The time is nearly upon us! Developing countries have less than 10 days to make commitments to increase to up 20% or more the government expenditure allocated to education at the GPE Financing Conference on February 1-2. Co-hosted by President Macky Sall of Senegal and President Macron of France, world leaders (donors and developing countries alike) are set to meet next week in Dakar.
The conference is preceded by the 30th African Union Summit, where African leaders come together to discuss how to enhance the quality of education financing in the continent. Under the auspices of Ethiopia and Malawi, the African Union, together with the Global Partnership for Education and ONE Campaign, will organize the first high-level dialogue of Heads of State on education financing in Africa on January 27 titled "Financing Africa's Future: Unlocking Potentials through Education".
The event will mark the first major dialogue on the state of education quality and financing on the continent since the global high level event at the 72nd UN General Assembly on Financing the Future last September. And it will provide a regional perspective to addressing education challenges in Africa.
The starkest education challenges are in Africa
Nowhere is the global education crisis felt more acutely than in Africa. With 40+ African countries supported by GPE, the AU Summit is a critical moment for political engagement, policy dialogue, and advocacy on the state of education quality and learning in Africa.
Globally 264 million children and young people are not in school. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest rates of out-of-school children for all age groups, with 33 million. This means more than half of African youth are out-of-school According to ONE Campaign's 2017 'DATA Report: Financing for the African Century' 10 of the toughest countries in the world for a girl to get an education are in sub-Saharan Africa, with West and Central Africa having the highest education gender inequality rates in the world.
Partnering together to bring urgent attention for more financing
GPE is partnering with the AU and ONE Campaign to bring urgent attention to the challenging educating situation in Africa, and marks the culmination of high level global and regional advocacy by GPE for increased attention to the urgent learning and financing crisis facing education globally.
GPE and its partners are calling on world leaders to increase the quality of domestic and external investments to education. This includes urging partner developing countries to increase government expenditure to education up to 20% or more, which is an integral to the GPE funding model.
Education is one of the most cost effective ways to drive economic development, improve skills and opportunities for young women and men. It is fundamental to achieve every facet of Africa's development as set out in the AU Agenda 2063 and all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, committed to by African leaders.
Education will boost the continent's march towards economic progress, social development and shared prosperity. But to achieve this, we must find ways to educate, empower, and employ hundreds of millions more children girls, boys and young people men and women. But if we continue at our current pace, with chronic underinvestment, we will reach these goals 50 years too late.
Africa Development Policy must prioritize education investments
African development policy must prioritize education as a strategic lever, anchoring its development on the ability of its education systems to lift millions out of poverty. Doing so will achieve stronger learning outcomes, and accelerate the quality and pace of development within each nation.
Central to unlocking the potential for education is ensuring enough financing, and that the financing be spent efficiently. Critical to this is domestic financing, by far the most important source of finance and driving force for education. More financing for education will also require leveraging the dividends of growth and expanding the tax base in progressive ways.
Education is an investment not a burden
Echoing President Macky Sall in a video on domestic financing, 'education must not be considered as a social burden, but one of the best investments for the future'. Also, in the words of President Peter Mutharika of Malawi, quality education is 'a moral imperative'.
African leaders are lending their voice to reposition, prioritize, and revitalize education in the continent. But more must be done to recognize the need for increased financial investments to expand quality learning opportunities and build strong, resilient, capable education systems.
There is incredible leadership and willingness in the continent to transform education systems. The event this Saturday in Addis is testament to that political will and desire. But it must be coupled with action, delivery and accountability for results. As a 21st century model for development financing, GPE is doing its part to ensure that African countries accomplish their collective educational and developmental goals.