African Development Bank Group 2024 Annual Meetings – African nations urged to improve private sector funding for higher education

Experts attending a high-level dialogue by the African Development Bank in Kenya have urged African nations to step up efforts to attract private sector funding to improve higher education and equip the continent’s youth with competitive skills.

During a panel discussion at the bank’s 2024 annual meetings in Nairobi, the experts stressed the importance of political commitment to guarantee returns on private sector investment in education.

Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, chairman of the Global Partnership for Education, called for a renewed commitment to increase national education spending to tap Africa’s demographic potential as the world’s largest future workforce.

“To build a stronger higher education pipeline, we need to build strong foundations of early learning, primary and secondary education to provide a talent pool of trained young people for lifelong learning that will see them thrive,” Kikwete said.

The bank organized the event, titled “Policy Dialogue on Innovative Financing for Higher Education in Africa: Revitalizing the Role of the Private Sector,” in collaboration with the Kenyan government, the African Union Commission and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. It examined strategies and best practices to stimulate private sector funding for higher education.

During the session, the African Development Bank signed a joint letter of intent at the event with GIZ to scale up joint commitments to skills development to improve youth employability in Africa. The collaboration through the Build4Skills initiative will place young interns for on-the-job training within bank-backed infrastructure projects in the agriculture, water or transport sectors for 6 to 12 months. Build4Skills is aligned with the Bank’s Action Plan for Skills for Employability and Productivity in Africa 2021-2025, which aims to support a skilled and productive workforce.

Birgit Pickel, Director General Africa, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), said: “This is the first letter of intent between the two organizations in the field of education and we very much welcome this collaboration. It is a sign of our intention to scale up our shared commitment to vocational training and skills development in African countries In light of the current challenges, this is more urgent than ever.

The African Development Bank has been actively engaged in education and skills development since 1975 and has committed significant resources to strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics infrastructure at the tertiary level and improving sectoral policy environments.

Dr. Beth Dunford, the bank’s vice president of agriculture, human and social development, stated that the institution has committed $964 million to higher education and skills development over the past decade.

“The focus has been on strengthening the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) infrastructure and catalysing private sector investment in skills development and job creation,” Dunford stressed.

She highlighted the bank’s $80 million support for Nigeria’s Ekiti State Special Economic Zone project and a $23 million investment in Rwanda’s Center of Excellence for Aviation Skills as some of the projects that will help boost economies and create jobs.

Prof. Mohamed Belhocine, African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, said increased investment in higher education requires national, continental and global action. He noted that between 2017 and 2019, only seven African countries met the required 6 percent of GDP spending on education, with the average being around 4 percent of GDP.

Dr. James Mwangi, Group CEO of Equity Holdings, shared how collaboration with tertiary institutions enhances human resource development across the continent. For example, he said Equity Group has given scholarships to at least 23,000 students in partnership with the Kenyan government.

Over 10,000 participants registered for the African Development Bank’s hybrid 2024 Annual Meetings, with around 5,000 delegates physically attending. Several heads of state are expected to attend a presidential dialogue on Wednesday.

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