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The Africa Education Initiative: Helping Africans Achieve Their Potential

Randall L. Tobias, U.S. Director of Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
Washington, DC
January 8, 2007

As America’s first Director of Foreign Assistance, serving concurrently as Administrator of USAID, I am leading an effort to ensure that the assistance the U.S. delivers around the world helps people achieve their full human potential.

In Africa—a place I know well from my days leading the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—we are making tremendous investments, and President Bush’s Africa Education Initiative is one way USAID is contributing to these efforts.

We target resources to immediately address the urgent challenges of:

  • too many children out of school;
  • low quality of learning;
  • inadequate number of trained teachers; and
  • insufficient learning materials.

By supporting Africa’s efforts to improve basic levels of literacy, numeracy and critical thinking skills, we are addressing many of the underlying causes of poverty and disease. We know citizens with a basic education are less likely to become infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.

We’ve learned that an 80 percent literacy rate and near universal primary education are prerequisites for sustained economic growth. Evidence indicates that an additional one to three years of a mother's schooling is associated with a 20 percent decline in the risk of childhood death. And it is a known fact that an educated citizenry is more capable of contributing to the essential components of democracy.

Despite the enormous challenges faced today by so many people in Africa, we should not forget that much has already been accomplished.

Through efforts like the Africa Education Initiative, Africans and Americans will continue to work in partnership to advance our shared aspirations. After all, peace, prosperity, health, education, and the freedom to provide for themselves and their families are the legitimate aspirations of human beings everywhere.

Thank you very much.

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