The African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) called for the establishment of a Coalition of Stakeholders as a strategy to amplify the case for prioritizing and investing in education and ensuring better coordination and networking on matters related to education in Africa.
In support of the calls by the African Union to mobilize stakeholders to support the implementation of CESA, the Coalition on Media and Education for Development Africa Forum (CAFOR) adds value by focusing on the communication dimension, which is its leverage point.
CAFOR believes that communication must be at the core of the business of planning education on the continent, ensuring that it is comprehensive and inclusive and that its style and content enhances dialogue in promoting all facets of education.
ABN reporter Saamuel Zewdie speaks with Dr. Lawalley Cole, CAFOR Executive Director, emphasizing on the overall objective, mission and the way forward in the African youth and education system. Born in Gambia, educated in Gambia, USA, Tanzania, Togo and France, Dr. Lawalley Cole has worked primarily in The Gambia, Mali, Zambia, and Burundi (for UNICEF as Chief of Education for fifteen years) and for the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) at the African Development Bank in Benin, Tunisia and Ethiopia for ten years as Coordinator, Communication for Education and Development. He is currently based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the African Union Commission Headquarters.
Established in 2017, the Coalition on Media and Education for Development Africa (CAFOR) is an international organization comprising institutions, organizations, experts and individuals who are committed to ensuring that education systems in Africa are relevant to young Africans with newly acquired skills that correspond with what obtains in the labour market within the African continent.
CAFOR already has a team of experts numbering more than 50 individuals, and rely a great deal on external experts and its networks of journalists, communicators, education experts and advocates in the field for implementation of activities.
“Four years ago in 2018 we mobilized a large number of partners throughout the African continent; we met diplomats, ambassadors, various professional in Africa and America before we started. We had conversation with them, and got a lot of support.” Said the Executive Director.
The organization draws on the expertise of various areas related to its work: ministries of education, agriculture, employment, gender and women’s affairs, youth, economy and finance through their communication or information units. Also, media specialized in learning and development reporting, communication researchers and trainers, education specialists and development organizations engaged in areas of concern regarding training for youth development.
“CAFOR is unique as it was formed by African themselves, and sprung from the spirit of OAU founding fathers such as His Majesty Emperor Hailesellassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Jomo Kenyatta.”
Dr. Lawalley Cole said that CAFOR has stemmed from the idea that education for development systems work best in contexts of well-developed partnerships and trust between the multiple actors involved. In addition to the significant classroom partnership between the teacher and learners, CAFOR recognizes that education systems rely on connections and trust between school authorities.
“CAFOR is unique as it was formed by African themselves, and sprung from the spirit of OAU founding fathers such as His Majesty Emperor Hailesellassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Jomo Kenyatta.” He noted.
The Coalition on Media and Education for Development Africa Forum (CAFOR) is first and foremost a forum with various organizations, experts and individuals who are committed to ensuring that education systems in Africa are relevant to young Africans with newly acquired skills that correspond with what obtains in the labor market within the African continent.
Coalition on Media and Education for Development Africa Forum (CAFOR) hold belief that Africa must invest in letting its youth-the largest population-get quality education, relevant skills and encourage them to work in Africa in order to enhance peace and security in the continent.
The Secretariat of the African Youth SDGs Summit announces a new date for the 4th African Youth SDGs Summit following the postponement of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 4th African Youth SDGs Summit will take place on 09-11 March 2022, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the theme “Youth Resilience in the Covid-19 era; Pathways to accelerate actions to achieve the SDGs”.
The primary reason for forming, joining or building this coalition is to gain maximum influence and potential that an individual organization would otherwise not be able to have. The Coalition will achieve this impression through the following means:
CAFOR promotes Communication as a Core Element of Education and Youth Development that will focus on Youth Labour Force Participation with a focus on reform in the agricultural sector in Africa as a start. CAFOR will place Communication at the heart of education and youth development in Africa.
Speaking of the notable achievements CAFOR has made, Dr. Lawalley stated that CAFOR and the African Union have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which they agree to work together to enhance the integration of global and continental policy agendas. These include the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agenda 2063, the Science, Technology and Innovations Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024), the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25), and the Continental Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) into country-level developmental and sectoral strategies for the development of the African continent.
It provides a continent-wide platform for exchanging information, experience and practices about new technologies and innovations involving youths, especially in agriculture and other vocations that will help in the curbing of internal and external migration.
The Executive Director emphasized the need to keep on advocating the importance of good communication practices among key stakeholders, building capacity to stimulate robust public debate, and promoting policy measures to create an enabling environment for young people to engage in innovation in Africa. Such changes will include access to funding, public access to ICT, skills development and technology infrastructure.
Speaking of CAFOR’s flagship projects, The Executive Director mentioned that the organization has already framed ten interventions in order to achieve its mission. These are: Popularization of Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA), Quality Education, Innovative skills for Africa’s Youth, Digital Schools Initiative, African Virtual eLibriary, Education in Emergencies & Conflict Situations, Street Children in Africa, Training for journalists and Communication Officers, Promoting CAFOR in member states, and Strengthening Institutional Capacity of CAFOR.
“CAFOR and its networks will work closely with the various departments of the African Union Commission to popularize Agenda 2063 at the regional and country levels and will encourage the African Union to work with other African institutions.”
Agenda 2063 calls for the African continent to invest in skills, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so that the African peoples can drive the continent’s development agenda. In this respect, said Dr. Lawalley, Agenda 2063 has set up pillars for the priority areas that would execute this vision into a reality. One of the pillars of Agenda 2063 is the need to invest in the peoples of Africa as its most precious resource. These resources include their nutrition and health, their access to shelter, water and sanitation, expanding quality education and strengthening science, technology, innovation and research.
The AU contends that STI would design, implement and synchronize continental, regional and national programs to ensure that their strategic orientations and pillars are mutually reinforcing, to achieve the envisaged developmental impact as effectively as possible. CAFOR would integrate this strategy in its advocacy and social mobilization programs to promote it at the continental level.
Dr. Lawalley stated that CAFOR will function as a broker of ideas and a set up a continent-wide forum for knowledge sharing. The group will provide a platform for exchanging information, experience and practices about new technologies and innovations among experts and government ministries, CSOs, NGOs, the media, youth and communities. Through the forum, CAFOR intends to mobilize and sensitize various experts from different countries for information exchange, creating awareness, and planning for education sector reforms.
Over the last 10 years, African countries have focused on addressing access to basic education as a key milestone in supporting community development. Through education, they put an emphasis on promoting gender equity and equality, not only in remote or rural areas but also in communities and locations where men primarily dominated education.
The gains in improving access to education on the continent have been impressive, but the main challenge is now to improve the quality of education. This has been articulated in several international frameworks (i.e. 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals, Africa’s Agenda 2063, etc.) from various Pan-African organizations such the African Union Commission, the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (SDGC/A), the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), and so forth.
Dr. Lawalley said, “CAFOR and its networks will work closely with the various departments of the African Union Commission to popularize Agenda 2063 at the regional and country levels and will encourage the African Union to work with other African institutions.” Adding that the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) are the main ones in this regard, to strengthen scientific research and innovation through African networks of excellence.”
He added that CAFOR’s work requires adequate financial resources to achieve desired outcomes. CAFOR will mobilize most of the resources needed to finance programmatic activities and will institute a financing plan that identifies sources to raise external funds from all development cooperation agencies working in Africa and beyond, including the diaspora.
AFCOR, according to the Executive Director, is owned by its members, combining resources and working together. Moreover, leadership becomes a shared activity, accountability shifts from strictly individual to both individual and collective; the team develops its purpose and mission; problem-solving becomes a way of life, not a part-time exercise.
In sum, CAFOR supports the effective implementation of Agenda 2063 and all AU related policy instruments. In this regard, CAFOR would catalyze education and the skills revolution and actively promote science, technology, research and innovation. CAFOR would also support the management of knowledge, human capital capabilities and skills to drive innovations.