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Alkebulan awakening and Africa’s Year of Education

As Africa continues on its path towards economic and political integration, investing in education must remain a top priority. An intra-African education system that empowers young Africans with the knowledge, skills, and values they need to succeed will be essential for realising Africa’s full potential and building a prosperous and inclusive future for all.
An infographic of African Union's Year of Education
Credit: African Union
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In the vast expanse of Africa, home to approximately 1.5 billion people, a stirring of consciousness is taking root, blossoming into what can only be described as a profound awakening – the Alkebulan awakening.

This awakening draws its essence from the ancient name of Africa itself – Alkebu-lan. Translating to “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden,” Alkebu-lan holds a deep significance in the annals of history. It was a name revered by the Moors, Nubians, Numidians, Khart-Haddans (Carthaginians), and Ethiopians, embodying the continent’s rich heritage and primordial origins.

Scholars posit that the term “Africa” – the current misnomer widely adopted today – was bestowed upon the continent by ancient Greeks and Romans, obscuring its true essence.

Renowned Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop, in his seminal work “Kemetic History of Afrika,” asserts that Africa’s true ancient name was Alkebu-lan. This narrative aligns seamlessly with Kemetic and Ethiopian texts, which venerate Africa as the birthplace of humanity.

At its core, the Alkebulan awakening seeks to reclaim Africa’s rightful place in the annals of history, retelling its story through the eyes of its indigenous inhabitants. For too long, Africa’s narrative has been crafted and narrated by outsiders, perpetuating a skewed perspective tainted by colonial biases. The Alkebulan awakening aims to dismantle these narratives and rewrite history from an authentic African standpoint.

Central to this awakening is the reclamation of Africa’s pride and identity as the cradle of civilisation. It advocates for the development of an indigenous education system tailored to address local challenges and foster holistic growth and development. It seeks to empower Africans to take ownership of their narrative, embracing their heritage and shaping their destiny.

Against this backdrop, the African Union’s declaration of 2024 as the Year of Education holds profound significance. With its 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’ – the initiative underscores the critical role of education in Africa’s resurgence.

In recent years, African governments have made commendable strides in advancing education across the continent. Efforts to enhance access, quality, and inclusivity in education have yielded positive outcomes, with notable progress in primary and secondary education, technical and vocational training, and adult literacy programmes.

However, amidst these advancements, critical challenges persist. The prevalence of out-of-school children, learning poverty, and the shortage of qualified teachers pose formidable obstacles to Africa’s educational aspirations. These challenges underscore the urgency of concerted action and investment in education to secure a brighter future for the continent.

Education is not merely a means to acquire knowledge; it is the cornerstone of human capital development and societal progress. By investing in education, Africa can unlock its vast potential, harnessing the talents and capabilities of its youthful population to drive economic growth, foster social cohesion, and build resilient communities.

The African Union’s declaration of 2024 as the Year of Education serves as a clarion call to action, rallying stakeholders across the continent to prioritise education as a catalyst for transformative change. By building resilient education systems that are inclusive, equitable, and relevant to the needs of the 21st century, Africa can chart a course towards a brighter, more prosperous future for generations to come.

Read also: Beyond books: The crucial role of holistic university education

Furthermore, in recent years, Africa has witnessed a surge in economic and political initiatives aimed at fostering regional integration and unlocking the continent’s immense potential. Among these initiatives are the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), both designed to facilitate intra-African trade and financial transactions.

However, alongside these efforts, there is a growing recognition of the need for an intra-African education system that prepares young Africans for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, ratified by 54 of the 55 African Union member states, stands as a monumental step towards creating a single market for goods and services on the continent. By eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers, AfCFTA aims to boost intra-African trade, stimulate economic growth, and create employment opportunities for millions of Africans. With a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of over $3.4 trillion, the AfCFTA has the potential to transform Africa into a global economic powerhouse.

Complementing the AfCFTA is the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System, a continental payment platform developed by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank). PAPSS aims to facilitate seamless cross-border transactions, reduce the cost of doing business, and enhance financial inclusion across Africa. By providing a secure and efficient payment infrastructure, PAPSS empowers African businesses to engage more effectively in regional and international trade.

While these economic initiatives hold great promise for Africa’s future, their success hinges on the availability of a skilled and adaptable workforce. Recognising this, there is a growing consensus among African leaders and policymakers on the need for an intra-African education system that equips young Africans with the knowledge and skills required to thrive in the 21st century.

An intra-African education system would go beyond traditional academic disciplines to encompass critical thinking, problem-solving, digital literacy, and entrepreneurial skills. It would emphasise hands-on learning experiences, collaboration, and innovation, preparing students for the demands of a rapidly evolving global economy.

Moreover, an intra-African education system would promote cultural exchange, cross-border collaboration, and a sense of pan-African identity among young Africans. By fostering mutual understanding and solidarity, it would lay the foundation for deeper regional integration and cooperation across the continent.

Several initiatives are already underway to promote intra-African education and skills development. The African Union’s Agenda 2063, for example, includes provisions for harmonising education systems, promoting lifelong learning, and enhancing vocational training across Africa.

Similarly, organisations such as the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) are working to strengthen education infrastructure, improve teacher training, and expand access to quality education across the continent.

As Africa continues on its path towards economic and political integration, investing in education must remain a top priority. An intra-African education system that empowers young Africans with the knowledge, skills, and values they need to succeed will be essential for realising Africa’s full potential and building a prosperous and inclusive future for all.

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