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Finance Minister Calls for More Education Investment in Central and Western Africa

Finance Minister Calls for More Education Investment in Central and Western Africa

Accra, Monday 27th June 2022 - Ghana’s Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has called on Governments of West and Central Africa to scale up investment in the education of its youth to ensure economic prosperity.  

Mr. Ofori-Atta said that despite the current pressing fiscal pressures, governments of these two regions must raise more funding for education and continue to prioritize education by giving funds more fairly and efficiently.  

“We must do this not just because education is a matter of national prosperity, it is because education is the great liberator, a great leveller and a promoter of mobility and parity,” the Minister said.  

He made these remarks at the launch of the AFW education strategy at the Kempinski Gold Coast City Hotel in Accra on Monday.  

Providing a context for this critical investment in the youth of the sub-region, he said that among others that Western and Central Africa suffered from chronic underperformance with higher deficits in teachers.  

In addition to this, about 42 million children of primary and secondary school age children were not enrolled in school.  

In Central Africa, one in three adults is illiterate, while in Western Africa, the average primary completion rate is only 53 percent, as against 83 percent in Northern Africa.  

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pointed out that if investment in human capital in Africa is still unchanged, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita would increase by 39 per cent by 2050.  

However, if countries in Africa increase their investments in the health and education of young people, this could trigger an 88 per cent increase in GDP per capita by 2050.  

This significant education infrastructural (physical and digital) deficit, Mr. Ofori-Atta said, required that governments of AFW invest more funds in the sector to unlock the transformative power of education as proven by the Education Commission.  

According to the Commission, “education unlocks not only individual opportunities, but also unlocks gender equality, better health, better qualities of life and a better environment.”   

“Undeniably, a significant increase in financing is necessary if we are to overcome the learning poverty. Spending must significantly rise above the recommended 4.1 per cent of GDP on education, if we are to compete on the global scale,” he said.  

This implies almost doubling the education expenditure levels, as a proportion of GDP, from the current 3.1 percent and 4.0 percent in central and Western Africa, respectively.  

Speaking of these realities, the Minister said: “We need to take bold and urgent action to reverse this trend by advancing reforms in education and delivering better access to quality education for all children in the region.”   

He emphasized that, “The unequivocal benefits of education are what drives the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s vision to ensure that secondary education becomes a must for all Ghanaian students, culminating in the free senior high school policy in Ghana,” he added.  

On the Educational Strategy, he said that the was significant and unique, as it is focused on strengthening strategic leadership and promoting investments in impactful interventions, as well as, advancing result-based implementation.  

The strategy also empowers countries to pursue diversity; that is, balancing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), the promotion of science, arts, and culture, targeting sports and special schools in the educational system.  

Mr. Ofori-Atta appreciated the support of the World Bank in this reform and investment process and said: “The World Bank deserves commendation for co-creating this re-engineering process for the future of our region.”  

Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Vice President for Western and Central Africa noted that education systems across Western and Central Africa faced an unprecedented crisis worsened by COVID-19.  

He, however, said that Western and Central Africa countries were committed to addressing such challenges, adding that the Bank has mobilized to support them through financial resources and expert advice.  

More than forty Ministers of Finance and Education from Western and Central Africa concluded the one-day meeting in Accra with an urgent call to advance reforms in education and deliver better access to quality education for young people across the region. END

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