Skip to Main Navigation

Education in Eastern and Southern Africa

Transforming Education Across Eastern and Southern Africa

In Eastern and Southern Africa, about 89% of ten-year-old children are unable to read and understand a short text, reflecting a high percentage of learning poverty that was exacerbated during the pandemic.

What Will It Take for Africa to Lead an Education Turnaround?

The World Bank's Vice President Victoria Kwakwa highlights the severe education crisis in Africa, where 9 in 10 children in Sub-Saharan Africa cannot read by age 10, urging for intensified global efforts in educational recovery and reform, especially in the face of COVID-19 disruptions.

Our vision is for all children and youth in Eastern and Southern Africa to have the education and skills to realize their potential and contribute to the sustainable development of the region. 

In Eastern and Southern Africa, 62 million children, adolescents, and youth are projected to be out of school by 2030. Without substantial action, approximately 89% (or 122.8 million) of school-aged children will be ‘learning poor’. Overall, nearly 9 in 10 children in Sub-Saharan Africa struggle to read by age 10, a global concern exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Positive transformations are happening across the region. In Kenya, under the Tusome program, students in grades 1 and 2 improved their reading in Kiswahili by the equivalent of roughly three to five years of schooling. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the elimination of primary school fees in public schools have resulted in 3.7 million more children in gaining access to education, marking a 25% increase in enrollment in public primary schools. Similarly, Tanzania's results-based financing education program led to an additional 1.8 million students enrolling in primary schools. These efforts have significantly boosted enrollment.

African countries are also facing the pressing challenge of equipping its young and rapidly growing population with quality education and technical skills. It is estimated that up to 12 million young Africans are entering the job market every year. By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa will have the largest and youngest workforce in the world.

Several countries are responding to labor market needs. Rwanda, for example, is providing up-skilling opportunities for over 34% of youth aged 16-30 years in NEET (neither in employment nor in education and training). And Tanzania is tripling annual technical and vocational education and training (TVET) enrolment to 1.5 million trainees by 2030 and incentivizing innovation in priority sectors such as digital technologies and green skills.

It is clear, African leaders are committed to reducing learning poverty and preparing youth for today’s and tomorrow’s job market. At the Africa Human Capital Summit in July, 2023, 43 African leaders signed the Dar es Salaam Declaration and pledged to increasing accessibility, affordability, and quality education, and improving literacy rates to 75% by 2030. Especially, increasing adolescent girls’ access to secondary and tertiary education. They also pledged to provide training to an additional 19 million young people to acquire digital skills for jobs by 2030.


In Eastern and Southern Africa, the landscape of education finance reflects a complex interplay of challenges and opportunities. While strides have been made to enhance access to education, financial barriers persist, hindering the region's progress. Insufficient public funding, coupled with economic disparities, poses a significant hurdle in ensuring equality of access to education for all. This issue is particularly pronounced in rural areas, where limited resources and infrastructure exacerbate the education finance gap.

By prioritizing effective and efficient financing for education, Eastern and Southern Africa can unlock the potential of its youth, fostering a brighter future and contributing to sustainable and inclusive development. As of 2023, the World Bank was engaged in 35 projects, allocating a total of $6.33 billion for education financing in the region.

Learn More

Education Sector

The World Bank Group is the largest financier of education in the developing world, working in 90 countries and committed to helping them reach SDG4: access to inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.

Education-related Projects

World Bank's projects focused on education development in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Documents & Reports on Education

Learn more about the challenges and possible solutions to education development in Eastern and Southern Africa from the world Bank's research and publications.