Education International
Education International

Africa: Quality education will drive future development

published 29 January 2014 updated 12 February 2014

Quality education could play a crucial role in the African continent’s development over the next 50 years. That’s according to Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union’s Commission. Her comments were included in “an email from the future”, sent during the Ministerial retreat of the African Union’s Executive Council held in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, from 24-26 January.

“What was interesting was the role played by successive generations of African youth,” Zuma says in her email written to a hypothetical Kwame (boy) in 2063. “Already in 2013 during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, it was the youth that loudly questioned the slow progress towards integration. They formed African Union Clubs in schools and universities across the continent, and linked with each other on social media. We saw the grand push for integration, for the free movement of people, for harmonisation of education and professional qualifications, with the Pan African University and indeed the university sector and intelligentsia playing an instrumental role.”

Women on the rise

She insists that, in 2063, Africa will be the third largest economy in the world.  As the Foreign Minister’s retreat in Bahir Dar in January 2014 emphasised, this was achieved by finding the balance between market forces and strong and accountable developmental states and renewable energy certificate systems to drive infrastructure, the provision of social services, industrialisation and economic integration, she notes.

Zuma imagines that an agrarian revolution will bear a considerable social impact: “The status of women, the tillers of the soil by tradition, rose exponentially. The girl child, condemned to a future in the kitchen or the fields in our not too distant past, now has an equal chance of acquiring a modern education (and owning a farm or an agribusiness). African mothers today have access to tractors and irrigation systems that can be easily assembled.”

On the east coast, she goes on to write, former island states of Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius are leading lights of the blue economy and their universities and research institutes attract marine scientists and students from all over the world.

Singling out one issue that could make peace happen on the African continent, she highlights that this could be African leaders’ commitment to invest in African people, especially the empowerment of young people and women. By 2013, she reminds, it was said that Africa needed a skills revolution and that it must change its education system to produce young people who are innovative and entrepreneurial and with strong Pan African values.

Appropriate financing

“Of course, this shift could not happen without Africa taking charge of its transformation, including the financing of our development,” Zuma says. “As one esteemed foreign minister said in 2014: Africa is rich, but Africans are poor.”

She adds that Africa could experience a true renaissance from early childhood education, to primary, secondary, technical, vocational and higher education, through investment by governments and the private sector in education, technology, science, research, and innovation.

She also insists on the importance of quality public services for Africa’s development: “Coupled with our concerted campaigns to eradicate the major diseases, to provide access to health services, good nutrition, energy and shelter, our people indeed became and are our most important resource. Can you believe it, my friend, even the dreaded malaria is a thing of the past.”

Government responsibility

EI welcomes the view of the Chairperson of the African Union’s Commission that quality education can be a powerful, if not the most powerful, tool for development, said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “It must remain at the top of the global development agenda.”

EI also shares the opinion that governments, in Africa and the world over, are responsible for adequately financing quality public services, particularly education.