AfDB Commits $700 Million to STEM Education, Training of 1.7m African Youths

Nume Ekeghe

The President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has stated that the bank has allocated $700 million towards education and skills development.

He said that the bank was also supporting 4,000 tertiary education and training institutions and granting 1.7 million African youth access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

He said this over the weekend while delivering his keynote address at the Chatham House in London.

He noted that Africa’s substantial youth population necessitates significant investments in digital infrastructure to unlock the potential of the digital economy.

He said: “The African Development Bank is investing heavily in human capital to unleash the growth potential of Africa, including tapping into the scientific talents in the diaspora.

“We are supporting universities of science and technology, expanding training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, centres of excellence in biotechnology and material sciences, as well as technical and vocational training.

“We have committed $700 million for education and skills development, which has supported 4,000 tertiary education and training facilities, and provided 1.7 million African youth with access to education in STEM.

Africa, he said, has witnessed a tripling in the number of start-ups, reaching 5,200 between 2020 and 2021, as revenue of fintech companies is estimated to reach over $30 billion annually by 2025.

This trend, Adesina said, mirrors what Google and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimate that Africa’s internet economy will reach $180 billion by 2025 and $712 billion by 2050.

He reiterated that unleashing the potential of the digital economy will require large investments in digital infrastructure, including fibre optics, data centres and the expansion of mobile networks to improve connectivity.

He added: “To support the businesses of young people in Africa, and drive greater entrepreneurship, the African Development Bank is establishing Youth entrepreneurship investment banks across the continent.

“These are new financial institutions that will provide tailored financial instruments to build the businesses of young people and build youth-based wealth, which will reduce migration. The first Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks have been approved for Liberia $16 million and Ethiopia $32 million, with several more in the pipeline.”

He pointed out that Africa is the second fastest-growing region in the world, second only to Asia, and has 10 of the 20 fastest-growing countries in the world.

He said: “As Africa’s economic resilience is bolstered, unlocking its economic prospects requires ensuring structural change of its economies, raising the productivity of agriculture, provision of electricity, accelerating infrastructure investments, supporting faster pace digitalisation, unleashing economic and job opportunities for women and youth, and driving industrialisation through greater mobilisation of the private sector.

“Assuring food security in Africa is top on the agenda for the African Development Bank. Over the past eight years, we have provided close to $10 billion in support of agriculture.

“Our flagship initiative, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), has delivered climate smart agricultural technologies for 13 million farmers. Our support of heat tolerant wheat varieties to Ethiopia turned it into a wheat self-sufficient country in under four years.”

“The African Development Bank is also developing Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones in eleven countries to support agro-industrialisation and value addition and development of agricultural value chains. This is critical to unlocking the value of the food and agribusiness in Africa worth $1 trillion by 2030.

“Unlocking Africa’s vast renewable energy sources and assuring energy supply, access and security, is central to Africa’s economic prosperity. Africa still has close to 600 million people without access to electricity.”

Furthermore, he noted that the economic prospects of Africa remain strong and that at the top of this is building the resilience of the continent to climate change.

He added: “The continent loses $7–15 billion, which is expected to rise to $50 billion annually by 2030. From greater frequency and intensity of floods and droughts, no part of Africa is spared. Yet, Africa receives only 3 per cent of global climate finance, with $30 billion annually for climate adaptation, while its needs are $277 billion annually.

“The African Development Bank is supporting African countries to tackle climate change. We have significantly increased the share of climate finance in our annual lending from 9 per cent in 2016 to 55 per cent last year.

“ The Bank is implementing a $25 billion initiative, the African Adaptation Acceleration Programme, the largest climate adaptation programme in the world in partnership with the Global Centre on Adaptation.

“Another headwind is rising debt levels, with 22 countries at risk of high debt distress.

“This is especially the case as concessional financing globally has declined, with more countries depending on private commercial creditors and the Eurobond market.

‘With Africa’s debt service payments of $74 billion due this year, up from $17 billion in 2010, urgent actions are needed on comprehensive debt treatment and resolution for Africa.”

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