African nations urged to boost private investment in tertiary education at African Development Bank Meetings

Daily News Egypt
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(L-R): Former Tanzania President Jakata Kikwete, James Mwangi, Group CEO of Equity Holdings, AfDB Vice President Beth Dunford and Prof. Mohamed Belhocine, African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation

At the African Development Bank’s 2024 Annual Meetings, experts urged African nations to intensify efforts to attract private sector investment in tertiary education to equip the continent’s youth with competitive skills.

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, emphasised the importance of increased national education expenditure to leverage Africa’s potential as the world’s largest future labour force. He stressed the need to build strong foundations in early learning, primary, and secondary education to create a talent pool for lifelong learning.

The African Development Bank organised a “Policy Dialogue on Innovative Financing for Tertiary Education in Africa,” focusing on strategies to stimulate private sector financing. A key outcome was a Joint Declaration of Intent signed between the African Development Bank and GIZ, the German development agency, to scale up their commitment to skills development and enhance youth employability in Africa. The Build4Skills initiative will place young trainees for workplace training within Bank-supported infrastructure projects in the agriculture, water, and transport sectors.

Birgit Pickel, Director-General Africa at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, welcomed the collaboration, stating, “This is the first Declaration of Intent between the two organisations in the field of education… It’s a sign of our intent to scale up our joint commitment to vocational training and skills development in African countries.”

The African Development Bank has invested $964 million in tertiary education and skills development over the past decade. This includes strengthening infrastructure for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and catalysing private sector investments.

Beth Dunford, Vice President for Agriculture, Human, and Social Development at the Bank, highlighted projects like the $80 million support for Nigeria’s Ekiti state Special Economic Zone and a $23 million investment in Rwanda’s Centre of Excellence for Aviation Skills as examples of initiatives that will boost economies and create jobs.

Prof. Mohamed Belhocine, African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation, stressed the need for national, continental, and global action to increase investment in tertiary education. He noted that between 2017 and 2019, only seven African countries met the recommended 6% GDP expenditure on education.

Dr. James Mwangi, Group CEO of Equity Holdings, shared successful collaborations with tertiary institutions, such as a partnership with the Kenyan government to provide scholarships to at least 23,000 students.
The hybrid 2024 Annual Meetings saw over 10,000 participants register, with around 5,000 attending in person. The event also featured a presidential dialogue with several heads of state.

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