Africa Grantmakers Blog

promoting increased & more effective funding in Africa


The Iroko Project

The IROKO tree is native to various regions of Africa. It is used to make the “talking drum.”

It symbolizes efforts to build a robust and relevant body of knowledge with many “branches."

The hope is to build a knowledge tree with many branches reflecting different approaches and interests.

Under the IROKO Project AGAG organized learning calls and meetings to bring together funders and other  stakeholders to discuss best pratices for supporting education in Africa. 





Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent in the world. By the year 2030, half of its population will be living and working in towns and cities. However, the following facts present a daunting challenge to Africa’s development and ability to contribute on a global level.

According to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)[1], UNESCO[2] and World Bank[3]:

  • Although literacy rates have greatly improved in Africa over the last few decades, approximately 40% of Africans over the age of 15, and 50% of women above the age of 25 remain illiterate.[4]
  • Illiteracy among individuals over the age of 15 stands at 41 per cent; gender disparity in education prevails in 75% of countries.[5] For the period 2000–06, Seychelles had the highest adult literacy rate (92%); Mali and Burkina Faso had the lowest (24%).[6]
  • Early childhood development is, in most countries, left to private sector actors primarily working in urban areas in aid of more advantaged social groups. [7]
  • Almost 50% of countries may not attain the goal of universal primary education by 2015; nearly 40 million children are not going to school.[8]  Liberia has the lowest primary student-teacher ratio of 19; in Mozambique the ratio is 67. Cape Verde has the highest gross enrolment rate in secondary education (80%); Niger has the lowest (11%).[9]
  • Enrolment in lower secondary school rose to 46% in 2003 from 28% in 1991.[10] The gross secondary school enrolment rate exceeds 20% in half of the countries, yet remains below 8% in 10 countries. [11]
  • Higher education and other levels and forms of education are experiencing problems with respect to access, quality and even relevance.[12]
  • HIV/AIDS is likely to claim the lives of 10% of teachers within the coming five years, and 20% of school-age children will be AIDS orphans.[13] A minimum of three million more teachers is needed in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015.[14]
  • Africa loses an estimated 20,000 skilled personnel a year to developed countries, brain drain.
  • There are more people connected to the Internet in New York City than on the entire African continent.[1] In Liberia, almost no one has internet access (0.03 per 100); there are 34 in every 100 people in Seychelles. (MDG 8).[2]

Click here to download a pdf of the above information with citations.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Education is but one of the eight United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

Specifically, Goal 2 aims to ensure universal primary education for children everywhere, boys and girls alike, to complete a full course of primary schooling. However, the other goals also mention, directly or indirectly, a need for education support toward each goal.

For example, in addressing Goal 1, Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger, the aim of full and productive employment must be supported by education. Goal 3, Promote Gender Equality, addresses the need to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education.  This is also dependent upon secondary schooling, education quality and teacher resources.

Goals 4-7, Child Health, Maternal Health, Combating HIV/AIDS and Environmental Sustainability, each can also be addressed with additional education.

Finally, Goal 8, Global Partnerships, addresses the need to disseminate information to support development in other countries.  This goal contains the need to address internet accessibility, the powerhouse of information supply.



   Copyright 2014 Africa Grantmakers' Affinity Group, a project of the Tides Center