Though many of the world’s fastest-growing economies can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, great income disparities within and across countries have kept almost half of the continent’s population — more than 414 million people — below the extreme poverty line, or living on less than $1.25 per day.
Home to nearly every low-income country in the world, much of sub-Saharan Africa is beset by myriad challenges, such as ineffective governance, conflict, political instability, food insecurity, high unemployment, inefficient health and education systems, and the negative effects of climate change. The continent is currently the largest recipient of official development assistance — it received $48.5 billion in 2013 or about 30 percent of that year’s total ODA to developing countries — but even this is insufficient for the struggling region’s development needs.
While the international community has seemingly reached a consensus about the crucial role of education in poverty reduction, many parts of the world are still trailing behind.
Sub-Saharan Africa has managed to make progress on the education front, particularly in the primary level, by increasing net enrollment ratios and reducing the gender gap, but the majority of its countries are still quite a long way from achieving the UNESCO Education for All movement’s six goals, which — along with the Millennium Development Goals — expire this year. Today, there are still 187 million adults in the region lacking basic literacy skills, 61 percent of whom are women, and 33 million children out of school.