German BACKUP Initiative – Education in Africa

Project description

Title: German BACKUP Initiative – Education in Africa
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) 
Country: Africa
Overall term: 2011 to 2020

German BACKUP Initiative – Education in Africa. Schoolgirl in Sierra Leone. © GIZ (Photo: Ronja Hoelzer)


There are 250 million children around the world who do not learn to read, write or do arithmetic, even though more than half of them attend a primary school. About fifty-seven million children, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, do not go to school at all. Only one out of two young people there attend lower secondary school. In addition, it is estimated that by 2015, 26 per cent of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults will be living in sub-Saharan Africa, as compared to 15 per cent back in 1990.

Despite significant progress, numerous African countries have not achieved the six objectives of the Education for All action programme by 2015. The reasons for this include the lack of funding and a great need on the part of African countries to further develop their institutions, knowledge, skills and structures in order to effectively manage national education systems.

To support the Education for All action programme, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) was founded in 2002. Partner countries can apply for funding from the multidonor fund to develop and implement their national education strategies. Payments are tied to national education strategies and educational progress. This requires partner governments to have a high level of technical know-how and commit a large number of staff and resources.

The German BACKUP Initiative – Education in Africa (BACKUP Education) was established to improve African countries’ access to international funding and ensure that it is used effectively. BACKUP is the acronym for Building Alliances, Creating Knowledge and Updating Partners.


To achieve international education objectives, African countries have created better conditions for accessing international funding and using it effectively.

School classroom in Africa © GIZ


BACKUP Education offers African partners quick, flexible and demand-oriented support in avoiding bottlenecks and filling funding gaps when applying for and using funds from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

African education ministries and civil society organisations can apply for support from BACKUP Education in various forms:

  1. Fast Access Mode (up to EUR 20,000): funding for national capacity development activities, for example through participation in training courses or conferences (max. EUR 10,000 per person)
  2. Consultancy Mode (up to EUR 50,000): funding for expert advice on applying for or implementing GPE funds
  3. Project Mode (up to EUR 100,000): funding for larger-scale projects with various activities for applying for or implementing GPE funds

At international, regional and national level, BACKUP Education works closely with the GPE Secretariat, donor partners, civil society organisations and international training institutions. The regional programme has been cofinanced by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) from 2014 to 2017.


Since 2012, BACKUP Education has supported numerous government and civil society educational partners in creating the conditions needed to successfully apply for or effectively use GPE funding. As of February 2018, 186 applications by African education ministries and civil society organisations, covering activities in 39 African countries, have been supported. 

A good example demonstrating the leverage effect of BACKUP Education is through its support to South Sudan. In 2012, a timely application for a GPE grant was threatened. The support of a consultant financed by BACKUP Education enabled the government of South Sudan to submit the application documents on time and according to quality standards. The allocated grant of USD 36.1 million is currently used to rebuild the education system of the world’s youngest state. Around 3 million school-aged children and youth between 6 and 17 years are among the beneficiaries of this intervention.