Education Sub Saharan Africa (ESSA) and Dubai Cares forge a new partnership

By Olaf Hahn

Patrick Dunne

Today, announced a significant expansion of ESSA’s work, through a $1.5m investment from Dubai Cares. The focus of this two-year investment and collaboration partnership is precisely on the nexus between education and work. Building upon the swift progress ESSA has made since start up in 2016, it marks the next phase of ESSA’s ambitious growth strategy.

The work will have relevance across sub-Saharan Africa, with an initial set of activities in a number of countries from East, West and South of the region. Preparatory work is already underway in the first two of these countries, Ghana and Uganda.

This partnership is built on the back of ESSA’s most notable endeavours in the Higher Education sector to date which are to:

  • Create, in cooperation with the REAL Centre at  University of Cambridge, the African Education Research Database the first online searchable database of research on education by African researchers based in Africa.

  • Model, in partnership with the Association of African Universities, the Demographics of Faculty in Ghana’s 213 tertiary institutions in order to support the government and individual institutions plan faculty needs for the future.

  • Create a Scholarship Impact Hub to increase access, impact and return on investment in scholarships in the region.

African countries are about to seize what probably is one of the greatest opportunities of our age, their own transformation to become global leaders in innovation and change. As the Senegalese philosopher Felwine Sarr puts it, evidence of African leadership is already delivered in literature, fashion, urbanism and music.

To achieve this transformation, education plays a most significant role in its promise of a suitable preparation for the world of work. Millions of jobs need to be created for a massively growing population. One of the issues in getting this right is about the nexus between education and work so that the needs of the labour-markets can be better served by education. Quality tertiary education in particular has the potential to foster growth, to reduce poverty and to boost shared prosperity. A highly skilled workforce, with a solid education and training background, is a prerequisite for innovation and growth: well-educated people are more employable, earn higher wages, and cope with economic shocks better.

Yet there are major challenges, and many of them systemic, for all layers of education in most of the African countries, despite very positive developments over the last decades, especially in terms of access. And the demographic dynamics already show their effect putting even more pressure on education systems, on budgets and capacity.

How can the issue of education for Africa be solved?

I firmly believe that only a huge collaborative and sustainable effort of all those investing in education in Africa can get this right. Isolated projects and short-term investments will not be enough to support the systemic and long-lasting transformation which Africa’s education needs. Joined and longer-term investments in areas of significant opportunity as faculty recruitment, strategic planning, leadership, governance and business involvement have the potential to support a true transformation. And this transformation is needed quickly. With African countries already investing a very significant share of their national budgets into education, what can make a difference is a global alliance for education in Africa.

Education sub-Saharan Africa (ESSA) is such a collaborative effort, with Africans at the heart of all it does, growing out of civil society and philanthropic endeavour.

ESSA was launched in 2016 as a social enterprise focussing on Tertiary Education and has already brought together a number of African and non-African partners to address some of the key issues in this space.  Issues such as the urgent need for several million more faculty to accommodate the growing number of students, and the transformation of the scholarship space, one of the main support mechanisms for young Africans to study, in order to increase access, impact and return on investment in scholarships in the region.

Dubai Cares joins a growing list of blue-chip Foundations and partners investing in ESSA’s work, such as the Robert Bosch Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation and the Jacobs Foundation. Part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Global Initiatives, Dubai Cares has been working towards providing children and young people in developing countries with access to quality education through the design and funding of programs that aim to be integrated, impactful, sustainable and scalable. As a result, the UAE-based global philanthropic organization, has successfully launched education programs reaching over 18 million beneficiaries in 57 developing countries.

The collaboration with ESSA marks Dubai Cares’ first investment in tertiary education, reinforcing its position as a major player in education, and supporting the becoming of a truly global alliance for education in Africa.

His Excellency Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, the Dubai Cares’ CEO, joins as a Patron of ESSA. His inspiring leadership, deep knowledge and relationships in the sector will be of tremendous support for ESSA’s purpose to join up, inform, inspire and increase impact for everyone investing in education and to add a central cornerstone of the creation of a global alliance for tertiary education in Africa.

The partnership between ESSA and Dubai Cares will focus on the following areas:

  • Building human capacity and capability in tertiary education, especially in faculty, by e.g. applying ESSA's groundbreaking work on the demographics of faculty for public universities to technical colleges.

  • The employability of graduates from the tertiary education sector, applying e.g. to internships what ESSA has done in the scholarship space: to increase access, impact and return on investment

  • Leadership and managerial skills of tertiary education leaders, especially by focusing on women leaders in education.

  • An increased engagement of business in tertiary education: Only if the needs of business for knowledge and skills are clearly expressed and integrated, tertiary education is able to deliver what the labour markets need.

  • Knowledge transfer and practical adoption of what works best in the tertiary education sector by identifying what is “transformative knowledge” and how to drive it to action.