The famous African proverb from Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey states, “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation”. So it’s a tremendous loss that 130 million girls around the world are being denied an education — and 51 million of them are right here in Africa. Without an education, children cannot reach their full potential. This has to change.
As Africa takes charge of its development, prioritizing investment in youth is key
For Africa to achieve sustainable development and inclusive economic growth by 2030 driven by its citizens, more focus needs to be put on prioritizing investments in its young people, particularly addressing the specific needs and constraints of women and girls in education, empowerment and employment. This is our message to African leaders who are preparing to meet in Ethiopia this July for the African Union Summit.
The July Summit will be the second ordinary summit of the African Union under the theme “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth”. It will be a big event, which will convene at African heads of government and state to develop their set of commitments to address the theme.
Development partners, civil society, media and other stakeholders will meet African leaders on the margins of their support to discuss how they can support and strengthen the implementation of African Heads of States commitments to achieve the demographic dividend in Africa.
AU leaders must invest in education, employment and empowerment
This summit will be a huge opportunity for our leaders to agree to boldly and urgently invest in transformative education, employment and empowerment strategies that will create peace and prosperity for every Africa citizen, in line with its Agenda 2063 vision.
Education: African leaders understand that a well-trained, skilled and technology-savvy workforce is the most vital path to economic and structural transformation in Africa. We call upon them to act on this opportunity. That is why we support calls for governments to allocate 20% or more of government expenditure to education. Efforts of partners like GPE through its replenishment campaign can help make this happen. As 130 million girls around the world are being denied an education — and 51 million of them are right here in Africa — public and private sector investments need to be boosted to get more girls into school, improve learning outcomes and generate fit-for-purpose skills. Without an education, no child or youth can reach their full potential or share in the best available economic opportunities. This has to change by directing investments in a girl’s education not having opportunities to learn.
Employment: African leaders must also focus on how to create employment for the massive number of unemployed youth on the continent. African leaders must develop and effectively implement policies that promote and support startups, flexible labor markets, facilitate the development of labor-intensive sectors that can compete globally, and liberalize trade – all of which will lead to job growth driven by youth’s entrepreneurial energy.
Empowerment: Finally, the importance of empowering youth on the continent cannot be overemphasized. Good health and well-being as well as youth participation in nation building are central to reducing youth vulnerability and maximizing human capital investments. Improving the productivity of the youth workforce and giving voice and space to their aspirations to contribute to African prosperity will create a better future that rests ultimately on their shoulders. Today, the fact that millions children under five years are stunted in many countries risks stunting future growth and development of African economies.
Thus, decisions made at the July AU summit will have real consequences. Leaders will face the existential questions on how the continent unravels if it manages its exploding youth population or fails to plan to meet the needs of these youth.
It is thus imperative for Africa leaders agree to increase investment in education, employment and empowerment.
Making sure that every girl left behind gets the chance to go to school, learn, and gain the knowledge and skills needed to lift herself, her family, and her community out of poverty, will be a crucial strategy for African governments to realize their youth dividend. However, if they do nothing, even more girls and communities will be left behind by 2030.
Help us get the message to African leaders. Add your name to send a postcard, and we’ll deliver them to leaders and their teams in the run up to the Summit.
All #girls count. Join us by sending a postcard to the AU leaders.
Learn more on GPE’s work on girls’ education and gender equality