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African Development Bank Group Urges African nations to Private Sector Financing for Tertiary Education

Experts attending an African Development Bank dialogue in Kenya have urged African nations to intensify efforts to attract private-sector financing to enhance tertiary education and equip the continent’s youth with competitive skills.

During a panel discussion at the Bank’s 2024 Annual Meetings in Nairobi, the experts stressed the importance of political commitment to guarantee returns on private sector investments in education.

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), advocated for national policies to build strong foundations in primary and secondary education. “Strong education foundations also provide a talent pool of trained young people for lifelong learning that will make them thrive,” Kikwete emphasized.

The Bank organized the event in collaboration with the Kenyan government, the African Union Commission and the German development agency KfW. Titled “Policy Dialogue on Innovative Financing for Tertiary Education in Africa: Revitalizing the Role of the Private Sector,” the session explored strategies and best practices to stimulate private-sector financing for tertiary education.

Kikwete called for a renewed commitment to increase national education expenditure to harness Africa’s demographic potential as the world’s largest future labor force. He commended efforts by some African states to bolster their education budgets but noted that recent global financial challenges require innovative resource mobilization for education.

He said there is also a need for strong and diverse partnerships that put young learners at the heart of the continent’s development agenda.

Kikwete highlighted collaborative initiatives by the GPE and the African Development Bank to mobilize investment to support education in Africa, adding that the Nairobi gathering provided further opportunities for the two bodies to advance their partnership and deliver sustainable financing for education systems in Africa.

“Today is only the beginning; we must always work together to explore avenues to ensure the entire education system – from basic to tertiary – is adequately funded, giving our young people the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the 21st century”.

The African Development Bank has been actively engaged in education and skills development since 1975, committing significant resources to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics infrastructure at tertiary levels and enhance sector policy environments.

Beth Dunford, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human, and Social Development, stated that the institution has committed $964 million to tertiary education and skills development over the past decade.

“The focus has been on strengthening infrastructure for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and catalyzing private sector investments in skills development and job creation,” Dunford stressed.

She highlighted the Bank’s $80 million support for Nigeria’s Ekiti state special economic zone project and a $23 million investment in Rwanda’s proposed Centre of Excellence for Aviation Skills as some of the projects that will help boost economies and create jobs.

Prof. Mohamed Belhocine, African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation, said increased investment in tertiary education requires national, continental, and global action. He noted that between 2017 and 2019, only seven African countries met the required 7 percent of GDP expenditure on education, with the average standing at around 4 percent of GDP.

Dr. James Mwangi, Group CEO of Equity Holdings, shared how collaboration with tertiary institutions is boosting human resource development across the continent. For example, he said Equity has provided scholarships to at least 23,000 students in partnership with the Kenyan government.

The event also saw the African Development Bank signing a letter of intent with the German Corporation for International Corporation, or GIZ, to scale up joint commitments to skills development in Africa.

Over 10,000 participants registered for the African Development Bank’s hybrid 2024 Annual Meetings, with around 5,000 delegates attending physically. Several heads of state are expected to feature in a presidential dialogue on Wednesday.

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