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Launch of the process for the review of the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) 2016-25

This article originally appeared on the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA)'s website on 23 May 2024, authored by Sophia Ashipala, Head for Education at the African Union Commission, and Quentin Wodon, Director of UNESCO IICBA.

On May 8, 2024, the African Union formally launched the process for the Review of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) 2016-25 at a consultation held in person in Lusaka, Zambia, as well as online on the occasion of the annual conference of the Africa Federation of Teaching Regulatory Authorities. Over 400 people attended the conference in person, with at least 1,000 watching online. A total of 22 countries were represented in-person, including at the Ministerial level for Ghana, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Morocco, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Zambia’s Vice President opened the conference.

Education remains a top priority for Africa, serving as the bedrock for the aspirations of the African Union’s continental development blueprint, Agenda 2063. The African Union’s vision for education is laid out in CESA 16-25 which expands on global targets enshrined in the UN Strategic Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). Other instruments such as the declaration of the UN Transforming Education summit are also critical to the continental education transformation agenda. The AU Commission is committed to supporting AU member states in strengthening their national education systems and management processes, as well as achieving national priorities geared towards building capacities to realize continental aspirations and global targets stipulated in the SDGs.

CESA 16-25 was driven by a desire to “reorient Africa’s education and training systems to meet the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to nurture African core values and promote sustainable development at the national, sub-regional and continental levels.” The African Union has declared 2024 as the Year of Education with the theme “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century: Building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa.” In this context it is important to take stock of progress and achievements towards the CESA’s strategic objectives and plan for a future education strategy.

Aims of the CESA

Review As we near the end of the time frame for CESA 16-25, major challenges remain for education systems in Africa. These challenges were exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic. In this context, the CESA Review will have the following objectives: (1) Assess progress against the 12 strategic objectives of CESA 16-25, including what has and hasn’t worked well in implementation and the reasons why – this includes assessing successes, challenges, gaps, and opportunities in line with the relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, and impact of CESA 16-25; (2) Evaluate the effectiveness of the CESA clusters as a partnerships-based implementation mechanism and how the cluster mechanism can be further strengthened to enhance education outcomes in line with the continental and national objectives; and (3) Providing recommendations for a new CESA post-2025, including in terms of objectives, implementation opportunities, and recommendations for Member States.

The following questions will therefore guide the CESA Review: (1) To what extent have we achieved the Strategic Objectives of CESA 16-25? What have been key successes, challenges, and gaps as well as opportunities? To what extent have Member States used CESA 16-25 for their own national education strategies?; (2) To what extent have the Clusters been effective as a partnerships-based implementation mechanism and how can the cluster mechanism be strengthened to enhance outcomes?; and (3) What recommendations can be drawn from CESA 16-25 for a future education strategy for Africa, including mechanisms to respond to potential crises affecting the continent?

Approach for the CESA Review

To answer these questions, the CESA Review will rely on analysis of both existing and new data. Existing data will include data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics to assess progress towards strategic objectives and provide an assessment of the CESA framework for monitoring and evaluation. New data will be collected among others through three surveys for (1) Ministries of Education; (2) members of the CESA clusters; and (3) broader education stakeholders. Review of the literature and interviews will also be conducted, among others to identify best practices, success stories, and innovative approaches to be shared across the continent. Process-wise, the CESA Review will engage with Regional Economic Communities (RECs), national governments, and other partners to develop recommendations for enhancing existing strategies and programs.

In terms of key responsibilities, the CESA Review will involve (among other stakeholders): (1) The African Union Commission, which will be responsible for coordinating the overall review process and implementing recommendations; (2) UNESCO, including UNESCO IICBA, which will provide expertise and support for data collection and analysis; (3) Other organizations including AfECN, which will provide support in their specific areas of expertise (organizations participating in the CESA clusters will also be consulted and provided opportunities to contribute); (4) National governments, RECs, and other agencies, which will participate in the review process, be consulted, and provide contextual perspectives.


The main anticipated deliverables will be a report (at about 50 pages) detailing the findings, analysis, and recommendations of the CESA review process. This will include documenting progress for all 12 strategic objectives and guidance on good practices and innovations in those areas. Another key deliverable will be a series of stakeholder consultations on the CESA review and next steps for drafting a future strategy. The review process is expected to take approximately 6 months, with the timeline to be finalized in consultation with the stakeholders, after which work will take place towards a new strategy.