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Celebrate Africa Day 2024 and Revolutionise Education Financing 

Blog by Ponke Danker, Coordinator of the Irish Forum for Global Education

“Educate an Africa fit for the 21st Century” was the¬†African Union’s theme of Saturday’s Africa Day, celebrated annually on 25th May. This date marks the foundation of the Organization of African Unity 61 years ago by 32 independent African states envisioning a united, free Africa. Twenty-two years ago, in 2002, the African Union (AU) was launched and now consists of 55 member states. This year, in 2024, these 55 countries have collectively pronounced the¬†African Union Year¬†of Education¬†to¬†‚ÄúEducate and Skill Africa for the 21st Century‚ÄĚ.¬†

The African Union Year of Education is pivotal for achieving the AU’s Agenda 2063, the AU’s “master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future”.¬†Recognising¬†education as a foundational element for both individual success and for achieving the sustainable development goals, the AU¬†aims to¬†modernise¬†educational systems and to promote digital literacy, critical thinking, and adaptability¬†(from¬†AU Celebrating Africa Day). To accomplish this, above all, governments are urged to allocate crucial resources to education, and the private sector is called upon to fund scholarships and more.

However, the support for the African Union’s education agenda¬†extends beyond African leaders:¬†Leaders and stakeholders globally¬†must fulfil the commitments made under the UN Agenda 2030. And first and foremost, education needs proper resources, which means¬†proper financing.

Solidarity action can take many forms, however. Achieving proper financing of education is not alone down to increasing education budgets or education aid budgets. As a newly published report by the Tax and Education Alliance (TaxEd Alliance) shows, education financing can be transformed by breakthroughs on tax, debt, and austerity. Ireland, among others, should participate in this concerted, progressive effort. 

Transforming Education Financing in Africa – A Strategic Agenda for the African Union Year of Education” indicates that¬†$29 billion could be raised annually¬†for education if African Union States reformed their tax systems – enough to educate 25 million primary school children.¬†¬†

Furthermore, the report shows that collectively addressing the debt crisis in Africa, hugely influenced by the international financial architecture, is crucial. Currently, at least 15 African Union countries spend more on debt servicing than on education, and 74% of all African Union States are at significant risk of debt distress or already in debt distress. 

The report also highlights the detrimental impact of ongoing austerity measures.¬†It finds that¬†79%¬†of African Union countries are planning to decrease total government spending as a percentage of GDP between 2023 and 2025.¬†This is not an unknown issue, as ActionAid Ireland’s 2022¬†“Education versus Austerity” paper points out how the African Union’s¬† austerity¬†measures are significantly influenced by¬†the¬†International Monetary Fund (IMF).¬†¬†

The “Transforming Education Financing in Africa”¬†report suggests¬†alternatives to austerity¬†(see page 15), that could help transform education, including:¬†

  • Expanding progressive tax reforms;¬†
  • Reducing or eliminating debt;¬†
  • Eliminating illicit financial flows ;¬†
  • Eliminating waste in public expenditure;¬†
  • Eliminating corruption;¬†
  • Using government reserves for strategic long-term investments in education.¬†

To¬†LEARN MORE about possible strategies and how Ireland can support these efforts, join the IFGE¬†online seminar¬†“Unlocking Potential: Transforming Education Financing ‚Äď Insights from a Strategy for Africa”¬†on¬†31st¬†May, 12.30pm.¬†

Ashina¬†Mtsumi, coordinator of the¬†TaxEd¬†Alliance and¬†co-author¬†of the report “Transforming Education Financing in Africa” will provide a detailed presentation of its findings and calls to action.¬†Karol Balfe, CEO of ActionAid Ireland¬†will present ActionAid’s paper “Education versus Austerity” and discuss impacts of the IMF’s austerity measures on Ireland’s overseas aid investment.¬†Frank Mc Manus from Irish Aid¬†will provide context around Irish Aid’s investment in education in Africa. Finally, the discussion will invite speakers and audience alike to¬†explore opportunities of progressive action on tax, debt, and austerity measures¬†for education financing. You can¬†register here.¬†¬†