UNESCO’s 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report is sobering, particularly when it comes to statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Almost half of the global, out-of-school population is in this region and more than half of them are girls.

Education plays a pivotal role in building human capital and increasing productivity of the economy. In particular, secondary education is the pathway to higher learning or the workforce.

Yet, the reality is that Africa is failing to meet the demand for secondary education, which is fueled by the region’s rising youth population.  Already, governments are allocating a significant portion of their budgets towards education, but it has not translated into results.

According to the World Bank, African countries spend close to 18 percent of their budgets on education. Yet, less than 34 percent of African youth attend secondary school—the lowest level in the world—and less than 5 percent enter higher education.  Without change, a growing percentage of the future workforce will be limited, at best, to a primary-level education. This would hold Africa back.

There’s an urgency to find practical solutions to this perplexing challenge.  How do we create a productive link between investment in education and economic growth? How do we improve efficiency in mobilizing and utilizing funds to deliver higher levels of secondary education attainment?  Are scholarships and bursary programs sufficient to enable as many young people as possible to continue their education?

Perhaps, there is a need for more direct paths between the allocation of money to education and the actual payments to schools. One of our partners in Kenya, Equity Group Foundation, disburses funds directly to schools and into the hands of students. Their model is just one example of how transparent financing ensures targeted solutions for maximum impact.

What other innovations will enable broader access to education?  Our Foundation is seeking fresh approaches to ensure African youth are not left behind. I invite you to share your ideas and experiences.