Working Group on Finance and Education (WGFE)

As the worldwide economic crisis continues to squeeze the national budgets of struggling sub-Saharan African nations, education has become one of the most visible areas to suffer cutbacks.

Faced with dwindling financial resources and an ever-growing demand for education, hard-pressed education planners and economists are urged to develop new skills and techniques that will ensure that existing funds are managed as best one can and to explore previously untapped resources. The establishment of the WGFE was dictated by a context marked by the recognition of the importance of educational funding issues especially in Africa. During the same period, there have been drastic changes in the way educational systems across the continent were managed. This paradigm shift explains why most African education systems moved from the project assistance approach to the program approach in an effort to harmonize donor intervention in the sector and trigger governments to adopt systemic and comprehensive educational reforms. This new way of managing education known as the educational sector wide approach (SWAp) gained impetus on the continent beginning in the mid 1990s.

Helping Ministries of Education and Finance to formulate and implement sound policies and budgets, opening up channels of communication between both institutions and disseminating best practices are some of the goals the Working Group on Finance and Education has set itself.

What is the Working Group on Finance and Education?

The Working Group on Finance and Education (WGFE) was founded in 1994 to promote discussion on policy issues related to financing, management and planning of education in sub-Saharan Africa. It provides a forum where African educational planners and economists and funding agencies can exchange information, develop tools and elaborate sound policies so as to better manage funds put towards education. 
The working group\'s members include Ministries of Education and Finance, development agencies, research institutions and NGOs sharing education finance concerns. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) acts as lead agency for the working group. The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), a pan-African institution based in Dakar (Senegal), is responsible for the coordination of the working group\'s activities.

What are the objectives of the Working Group?

The overall mission of the WGFE is to provide a forum where African educational specialists, planners, economists and funding agencies can exchange information, develop tools and develop sound policies so as to better manage funds allocated to education, and to facilitate all the aspects of the interface between the major educational stakeholders, especially officials of Ministries of Education and those of Finance across the African continent.
Specific objectives include:

  • Improve educational planning, financing and management by strengthening the capacities of the Education and Finance Ministries\' personnel to plan for, allocate and administer existing resources; as well as formulate and implement policies related to educational finance and budgetary procedures; 
  • Strengthen the interface between the Ministries of Education and those of Finance; 
  • Promote the policy dialog between the private and the public sectors of the economy; as well as grassroots organizations involved in the delivery of education services; 
  • Conduct empirical research on educational finance across the continent to, among other things, identify and analyze optimal use of resources and best management and evaluation practices in the education sector.

What does the Working Group do?

The WGFE intervention has been articulated around four major strategic directions that were determined at the very onset based on the needs expressed by African Ministries of Education. The major strategy focused predominantly on strengthening their capacities in costing, planning, financial management and budgeting. This is the main reason why this particular strategy has been central to all the interventions of the WGFE across Africa. Thus its strategies are focused on:

  • Capacity building: strengthening the capacity of African Ministries of Education and Finance in planning, financial management and budgeting, analyzing the best practices pertaining to the sources, allocation, management and assessment of resources in the education sector. 
  • Policy dialog: facilitating the interface between educational policy makers and other major stakeholders through policy dialogue on relevant and burning educational finance issues. 
  • Research: initialing empirical research activities through country case-studies on the costs, financing mechanisms, management and budgetary allocation policies of African educational systems. The WGFE research process brought together researchers from various disciplinary background and institutions (Ministries of Education and Finance, institutions of higher education, research institutions and civil society organizations). The research process is a learning experience as it always culminates in a methodology workshop intended for the team members and that was held in the form of an introductory seminar to research methods and procedures related to educational finance, costing, management and budgeting. Furthermore, 46 national research team members attended the methodology workshops
  • Synergizing with organizations having similar objectives and mandate as well as other ADEA working groups in order to provide assistance in specific need areas that are so important for African Ministries of Education,
  • Training seminars focused on policy formulation and budget planning and implementation.


WGFE is one of ADEA\'s most recently formed working groups. In spite of this, it has succeeded in:

  1. Organizing several seminars gathering Ministers of Education, Ministers of Finance, funding agencies and NGOs. The WGFE has had 24 capacity building interventions, broken down in 3 regional, 20 national and 01 cascade training seminars. All in all, 610 high ranking officials were trained. The training also involved the development of training material, the last of which was done in 2004. The new edition of the training manual while retaining some of the features of the previous edition has undergone various face lifts. 
  2. Elaborating new training materials taking into account the new developments in the Financing and management of Eduction. A new module on the planning of education was added to the old manual to reflect the significant interest on the part of ministries of education on the continent in designing and implementing educational development plans. Furthermore, the contents of the modules have been improved and updated to reflect the tremendous change the financing of education is currently experiencing all over the world
  3. Conducting several case studies on financing and budgeting of education that involved about 50 researchers all over Africa
  4. Heightening the awareness of Ministers of Education and Finance and funding agencies of the essential role played by education finance within a global strategy to achieve quality education for all as well as improving dialogue between Ministries of Finance and Ministries of Education. From 1997 to 2005, the WGFE held seven major policy dialogue conferences on various topics across Africa. Whereas Dakar, Senegal, (West Africa), was the venue of three of the conferences (1997, 2004a and 2004b), Quatre Bornes in Mauritius (1998), East Africa/Indian Ocean, Johannesburg, (1999), South Africa, (Southern Africa) and Kampala (2005), Uganda (East Africa) were respectively the venues of the other remaining conferences held by the WGFE. Once again, a close attention has been paid to the geographical distribution of these activities across the continent as well the origin of the presenters and the participants. 
  5. Publishing several studies on various aspects of the financing of Education in African countries as well as literature reviews on education finance policies and practices in Africa;
  6. Among the other achievements of the WGFE, the data base on African Education Researchers should be noted, that was developed over its 12 years of existence. The database is comprised of over 200 specialists and experts of education. They come from nearly 45 African countries. This networked community of experts is a vital resources base the WGFE may tap into at any given time. Many of the alumni of the WGFE activities are also members of this database 
  7. The WGFE developed a lot of synergistic actions with other ADEA working groups such as statistics, sector analysis and higher education. It also reinforced its relations with numerous organizations that have similar objectives, the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Harare and the German Capacity Building International (InWent) based in Bonn. The action undertaken with InWent was a joint project that also included IIEP/UNESCO, and the Witswaaterand University of Johannesburg, South Africa. The project known under the denomination of Managing Educational Costs, Finance and Budgeting (MECOFIBU) was aimed at building the capacity of five southern African countries (Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia) (in costing, planning, budgeting and financial management. The WGFE\'s contribution was significant in the planning of the activity but also in its implementation. While the Coordinator of the WGFE provided leadership in designing the course materials, one of he WGFE senior trainers served as a key instructor. The steering committee meeting of the partnership was held in Libreville, in March 2006 at the back of the ADEA Biennale. 

What are the future prospects for the Working Group? 

The WGFE life cycle with funding provided by CIDA and activities being coordinated by CODESRIA lasted for 12 years. 

Regarding the WGFE strengths, the niche and comparative advantage created in the area of reinforcing the capacities of African Ministries of Education and Finance in costing, planning and budgeting, research and policy dialogue clearly stand out as tangible assets of the program. The experience also gained in the area of portfolio management, situational analysis, strategic alliances, training materials development, networking, and formative evaluation and follow-up are some of the tangible strengths of the WGFE. 

The working group\'s new program is an ambitious one that capitalizes on its comparative advantage. The new program has to be seen in the framework of the new merged entity that will be created, including the Finance, Statistics and Sector Analysis Working Groups, tentatively called Working Group on Education Policy Support and Management. 

Main activities planned for the next couple of years include:

  • Country Case studies on education financing policies, practices and mechanisms. These will describe, in particular, the institutional arrangements between ministries of finance and education for budget planning and redeployment;
  • A pan-African inventory of practices and results including practical experiences with financing policies and strategies for the financing, planning and management of education budgets. The inventory will highlight successes, failures and innovative approaches;
  • A pan-African network of experienced researchers in the field of education financing;
  • Technical tools and training programs on budget planning and financial management for educational planners;
  • Training seminars focused on policy formulation and budget planning and implementation.