Investing In Africa's Next Generation

August 21, 2014Calla McCabe

Earlier this month, the first ever U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit was held in Washington, D.C. with most of the world watching closely.  The theme was “Investing in the Next Generation” and focused on the continent’s economic potential.  Although not a featured topic, many believe that education is the key to achieving the goals of the summit, including increased business investment, better standards of living, health care and human rights.

This week, we review some of the priority education issues in Africa, and spotlight some innovative education programs working in those areas.

Addressing the High Number of Out-of-school children

A persistent issue around access is reducing the number of out-of-school children (OOSCs). Majority of OOSCs are located in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa.  A UNICEF report released in June notes that despite significant gains in moving toward universal primary education, large numbers of children remain out of school in Eastern and Southern Africa. Approximately 19 million primary-age children and 7 milion lower secondary-age children have not been attending school, which represents roughly one child out of every five. This is especially alarming when  one considers the high economic costs associated with OOSCs. According to a 2013 R4D reportthe costs of not educating OOSCs significantly outweigh the necessary investments for providing universal primary education, and in some African countries, these costs exceed the value of an average year of economic growth. Additionally, educating OOSCs will yield impressive savings in a range of other sectors including health, agriculture, and the environment, which can have a positive effect on growth and productivity.

Investing in the Next Generation of Girls

Young women in parts of Africa are still expected to marry young and start families. In addition, many young women have responsibilities in their homes and to their parents, leaving education as a low priority. At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, First lady Michelle Obama and former first lady Laura Bush discussed the significance of girls’ education. They pointed out that girls' education was integral to breaking the cycle of poverty in many African households.  So how can the education of young women be advanced? The FAWE Centres of Excellence in Kenya not only provides an education to young women, but also promotes gender sensitive school management and teacher training.  Meawhile, SOAR - Girls Empowerment Program in Abuja, Nigeria trains young girls to address sexual assault and child abuse while encouraging them to stay in school in a region where girls' education is met with a great deal of resistance.  

Providing Skills and Opportunities to Youth

Gallup reports that education's perceived importance is one of many factors influencing education's potential to raise the level of human capital and support economic growth in a country. The quality and accessibility of education -- and particularly its capacity to help students meet the country's labor market needs -- are fundamental concerns throughout Africa. Yet according to a 2013 Gallup poll, the perceived value that Africans themselves place on education varies across the 31 countries surveyed, with the percentage choosing education as the most important factor for a successful life ranging from 73% in Botswana to 13% in Ivory Coast.  It is crucial that countries on the low end of the spectrum take extra measures to address these perceptions. Especially because  those who do not view education as the key to unlocking economic opportunities may be less motivated to ensure that their children stay in school and attend every day.

Ultimately, investing in these areas will benefit Africa's young generation and help mold them into the driving force for economic prosperity, good governance, and peace and security on the continent.  

To learn more about these topics and become familiar with programs working towards improving access to quality education in Africa, we encourage you to explore the following resources on the CEI website:

  • Kibera School for Girls: the first entirely tuition-free primary school for girls in Kibera that provides access to education for the most vulnerable girls.
  • Capacity Building for ECCD Teachers: OMEP Nigeria's Oyo State Chapter hosts annual workshops to train teachers working with children under 8 years of age.
  • IDP Rising Schools Program: helps fund low-cost private schools and provide micro-loans and teacher training techniques in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme: aims to empower marginalized people living in rural communities in Uganda by providing education, skills training and rural development interventions.
  • Safina Women's Association is dedicated to improving the well being of women and children by promoting inclusive education and working closely with the government in Tanzania to influence policies, guidelines, and legislation concerning the welfare of women and children.
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