Supporting education in Africa with digital bridges

Project description

Title: German BACKUP Initiative Education in Africa
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Co-financed by: European Union (EU)
Partner: Enabel
Country: Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia
Overall term: 2020 to 2023

Foto 1_Junge mit Taschenrechner_BACKUP Initiative


The COVID-19 pandemic presents a major health and socio-economic challenge and has caused one of the most severe educational crises in the world. During the first peak in April 2020, more than 90 per cent of pupils worldwide were affected by school closures – that is more than 1.5 billion people – as schools were closed in 191 countries. 

This interruption to teaching may have dramatic effects, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Experience of other epidemics such as Ebola shows that many school pupils do not return to their schools after they open again. In addition, serious economic and social effects may arise, including increased youth unemployment and a wider gap between the rich and poor.

Digitalisation and data technologies also play a crucial role in Africa in bridging school closures and mitigating the effects of the pandemic. A lack of (affordable) internet access, limited digital skills, the digital divide between urban and rural areas and between genders have impeded the use of digital solutions up to now. 

In April 2020, the European Commission announced a global COVID-19 response for the European Union. This includes the Action ‘Resilience to COVID-19 through Digitalization’ (RESICODI), which is co-financed by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is implementing the Action jointly with the Belgian development agency Enabel in the context of the ‘Team Europe’ approach. The BACKUP Initiative is supporting partner countries in implementing digital solutions in the education sector. Enabel, on the other hand, is working in the field of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and in the area of health services.

GIZ can draw on its many years of project experience as part of the BACKUP Initiative. Since 2011, this initiative has supported African countries in applying for funds from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and using them for their national education strategies. Up to the end of 2020, the BACKUP Initiative supported 226 national and regional measures in a total of 40 African countries.


The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in the regions of eastern and southern Africa have been mitigated. Digital solutions improve the quality and continuity of educational services.

Course content on the mobile phone


By using a demand-based fund approach, the BACKUP Initiative acts exclusively on the request of African partners. This ensures alignment with national processes and priorities.

A quality check ensures that incoming applications are consistent with national education and digitalisation strategies and that double-funding is avoided. In this way, the BACKUP Initiative only supports projects that have been developed locally and that are anchored in the local community. 

African ministries of education or ICT, national civil society organisations and regional networks can apply for funding. The project supports them, for example, in providing high-quality digital learning courses or in planning and implementing digital solutions.

The support that the BACKUP Initiative offers is based on three pillars. 

Financial support and advice: Regional and national partners can obtain funding of up to EUR 100,000. In addition, the project provides advice on budget planning and financial management before and during the implementation of a measure.

Technical advice: The project supports the partners in developing and implementing their ideas and proposals for concrete activities. If necessary, it also supports partners in targeted cooperation with the private sector. This enables them to respond innovatively, quickly and specifically to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support for networking: An exchange between the eight partner countries and networking with global partners should make it possible to share and learn from experiences worldwide.

In addition, the BACKUP Initiative, together with Enabel, forms an overarching network for direct exchange and joint learning with regard to digital solutions in education, TVET and health services.

As at: April 2021

Additional information