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Promoting and Increasing Public-Private Alliances in Education

Henrietta H. Fore, Acting Director of Foreign Assistance and Acting USAID Administrator
Remarks at the 2007 Business and Education Conference
Academy for Educational Development Conference Center, Washington, DC
October 3, 2007

Distinguished colleagues and partners in education: I would like to thank the Academy for Educational Development and the Conference Board for providing this forum to promote and increase public-private alliances in education.

Before I begin, please allow me to introduce, Mr. Tom Corts, the Coordinator of the President's International Educational Initiative. Dr. Corts was asked by President Bush to oversee the work of the Basic Education Initiative and to organize our international education efforts. I am delighted that he has accepted the President's offer to take on this critical responsibility and is able to join us all here this morning.

He has had a distinguished career in the United States and brings to his job extraordinary compassion and skill. Congratulations and thank you Dr. Corts. Investment in education - from all sources and at all levels - is critical. Education serves as a basis for sustained growth and provides the skills necessary for individuals to effectively contribute to their societies across all sectors.

Great strides in education have been made throughout the developing world during the past decade - accomplishments of which we can all be proud. Today, more children, particularly girls, are attending school and literacy rates are higher among all age groups than at any point in the past. However, many pressing inter-related challenges to educational progress persist - particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The human and economic toll of HIV/AIDS on education systems is accelerating, employment opportunities for more than one billion youth entering the global labor market over the next decade are stagnant, and current education investment levels - without accelerating domestic economic growth - are unsustainable.

To address such historic challenges, we all need to think more broadly and more boldly on how to strengthen, deepen and expand our existing education initiatives and partnerships.

Because these complex challenges manifest themselves differently in each country, no one approach or type of partnership effort will likely succeed the same way in all contexts. In general, however, greater collaboration, alliance building, and coordination among stakeholders will produce better results in all contexts.

Alliance building everywhere, at the minimum, should include partnerships between host governments, donors, civil society organizations, individual communities, and private enterprises at all levels.

While education is primarily a public good, the private sector is completely dependent on the educational system for its skilled workforce. Thus, it has an important role to play in ensuring that each country's education sector strategy is both relevant and responsive to the needs of private enterprises - large and small.

In doing so, the business community can bring considerable resources to bear, both in increasing the quantity of available education and the quality of its delivery. The private sector, in most developing countries, is the driver of innovation and can, through existing practices, help streamline education processes and administration.

The private sector also emphasizes performance, efficiency, and metrics, all required elements of a high-performing and responsive educational system. It also possesses proven expertise in building capacity to meet demand, and exhibits a healthy impatience with the status quo.

When asked, "Why is your firm interested in education?," a South African businessman responded that it took 18 years of public investment to produce one 12th grade graduate. It then took another 10 percent of his firm's income to provide the graduates with the skills that should have been delivered by the education system. Educational challenges quickly become business challenges, as workforce quality and the environment in which business is conducted are directly impacted by poor quality education.

In recognition of the important and dynamic role private enterprise should play in education, USAID has worked to build greater partnerships between the business community and governments.

This work is rooted in USAID's broader effort to engage private enterprises across the entire development spectrum through our Global Development Alliance.

In addition to attracting matching private-sector resource flows, GDA projects pool a diverse array of non-financial resources, including technology and intellectual property, market creation, best practices, policy influence, in-country networks, and expertise in development programs ranging from international trade to education. Together, the combination of complementary assets has initiated many innovative approaches, more effective problem solving and deeper development impact.

Since 2001, USAID, through our Global Development Alliance, has leveraged $4.8 billion dollars based on an investment of $1.4 billion dollars across a broad range of sectors including health, natural resources, agriculture and education.

In the education sector, in particular, USAID has leveraged $293 million dollars based on an investment of $165 million dollars in public funds. It has done so through a host of innovating partners, projects and mechanisms. Let me take a moment to highlight just three:

The first is known as INJAZ (IN-jazz) Arabia, an initiative to mentor and develop the next generation of business leaders in Arab nations suffering from high youth unemployment rates.

An estimated 100 million jobs must be created over the next 20 years to effectively absorb the youth population bulge throughout the Arab world. Yet, most national educational systems in these countries cannot adequately prepare these youth for the workplace. Partners in this initiative - Citibank, ExxonMobil, Junior Achievement, the Middle East Partnership Initiative- along with USAID and ministries of education, are sending senior-level corporate volunteers to share their professional perspectives, know-how, and success stories with Arab youth. These youth are taught, for example, how banking supports business and industry, how to manage their own budgets and understand equity markets, and how to develop business plans. Since late 2004, over 1,000 students in Bahrain and 4,000 students in Egypt and Lebanon and have been mentored. In Jordan, 900 Jordanians currently teach over 40,000 university students through the program. By 2008, 160,000 youth in Arab nations are expected to have benefited by this initiative. By 2015, this number will approach 1 million.

A second example can be found in Panama, where a USAID credit guarantee encourages a domestic bank, Banco Panameño de la Vivienda, to extend low interest student loans to financially needy students. USAID makes outstanding use of loan guarantees to mobilize local private sector investment through its Development Credit Authority.

This mechanism provides partial credit guarantees to local private financial institutions to provide loans in support of development outcomes. Not only did this USAID guarantee leverage twenty times USAID's investment in education in Panama, it also established the credit-worthiness of students for future loans to enhance and sustain their continued studies.

A third and final example of USAID innovative approach to private- sector engagement in education is found in the Global Learning Portal. This portal is a USAID-conceived and partially-funded, multi-lingual, collaborative, on-line network for the more than 60 million teachers worldwide. Focused on developing country challenges, the portal empowers educators to share their knowledge, materials, and best practices with others; and provides on-line resources to improve skills and education quality. It is an ever-expanding public-private alliance made up of donors, corporations, foundations, universities and non-governmental organizations.

I will end here with a final thought:  now is the time for new thinking, new approaches and new development actors. Private enterprises can and do play an important and dynamic role in driving educational change for the better.

Exploring and expanding alliances with such actors is our best hope of addressing the challenges I mentioned earlier. I applaud your efforts to do so through this conference and I thank you once again for your invitation to take part.

Thank you very much.

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