Africa’s Education Imperative

In Africa, large-scale investment in education has enabled significant gains in literacy, school attendance, and university enrollment in recent years. But the continent still has a long way to go.

DUBAI – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called education the “single best investment” that countries can make to build “prosperous, healthy, and equitable societies.” Nowhere is this insight more relevant than in Africa, where large-scale investment in education has enabled significant gains in literacy, school attendance, and university enrollment in recent years. But the continent still has a long way to go.

According to UNICEF, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than half of the 58 million children worldwide who are not in school, particularly girls and young women. More than one in five Africans aged 15-24 is unemployed, only one-third have completed primary school, and, despite some progress, the rate of higher education remains low.

The fact that many social indicators are stagnant or declining is particularly disappointing, given that Africa is home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies. According to a recent United Nations report, the number of Africans living in extreme poverty increased by almost 40%, to 414 million, from 1990 to 2010. Four out of five deaths of children under the age of five occur in Africa.

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