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Fund education with continent’s oil revenues – Akufo-Addo tells African leaders

Akufo-Addo said the continent has a decision to make on employing her extractive sector revenues to finance education like Ghana is doing

President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has called on all African leaders to consider funding education in their respective countries with revenues they derive from oil exploration and other extractive sector endeavours their countries are undertaking to bridge the education funding gap on the continent.

It is estimated that Africa needs about eight billion United States dollars ($80 billion) annually to bridge the education gap on the continent to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 targets on quality education for all. This, President Akufo-Addo said, will not be achieved with external resources but with internal resources such as those from the extractive industry.

It is also projected that an educated and skilled African population can be the lever that delivers more productive and greener societies, with ripples that will ensure future resources, both human and economic, and will become self-sustaining and reinforcing.

Globally, education has been and is a powerful engine for economic growth both directly and indirectly when the foundations of learning are strong. The cumulative returns mean that over the long term, the investment is self-financing. In Africa, experts say this could translate into a 50% increase in per capita income by 2050 and nearly 120% by 2100.

Financing education

Speaking at the ‘Year of Education’ event organised as part of the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union (AU), on the theme; The Year of Education and Skill Africa for the 21st Century: Building Resilient Education Systems for Increased Access to Inclusive, Lifelong, Quality and Relevant Learning in Africa, President Akufo-Addo observed that the rest of the continent has a decision to make on employing her revenues from the extractive sector to finance education, like Ghana is doing.

President Akufo-Addo seated with former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete (left) and Ghana’s Education Minister, Yaw Osei Adu-Twum at the “Year of Education event in Addis Ababa

“The total allocation to education since I came into office in 2017 is 144 billion cedis, the equivalent of some 14 billion United States dollars with a budgetary allocation to education this year 2024 of 29.5 billion Cedis, being the highest allocation to any ministry, department or agency.

“We are funding our education budget largely through our oil receipts, and we intend to continue down that road for the foreseeable future. I don’t know if the $80 billion [education funding gap] the moderator is talking about can be found in oil receipts across the rest of the continent.

“But I believe that the earnings we receive from our extractive industries and mineral resources are best employed if we invest them in education. Looking into the future, Ghana remains steadfast in our commitment to education as a strategic investment for our nation’s prosperity,” President Akufo-Addo remarked.

“We recognize that education is the key to unlocking our nation’s full potential in building a brighter future for generations to come. As we gather here today under the banner of the ‘Year of Education’, let us reaffirm our commitment to making education the top priority on the continent.

“Let us harness the collective wisdom and resources for our nations to build resilient education systems that provide increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning for all Africans. Together, we can ensure that education remains the cornerstone of Africa’s growth, resilience, and stability,” Akufo-Addo further remarked.

Innovative approach

Former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete who is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in his remarks noted that the African continent cannot afford to reduce her funding for education despite the prevailing global economic challenges.

Former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete addressing the “Year of Education” event at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa

Mr Kikwete suggested that the leadership of the continent as a matter of urgency, needs to find innovative ways of securing adequate funding for the education of all the peoples of Africa, and this must be done collectively and with all the commitment it deserves.

“Adequate [education] financing is key, but even as our populations are growing, education budgets are shrinking. This puts Africa in a development conundrum. By the end of this century, 42% of the global working population will be in Africa.

“But investment for the rapidly growing population is severely constrained because most of the economies are small, countries carry heavy debt burdens and all economies are hurting from the sluggish global economy and the catastrophic effects of climate change,” Mr Jakaya Kikwete said.

“We need at least 77 billion dollars each year to give all children equal education. How then do we get the animal with the weakest muscle to run the fastest? We can do it if we make education financing committed, creative, and collaborative,” the former Tanzanian leader and education activist added.

A cross-section of some attendees at the “Year of Education” event

Radical proposal

Jeffrey David Sachs, a world-renowned economics professor, bestselling author, innovative educator, and global leader in sustainable development, addressing attendees at the event registered his support for President Akufo-Addo’s education model being pursued in Ghana.

Sachs also indicated that in his estimation, it will be difficult for African countries to fund education only with internally generated funds. To this end, he suggested that the continent should consider securing, through borrowing, what he estimates to be, about some 200 billion United States dollars needed annually to bridge Africa’s education funding gap.
The loans, Jeffrey Sachs noted, should be negotiated such that their repayment will begin in 40 years. He also suggested that the loans should be sourced from China, the Gulf countries, and traditional donors if they are willing to do so.

Jeffrey David Sachs speaking to participants at the “Year of Education” meeting held at the multipurpose hall at the AU headquarters

“What we have heard from President Akufo-Addo is absolutely the correct strategy for your country, for Africa, and this legacy that you are leaving home will last for this century and beyond. You are empowering your people, the young people of Ghana in absolutely the only and fundamental way in this world.

“My proposal [for education funding] strange as it sounds is more debt but 40 years at 4% to finance education that has a return of 20% compound annual return. It is the highest return you can find in the world for educating a child.

“Literally, not morally, economically, financially, take on the debt, get every kid in school, let’s unleash Africa’s economic growth for 40 years and this debt won’t even look large because it won’t be paid for 40 years, that is the deal,” Sachs said.

“Who is going to provide the debt? Interesting questions: The BRICKS countries are 40% of global savings now, which is good. Let’s ask China to help. Let’s ask the Gulf countries to help. Maybe the traditional donors will help also if they see the light because actually, the World Bank and others should help too.

“But in any event, there is no shortage of partners to get this done properly, and this is no charity. This is not aid. This is an investment because there is no higher investment in the entire world than educating Africa’s children,” the renowned professor added.

Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Addis Ababa

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