5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Atsuko Toda

GPE asks Atsuko Toda 5 questions on the power of education. GPE's financing campaign seeks to raise at least $5 billion over five years to transform education for up to 1 billion children in 90 countries and territories.

July 08, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Atsuko Toda

Atsuko Toda is the Acting vice president for agriculture, human and social development, African Development Bank (AfDB).

1. The 2020 African Economic Outlook focused on public education financing and Africa’s low efficiency in public spending as a cause of the continent’s lagging education achievement. How can governments protect and improve education expenditure, even during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Fears about cuts in education budgets are well founded.

In Africa, the 2013-2016 Ebola pandemic was associated with reductions in education budgets in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia. Sadly, the current education budget cuts come at a time when Africa needs US$40 billion or more yearly to bridge its education financing gap by 2030.

Education is not just a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a driver to the recovery process as skilled workers are essential to combat the pandemic’s socio-economic adverse effects.

Faced with falling sources of education financing, domestic and external governments need to mobilize additional resources from innovative domestic sources and complement them with donor funds from external development partners.

In the wake of the pandemic, private ‘tech’ companies have been responding to urgent calls to help education systems ‘tech-up’ as they transition to prolonged distance learning. Governments should do more in terms of attracting and scaling up such private education investments.

2. AfDB and GPE support education in some of the same African countries. As AfDB develops a new skills development Action Plan, how will it work with African leaders and partners like GPE to improve domestic financing to support education transformation?

COVID-19 education sector recovery requires partnerships in the development of innovative financing schemes for education in Africa. Along these lines, the AfDB is playing a leading role in the establishment of two financing facilities.

The first one is the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd), a financing mechanism by Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) aimed at unlocking about US $10 billion education funding by 2030.

The second facility is the African Education Science Technology and Innovation Fund (AESTIF), which is being developed in partnership with African governments and the African Union. AESTIF will mobilize around US$300 million from partner MDBs, Foundations, Trusts and Philanthropists to boost investments in Africa’s skills development, and higher education research and innovation.

To strengthen this endeavor, the AfDB is in the process of entering into a partnership with GPE that will facilitate joint actions to scale-up education and skills developing in Africa.

3. COVID-19 has disrupted the education and training of millions of young Africans, including 121 million school children in sub-Saharan Africa who could not access remote learning materials. Why is the GPE Raise Your Hand financing campaign crucial in this context?

School closures mean children can no longer have access to essentials that school environments offer, including spaces for learning and playing with peers and access to school meals and healthcare.

Girls also face unique risks to GBV exposure when they remain out of school for a long time. This calls for an urgent need to organize, mobilize and galvanize the political, local and international support to education financing.

The GPE Raise Your Hand financing campaign comes at a critical moment, when regional and global solidarity is highly needed to support the recovery of the education sector.

In our view, GPE is in a good position to mount such global support, given that it holds the largest global fund dedicated to transforming education in lower-income countries.

4. AfDB recently published the African Economic Outlook 2021. Could you tell us about the main conclusions of the report and implications for education and health spending in Africa?

According to the report, in 2020 Africa went through the worst economic recession in half a century with real GDP contracting by 2.1%. Real GDP is projected to recover by 3.4% in 2021 but there are many headwinds, including the uncontained COVID-19 pandemic.

A large share of fiscal spending across Africa will mainly go to emergency health and social protection, generally implying that less resources will go to critical non-emergency aspects of health and education in general.

The report urges governments to resume in-person learning whenever possible, or put in place measures for online learning if in-person learning is not practical.

5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?

I grew up and did all my early years of school in the US and later went back to school in Japan.

I remember that when I got back to Japan, first of all I had to learn Japanese but also I suddenly had to wear a uniform, walk to school, clean the school hallways and bathrooms, join a sports group at school and study really hard after school. I learned to try to do the same as everyone.

Later in life, one understands more about freedom of expression. For me, it helped me understand at a very early stage that the tools one is provided with in life are so different, as education systems are so different depending on where you live.

Read other interviews from this series.

Atsuko Toda raising her hand to support GPE financing campaign.
Atsuko Toda raising her hand to support GPE financing campaign.

Related blogs

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • Global and entity tokens are replaced with their values. Browse available tokens.
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.