The African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) called for the establishment of a Coalition of Stakeholders to amplify the case for prioritizing and investing in education and ensuring better coordination and networking on education-related matters 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 enhance dialogue in promoting all facets of education.
Abyssinia Business Network reporter Samuel Zewdie speaks with Dr. Lawalley Cole, CAFOR Executive Director, emphasizing the overall objective, mission, and the way forward in the African youth and education system. Born in the Gambia, and 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 at the African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Established in 2018, 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 60 individuals and relies a great deal on external experts and its networks of journalists, communicators, education experts, and advocates in the field for implementing activities.
“Four years ago, in 2018, we mobilized many partners throughout the African continent; we met diplomats, ambassadors, and various professionals in Africa and America before we started. We had a conversation with them and got much 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.
Dr. Lawalley Cole said that CAFOR has stemmed from the idea that education for development systems works 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 Africans and sprung from the spirit of OAU founding fathers such as His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie, 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 labour market within the African continent.
CAFOR believes that Africa must invest in letting its youth- its most significant population- get quality education and relevant skills and encourage them to work in Africa to enhance peace and security in the continent.
The primary reason for forming, joining, or building this Coalition is to gain maximum influence and potential that an individual organization would otherwise be unable to have. The Coalition will achieve this impression by promoting 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 had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which they agreed 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 curb 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 to achieve its mission. These are the Popularization of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA), Quality Education, Innovative skills for Africa’s Youth, Digital Schools Initiative, the African Virtual Library, 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 people 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 make this vision a reality. One of the pillars of Agenda 2063 is the need to invest in the people of Africa as its most precious resource. These resources include nutrition and health, access to shelter, water, and sanitation, expanding quality education, and strengthening science, technology, innovation, and research.
The AU contends that science, technology, and innovation 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 into its advocacy and social mobilization programs to promote it at the continental level.
Dr. Lawalley stated that CAFOR would function as a broker of ideas and 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, 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 ten years, African countries have focused on addressing access to primary education as a critical milestone in supporting community development. Through education, they emphasized promoting gender equity and equality in remote or rural areas and 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 issue has been articulated in several international frameworks (such as the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063) from various Pan-African organizations, such as the African Union Commission, the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (SDGC/A), and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).
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) “constitute key institutions that would 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.
According to the Executive Director, CAFOR is owned by its members, combining resources and working together, where leadership becomes a shared activity, and accountability shifts from strictly individual to both individual and collective; the team develops its purpose and mission, and 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.