María del Mar Bonkanka Tabares of Equatorial Guinea/Spain is an economist and Alternate Executive Director at the African Development Bank. Born in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, raised in Spain. Seven years ago she returned to Equatorial Guinea where she has worked in various roles, including as a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Finance, Economy and Planning.
I have been lucky to be born into a family where values, education, the importance of equal opportunities and the effort necessary to achieve it, have always been accentuated. It was crystal clear to my parents that the best inheritance they could leave us with was a good education.
I was especially fortunate to have this as I was growing up and I feel it even more special now, in a world with such increased inequalities.
Despite the progress across Africa over the last two decades towards improving universal access across genders to primary education, we can do better on improving completion rates and the quality of education. COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges to obtain a complete education for many children and youth, especially girls. Schools had to close and that means, in Africa, according to the World Bank, over 250m children were out of school.
Education and continuity of learning – whether you are a farmer, a teacher, a programmer or a cook – are essential factors for the improvement of productivity and competitiveness of an economy.
Education is also about the personal ability to adapt to the impact of changes in our economies, including those due to climate change.
However, the improvements needed in education have not always received the same visibility and investments as other sectors. In some cases, African governments have opted to reduce the education budget just when it has become crucial to understand what is happening around us and developing the social and emotional capacities as the future citizens of the continent.
If we choose not to invest in education, we pose a great threat to achieving national development plans and the ‘Africa We Want’. Any national, regional, or continental plan depends on education.
Thus we must think about and invest in the education that we need, so that we can become who we need to be and are better able to harness our destinies to achieve what we must achieve.