Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
I am deeply honoured and pleased to be among you at this important event and to share the podium this afternoon with such a well briefed group of policymakers from African countries and LDCs and as well as from international organizations. I am also grateful to ECOSOC and its president and to DESA for joining hand with OSAA and OHRLLS in advancing the cause of education in Africa and LDCs.
 
Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
The convening of this High-Level Policy Dialogue attests to the consensus over the intrinsic and instrumental role of education in development, particularly in Africa and LDCs. On the one hand, education is an outcome of the development process that is worthy of pursuit by itself. On the other hand, education constitutes an essential input to the development process because of its bearing on health outcomes, labour productivity, economic growth and institutional development among others. Such a consensus is reflected in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and in the recently adopted draft Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA), which all feature human resource development as one of their key priorities.
 
Cognizant of the importance of education, African countries and LDCs have deployed considerable efforts to expand access to education. This has contributed to a large extent to significant achievements in primary education attainment in the majority of these countries. Progress towards universal primary enrolment in particular has been remarkable across these countries since the World Education Forum in Dakar. The total numbers of students pursuing secondary education, technical and vocational education and training and higher education have also expanded significantly, although not always at the same pace at that of primary education.
 
Despite this progress, educational attainment figures in Africa and in LDCs are low by all standards and lags behind those of the rest of the world. Also, a significant share of the adult population in Africa, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in LDCs lack the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed in everyday life.
 
Although substantial progress in female and rural enrolments, gender and geographic inequities persist at all levels. Indeed, girls and children living in rural areas are at a particular disadvantage.
 
In addition to the issue of access to education, the quality of education remains also a concern. Insufficient time in learning, overcrowded classrooms, poor incentives for teachers, unsuitable curricula and textbooks, to name a few, negatively impact learning and cognitive outcomes. The sum of these factors is high repetition and dropout rates.
 
Another feature of the education systems, which is linked to some degree to the quality of education, is the inadequate supply of skills. Skills generated through the education systems of many African countries and LDCs do not always match with the demand of the labour market.
 
Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
The gaps in terms of access to and quality of education have far-reaching implications for growth and development in African countries and LDCs. They seriously hamper the competitiveness of African countries and LDCs. Moreover, they limit the ability of these countries to move away from their overly dependence on low-skilled and low-value added sectors and to branch out to high value-added and knowledge-based sectors, which is essential for creating productive employment opportunities for the millions of new entrants to the labour force every year. This also implies that the access to and quality of education determine in part the success with which African countries and LDCs will reduce poverty, secure broader social development and prevent conflicts.
 
What I have just drawn so far is the broad picture of the scorecard of progress in Africa and LDCs and the education challenges before these countries. And this picture masks important differences and experiences within and across countries. Some African countries and LDCs have done well than others. These differences owe sometimes to institutional innovations, including school feeding programmmes, conditional cash transfers and the elimination of school fees, to name a few. Enabling factors, such as a greater involvement of local communities, locally-based schooling initiatives and increased financial and technical support of the donor community, also explain the achievements made by some countries. These factors should be reinforced by policy measures aimed at ensuring good quality training and retention of teachers.
 
Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
This Policy Dialogue is blessed by the presence of a distinguished group of panellists who are fully conversant with the issue of education in Africa and LDCs. These panellists will add an additional country perspective to the mix. This will help make this Special Dialogue a platform for policy makers from Africa and LDCs, development partners and experts to exchange ideas and to learn from one another.
 
This is our challenge – and Africa and LDCs expect that we will rise to it.
That said, I will now turn the floor over to the Chair to steer us through the next steps of this Policy Dialogue.
 
Thank you for your kind attention.