The Evolution of Education Financing in Africa

On April 9, I took part in a panel discussion on the evolution of education financing in Africa at Teachers College, Columbia University. The conference, which was organized by The Center for African Education, in collaboration with NORRAG, Tri-State Area Africa Funders, and the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School, explored how new funding mechanisms and philanthropy can compensate for funding gaps and support most vulnerable students in equitable ways.


Our panel explored different innovative financing mechanisms and their impact on education and development in Africa. Our keynote speaker, Aleesha Taylor, discussed the topic from a funder’s perspective through her work at the Open Society Foundations. I moderated a panel which included Dr. Marina Avelar, Research Associate, NORRAG; Amini Kajunju, Executive Director, IUGB Foundation; and Barbara Bylenga, Founder and Executive Director, SHE-CAN. The panelists shared insights based on their own diverse experiences working in philanthropy and development in Africa. We connected with different actors and fostered conversation among students, academics, practitioners and funders on the lessons learned, challenges, successes and recommendations for the future of innovative finance in education to ensure equitable outcomes.

As the rationale for innovative financing is to encourage novel approaches and initiatives beyond traditional methods to generate sustainable funding for education, I asked the panelists what innovative financing mechanisms they used in their own work or organizations. Also, I couldn’t resist asking the speakers if they knew of differences between financing education in Francophone Africa and Anglophone Africa and what insights we could draw from these differences. Finally, we talked about the role of the African diaspora or how students from the continent can become a more central voice in influencing educational development funding. Dr. S. Garnett Russell and Katrina Webster of the George Clement Bond Center for African Education orchestrated the event with input from Dr. Gita Steiner-Khamsi, executive director of NORRAG. Here is the final program: Investing in Education in Africa Program