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IMF advocates enhanced education investment in Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African nations to increase investment in education as a key driver of economic growth.

In a report published on its website, the IMF highlighted that the demographic transition could present significant opportunities for these regions, but emphasized that these benefits would only be realized through adequate investment in education and skills development for young populations.

The region’s population is poised to double to two billion by 2050, according to the United Nations.

The fund said that while sub-Saharan Africa had made notable progress in expanding access to schools in recent decades, its outcomes still trailed those in other emerging markets and developing economies.
The IMF revealed that nearly three in 10 school-age children do not attend school, with the completion rate for primary school students being around 65 per cent, compared with a world average of 87 per cent.

“One reason for these shortfalls is that government spending on education in Sub-Saharan Africa falls short of international benchmarks in several countries. The median education budget was equal to about 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product in 2020, which is below the international recommendation of at least 4 per cent of GDP.
“However, recent IMF analysis reveals that achieving the key Sustainable Development Goal of universal primary and secondary school enrollment by 2030 may require doubling education expenditures as a share of GDP, including from both public and private funding sources.”

According to the fund, greater spending to improve access is important, but equally important is the effort to ensure that funds are efficiently used.

“Indeed, for the median country in sub-Saharan Africa, only 15 per cent of students in primary and secondary school achieve more than the minimum learning outcome, while teacher training rates have fallen steadily for two decades,” the IMF stated.
The fund added that investment in education provides clear long-term economic gains that more than justify the cost.

“Greater government spending on education offers economic benefits such as higher productivity and foreign direct investment, as shown in the latest Fiscal Monitor. Governments in sub-Saharan Africa should protect education budgets amid tighter fiscal constraints and the ongoing funding squeeze, and implement best practices in public financial management for raising domestic revenue and ensuring that funds are well-spent,” it asserted.

The IMF called on donors and international organizations to continue or increase funding for education throughout the region.
This, according to the IMF, will guarantee a steady supply of skilled workers, which is becoming increasingly critical as the global population ages. Additionally, it will enable the region to emerge as a vibrant source of new demand for consumer goods and investment opportunities.

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