IN THE MEDIA: New study demonstrates the importance of private education in addressing the continent’s education crisis

05 May 2017

Path-breaking report launched at World Economic Forum demonstrates the importance of private education in addressing the continent’s education crisis.

Despite extraordinary gains in access, tens of millions of African children and young people do not have access to high-quality education. At the same time, a growing percentage of African youth are accessing education from the private sector. Educating Africa’s youth remains an enormous challenge, one that will grow more acute given population growth, globalization, and stretched public resources. All resources – both public and private – must be fully engaged to meet this challenge.

These are the findings of a new study released today at the World Economic Forum which can be viewed and downloaded from here:

The research, based on 260 interviews and consultations with African and global education sector leaders, finds that 21% of African children and young people are already being educated in the private sector. By 2021, this percentage is expected to rise to one in four. Previous estimates have suggested that only 13.5% of young people are in private institutions. When taking into account informal education, this report finds it is almost double that figure.

The private education sector alone requires investment of $16-$18 billion over the next five years to meet this demand. The research suggests the scale of investment needed to meet education demand in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). It underscores why dramatic action by multiple actors – public, private, and not-for-profit institutions – is required to address the continent’s education crisis.

In her forward to the report, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf notes, “If you care about the future of education in Africa, please read it.”

The Business of Education in Africa sets out to answer two basic questions:
1. How can governments engage the private sector to improve access, quality and outcomes?
2. What are the opportunities for the private sector to invest and improve education outcomes in Africa?

Without dramatic changes to its education systems, sub-Saharan Africa will fail to reach its potential as an engine of global growth and will be a drag on the global economy. Whether or not we live in Africa, all of our futures will be affected by the success or failure of education on the continent.

The region has the youngest and fastest growing population in the world. By 2035, the number of Africans joining the working age population (15–64) will exceed that of the rest of the world combined. Around one billion children will need to be educated over the coming three decades.

To meet the sustainable development goals, governments require a mix of private provision (for-profit and not-for-profit), public private partnerships, and improvement of public systems. A vibrant private sector, particularly when operating in an engaged, flexible, and cordial relationship with government, can help drive access, quality, relevance, and innovation.

The Aga Khan Development Network has been investing in education in Africa for several decades. Four of its ten agencies are dedicated to improving education on the continent, from the early years through to university.  From improving public systems to operating non-profit centres of excellence, the non-profit Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Academies, Aga Khan Education Services, and Aga Khan University demonstrate how private institutions can deliver public goods, addressing Africa’s education crisis.

Furthermore, the Aga Khan Development Network is also investing in capacity building and system strengthening. Since 2012, AKDN has worked with partners to strengthen public education systems in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, and has reached 1,300 public schools, trained 6,000 teachers, and reached 500,000 students. Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development Tanzania trains educators on student-centered approaches that build problem-solving skills and encourage independent thinking. More than 250 master’s degrees and more than 3,000 educators have been trained through certificate programs, short courses, and workshops. Ensuring educators have access to and training in best-practices for education is key to building a stronger system.

Education systems around the world work with the private sector to improve educational outcomes and private education provision is on the rise across emerging markets. In order to meet the education needs of their rapidly-growing populations, African governments can and should consider the private sector in their planning. Governments have a vital role to play in creating the enabling regulatory context that will support the development of high-quality and socially beneficial private-sector education.

The report’s funders include the Aga Khan Foundation, CDC Group, The ELMA Foundation, the IDP Foundation, the UK Department for International Development, the US Agency for International Development, the Vitol Foundation, and Yellowwoods Investments.