Interview - African Development Bank (AfDB) Sees Education as Tool for Poverty Reduction - Education Expert, Frank Boahene

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“Development is all about people and African Development Bank cannot afford to rest on its oars until majority of the people are equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills for poverty reduction in Africa,” says Education Expert, Frank Boahene

Mr. Boahene who works with the Bank’s Human Development Department expressed this view  on Tuesday in Tunis while commenting on the Bank’s Annual Report on social and human development in 2009.

Underscoring the strategic contributions of the Human Development Department in the Bank’s effort to meet its mission of poverty reduction, the Education Expert said the Bank Group invested a total of UA 228.6 million or about USD 343 million for 17 operations in the social sectors in 2009 within the framework of its  2008-2012 Medium Term Strategy.

He emphasized the Bank’s renewed interest in education, including higher education, science and technology (HEST) which, he noted, has become one of the core operational mandates of the Group along infrastructure, private sector development, good governance and regional integration.

Through HEST, the Bank is pushing hard to produce adequate human capital including scientists, engineers, researchers, doctors, etc. Africa needs high-level expertise to serve the continent’s productive sector through world-class centres of excellence and strengthened national education and training systems including technical, vocational education and training

“To achieve these, HEST draws on education and training systems, policies and strategies that are in tune with international best practices” Mr. Boahene emphasized.

Mr. Boahene recalled Bank Group investments in the social sector including the construction andrehabilitation of schools, clinics and hospitals which complement infrastructure projects in addressing poverty reduction through water supply and sanitation, rural power supply, feeder roads, agricultural marketing, storage facilities, information technology and communication facilities for rural  and urban areas.

“These interventions have not only contributed to enhancing access, quality and equity but also to supporting the development of curricula relevant for the transition to entrepreneurship education and/or the world of work”.

Mr. Boahene outlined HEST programs objectives as follows :

  • To improve national and regional centers of excellence in science and technology;
  • To build and rehabilitate existing science and technology infrastructure, including tertiary education and linking the programs to productive sectors in relevant countries;
  • To assist RMCs address critical shortages of trained health professionals and technicians that hamper the attainment of health MDGs.

“ HEST recognizes, however, that skills acquisition in itself does not create jobs or guarantee employment unless training is matched to demand driven by the job market and the productive  sector” Mr. Boahene observed.

The Bank’s strategic orientation of in the social sector is to enable African countries attain their respective MDGs targets while achieving respectable levels of economic advancement.  

On the distribution of social sector operations by sub sectors, he revealed that out of about  USD 343 million approved in 2009 for 17 operations education dominated with UA 199.2 million (USD 299 million), followed by poverty reduction and social protection UA 20.7 million (USD 31.1 million) and health, UA 8.7 million (USD 13.1 million). In 1967-2009 cumulative terms, the social sector accounted for as much as UA 5.1 billion or USD 7.1 billion or 9.8% of the cumulative Bank Group commitments. It is noteworthy that the bulk of these resources were from the concessionary ADF resources that go to the 34 poorer Bank Group regional member countries.

Country-level notable approvals in 2009 included the National Education Emergency Support Program in Morocco a category C country which generally access AfDB non-concessionary funds. Other projects he also mentioned were the Improvement of Higher Education and Vocational Training in Public Services in Gabon, Rural Income and Employment Enhancement Program in Uganda, and the Support to a Network of African Institutions of Science and Technology in Abuja, Nigeria and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. etc. 

In addition, Mr Boahene noted that in 2009, the Bank used part of the USD 1.0 million grant from the Nigeria Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF), to finance the Mapping of Science and Technology for Industrial Development in Rwanda, and to support the African Scientific Merit Award program, both linked to the HEST initiative.

Finally, Mr. Boahene recalled 11 grant operations in the social sector amounting to US$8.9 million which the Bank had approved to fund important benchmark studies in five Middle-Income Countries (MICs), while 17 emergency humanitarian assistance operations amounting to USD 13.1million were also approved to support victims of cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe and Guinea Bissau, as well as meningitis outbreak in Chad and flood victims in Burkina Faso and Comoros.

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