Focus on Africa event attracted a large number of participants
The importance of the African continent is growing from a global perspective. The population of African countries is young, with 60% of inhabitants being under the age of 25. The economic growth of the continent presents needs for the number and growth of skilled employees as well. This, in turn, is also increasing the importance of collaboration between Finland and African countries in the education and youth sectors.
Africa strategies emphasise equal partnership
The importance of collaboration with African countries is reflected in the strategic focus areas defined in both the EU-Africa strategy and Finland’s national-level Africa strategy. Education and youth work are integral parts of both strategies, with other important perspectives including the building of equal partnership and the tackling of future challenges together. As part of the national Africa strategy, Finland is also currently in the process of drafting a joint Africa action plan for the administrative branches of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
These strategic perspectives along with good practices in and the concrete cooperation opportunities arising out of the education cooperation being carried out with African countries were the focus of the Finnish National Agency for Education’s Focus on Africa webinar held on 9 December 2021. The aim of the webinar was to bring together different operators in the education and youth sectors. The English-language webinar attracted over 280 participants primarily from Finland, but also from abroad.
Speaking at the webinar were a broad range of experts from the education and youth sectors. The opening address of the webinar was delivered by Director General of the Finnish National Agency for Education Minna Kelhä, who highlighted various cooperation opportunities arising out of the collaboration with African countries and different forms of support administered by the Finnish National Agency for Education for developing said collaboration.
Claire Herrmann from the European Commission's Directorate General for Education and Culture highlighted perspectives on the EU-Africa strategy and its connections to the strategic focus areas of the African Union and talked about the various forms of the EU’s education collaboration. The growing focus on collaboration with African countries is also reflected in the level of support available: for example, the support available via the Erasmus+ programme for collaboration with Sub-Saharan African countries will more than quadruple during the ongoing programme period.
Director for International Relations Jaana Palojärvi from the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland spoke about the Ministry’s Africa action plan. The goal of the action plan is to promote the strengthening of education, research and competence, culture, cultural understanding, creative industries, social cohesion and the civic society for the accomplishment of Agenda 2030 goals in collaboration with African countries. The drafting of the action plan is currently in progress, and the event also served as the commenting event of the new action plan.
Executive Secretary of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Albert Nsengiyumva reflected on connections and areas of collaboration from the perspective of the ADEA based on the focus areas of both the EU-Africa strategy and Finland’s national Africa strategy.
Cooperation opportunities widening
During the webinar, we also heard comments from several experts and learned about a wealth of collaboration experiences in different education sectors along with tips on how to develop education collaboration. The event also showcased the Finnish National Agency for Education’s programmes and widening opportunities for cooperation with African countries in the education and youth sectors.
The webinar recording and materials are available on the Finnish National Agency for Education’s new “Cooperation with developing countries” website. The website presents the Finnish National Agency for Education’s different programmes and actions aimed at supporting educational cooperation with developing countries. These include the Centre of Expertise in Education and Development established in autumn 2021 and the education export programme Education Finland.