In 2016, the African Union (AU) Commission launched the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA). Both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Agenda 2063 of the AU call for an education and skills revolution in Africa. In response, the CESA demands a shift in the way in which the continent provides education and training. School feeding is a central pillar for implementing the CESA, as these programmes incentivize school attendance and retention and provide healthy inputs to promote learning. Since the presentation of the CESA, the World Food Programme (WFP) joined forces with AU to support incorporating school feeding into the Strategy. Through South-South and triangular cooperation, WFP offices and the WFP Centre of Excellence in Brazil (CoE Brazil) developed a series of instruments, frameworks and documents to make school feeding an integral part of the CESA. The complete handover of these products occurred in 2020, and AU is currently moving forward with full ownership.
Towards a Solution
Launched in 2016, the CESA is led by the AU Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST). While the Strategy was being developed, AU and WFP triggered a new policy cycle for school feeding on the continent as a result of South-South events where knowledge was exchanged with Brazil. HRST invited AU leaders to incorporate school feeding in the Strategy’s response. The effort to include school meals as one of the priority pillars of the CESA was formalized in a complementary decision passed in 2016, after the Strategy was launched.
In this decision, HRST calls on WFP CoE Brazil and the WFP Africa Office to design multisectoral partnerships for school meals through AU formal public networks. To accomplish this task, the WFP Africa Office and WFP CoE Brazil, in partnership with the Government of Brazil and the AU Commission, designed and delivered three outputs: the instruments for a continental school feeding cluster, an AU study on school feeding and a monitoring and evaluation framework. The multinational and multisectoral cluster currently operates under AU administration. It is composed of AU; WFP; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and representatives from the Ministries of Education and Agriculture of AU member States. The instruments of this round of SSTC exchanges were handed over to AU in 2020 to promote ownership of the efforts.
Despite positive achievements in recent years, it is important to highlight the role of SSTC in prioritizing school feeding in the CESA. Between 2012 and 2014, WFP CoE Brazil hosted several delegations from AU member States and organized regional and international events in Africa to foster discussions on the link between school feeding and rural development. After a strong policy dialogue and advocacy work by the WFP Africa Office and WFP CoE Brazil to make school feeding a continental priority at global events held in South Africa and Rwanda, the AU HRST sent a delegation of AU staff and ministers from African countries to Brazil in 2015 to learn from their school feeding experience. They exchanged knowledge with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency and the Brazilian Fund for Education Development about the country’s strategies and programmes to promote food and nutrition security and education development.
As a result of the SSTC exchanges with Brazil and the strong advocacy of the WFP Africa Office, the discussion began to consider including school feeding as part of the CESA in 2016. With policy support from WFP CoE Brazil, AU also recognized school feeding as an opportunity to advance education, boost local economies and promote smallholder agriculture. The deliverables of the decision have already inspired other regions, including Latin America and Southern Asia. The first day in March was designated as the African Day of School Feeding, and a Multidisciplinary Committee of African Experts was established to facilitate the implementation of this agenda. In addition, several countries mobilized to establish the Pan-African School Feeding Network (REPANS) and an online knowledge platform in 2016.
As part of the decision, AU called on WFP CoE Brazil and the WFP Africa Office to deliver a study on the impact of school feeding on inclusive, quality education in AU countries and the way in which it can facilitate progress across a range of sectors. The study developed a conceptual framework for school feeding that operates from a systems approach and makes recommendations for the multi-stakeholder committee.
In 2017, AU created thematic clusters to implement specific CESA objectives. In each cluster, stakeholders can access information on the design and implementation of school feeding programmes. Under this structure, WFP worked to transform and merge REPANS and the multisectoral committee into one cluster. The formal CESA school feeding cluster was launched in 2017, and its members appointed a coordinating team to manage the work, which improved synergy, efficiency and effectiveness. In 2018, WFP CoE Brazil and the WFP Africa Office designed all the supporting documents to organize the clusters in a consultative process.
In 2019, those documents were handed over to AU during the third African Day of School Feeding. They guide the cluster’s actions and are used to devise a strategic and operational plan for achieving the CESA vision and mission by 2023. This experience and methodology encouraged effective public multisectoral partnerships through formal networks owned by regional organizations. In order to replicate this experience, it is important to raise awareness among decision makers and policymakers, and there must be regional organizations in place to take ownership of processes and systems.