Partnerships are founded on a united goal and purpose. In Addis Ababa last week, on the margins of the African Union Heads of State Summit, civil society and other education actors were united in a clear goal, the goal of enabling all children to receive a safe, quality education.
The theme of the 29th AU Summit and of the whole year is ‘Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth’. With 60% of Africa’s population under the age of 25, the answer to Africa’s development and socio-economic transformation lies in the hands of its young people. Hence the necessary investments to be made in them.
This was the clarion call behind Amina Mohamed, President Alpha Conde and President Idriss Déby’s speeches during the opening ceremony of the 29th AU Summit. Other Heads of State demonstrated their clear support for investing in education.
“Friends of education” gather before the summit
It was preceded by the same call from civil society, youth and women’s movements who had gathered during a number of high level pre-Summit events focused on education, gender and youth empowerment.
Everyone was saying the same thing: Africa’s youth are its future, this future necessitates the acquisition of knowledge and skills through education, which can only be delivered by stepping up investment and strategic partnerships for implementation, advocacy and accountability.
It is clear to organizations and individuals that attended the pre-Summit events, including a ‘Friends of Education’ event co-convened by GPE, GCE and ANCEFA, that the only way to harness this demographic dividend and thus the potential of the continent is to make sure all children are receiving a safe, quality education.
It is only with education that the ever-growing youth population will be able to fulfill its potential and the only way Africa will fulfill its potential. As a good investment, education is also the sure way to address continental and global challenges be it migration, instability, extremisms, and the empowerment of girls as well as boys. The message was: “We cannot fail the youth and we cannot fail the continent”.
External and domestic financing must be complementary
As Africa undergoes a paradigm shift away from a dependence on aid and toward greater self-autonomy, particularly in its ability to finance its own development programs, together with a commitment to multilateralism, GPE stands ready to support a new way of doing business.
GPE knows what it means to partner and what is needed on the financing front to tackle the education crisis instead of doing “business as usual”.
GPE is in a replenishment period and one of its main objectives is to see partner developing countries increase or maintain sector spending on education to 20% of government expenditure by 2020.
It’s not just a replenishment target but engrained in the GPE model. With 78% of GPE’s current work being undertaken in Africa, this means the partnership with civil society and other education actors on the African continent is fundamentally important not just to reach our replenishment goals, but also to strengthen education systems.
This is because a commitment by developing country governments to increase domestic financing during the GPE replenishment is not just a partnership pledge but a pledge to their own citizens. It’s a pledge to the future generations.
Partnering with CSOs, women’s movement and other education actors
Given the immense presence of CSOs, youth and other education actors during the AU Summit, GPE decided to co-convene, with the Global Campaign for Education and the Africa Network Campaign for Education for All (ANCEFA), an event to bring together a range of actors working on education in Africa, to discuss concrete ways to work more closely together.
The 40+ attendees from civil society, the UN, the AU and youth, discussed with great intensity and enthusiasm for many hours how to make sure that this is the time that real change is achieved, through united efforts, and to ensure education and domestic financing, remain high on the agenda of African governments. As Teopista Mayanja Birungi, the Head of ANCEFA and an education Commissioner stated: “Let’s move, let’s push! This is our Africa, let’s make this happen!”
The ‘Friends of Education’ agreed on the importance of advocating for the Incheon agreed 20% of general government expenditure, and using the declaration and policies that exist to call on African governments to deliver and implement what they have already committed to.
Education goals can’t be achieved within the education sector alone
They concurred that domestic financing was also about quality, efficiency and equity -reducing wastage, and reallocating revenue. Also, central to this conversation was the importance of focusing money on where it is most needed, including addressing the barriers to girls’ education, such as child marriage, early pregnancy and violence in and around schools.
The focus on gender that emerged during the summit highlights the strength and prominence of African civil society organizations that focus on gender equality throughout all stages of life. The ‘Gender Is My Agenda’ campaign (GIMAC) has emerged as the most influential within the AU Summit agenda in recent years.
GIMAC hosted a high-level consultation event that led to the only set of recommendations going into the Heads of State summit. GPE was fortunate to organize a session on education and skills development during GIMAC in collaboration with FAWE and ONE Campaign. The final set of recommendations from GIMAC includes a call to all governments to fully fund and deliver education that reaches all girls and boys.
Partnering across sectors – an integrated approach
The integration of gender-focused organizations into the ‘Friends of Education’ meeting highlighted the importance of partnering with organizations that do not have a sole focus on education.
Education is a crosscutting issue that is foundational to so many other development agendas, and as such, those who work on those agendas are as critical partners as educationalists.
The only way to make the urgent changes that are needed when it comes to education is by working with all parts of society that interact and engage with education.
It requires an integrated approach to sector planning and advocacy.
Partnership and collaboration are the way we will achieve a real step change in education in Africa, and beyond. The meetings, discussions, plans and enthusiasm during the AU Summit highlighted this and the momentum coming out of these conversations makes all of us feel that we can achieve the changes that are needed for ‘the Africa We Want’. Only by working together.