we must work together.”