Boost private sector investment in tertiary education across African countries

NAIROBI, Kenya – Assembled experts at an African Development Bank conference in Kenya recommended that African countries step up efforts to attract private sector funding to improve tertiary education, equipping the continent’s youth with the necessary skills. 

During a panel at the Bank’s 2024 Annual Meetings in Nairobi, the experts emphasized the need for a strong commitment to ensure private sector investments in education yield positive returns. 

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who chairs the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), called for national policies that focus on building solid educational foundations in primary and secondary sectors. Kikwete stressed that strong educational bases create a talent pool of young people ready for continuous learning and success. 

The event, titled “Policy Dialogue on Innovative Financing for Tertiary Education in Africa: Revitalizing the Role of the Private Sector,” was organized by the Bank in collaboration with the Kenyan government, the African Union Commission, and the German development agency KfW. The session aimed to explore methods to stimulate private sector financing for tertiary education. 

Kikwete emphasized the necessity of increasing national spending on education to unlock Africa’s demographic potential as the largest future workforce globally. While praising efforts made by some African nations to boost their education budgets, Kikwete highlighted the need for innovative resource mobilization due to recent financial challenges around the world. 

He also emphasized the importance of strong, varied partnerships that prioritize young learners in Africa’s development agenda. 

Kikwete highlighted the collaborative efforts of the GPE and the African Development Bank in mobilizing investments to advance education in Africa, showcasing the Nairobi gathering as an opportunity for both organizations to strengthen their partnership and provide sustainable funding for education systems across the continent. 

He stated, “We must continue working together to ensure that the entire education system, from primary to tertiary levels, receives adequate funding to equip our youth with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.” 

Since 1975, the African Development Bank has been actively involved in education and skills development, allocating significant resources to bolster science, technology, engineering, and mathematics infrastructure at tertiary levels and improve sector policy environments. 

Beth Dunford, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human, and Social Development, revealed that the institution has invested $964 million in tertiary education and skills development over the last decade. 

“Our focus has been on enhancing Technical and Vocational Education and Training infrastructure and encouraging private sector investments in skills development and job creation,” Dunford emphasized. 

She cited the Bank’s support for Nigeria’s Ekiti state special economic zone project with $80 million and a $23 million investment in Rwanda’s proposed Centre of Excellence for Aviation Skills as examples of projects that will stimulate economic growth and employment. 

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

Dr. James Mwangi, Group CEO of Equity Holdings, shared stories of how collaboration with tertiary institutions is enhancing human resource development across Africa. He mentioned that Equity, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, has provided scholarships to over 23,000 students. 

The African Development Bank also signed a letter of intent with the German Corporation for International Cooperation, known as GIZ, to escalate joint commitments to skills development in Africa. 

With over 10,000 participants registering for the African Development Bank’s hybrid 2024 Annual Meetings and approximately 5,000 attendees in person, the event anticipates the presence of several heads of state for a presidential dialogue on Wednesday.


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