The Global Partnership for Education and the Islamic Development Bank celebrate innovative financing

By Global Partnership for Education

The Global Partnership for Education and the Islamic Development Bank celebrate innovative financing

During its 2024 Annual Meetings and Golden Jubilee Celebration, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the Arab Coordination Group (ACG), and the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in celebrating the success of SmartEd, an innovative financing instrument that has mobilized US$500 million for education initiatives.

Building on this success, the partners pledged an additional $350 million towards SmartEd: $150 million from the IsDB, $100 million from the Araba Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), $50 million from the Islamic Solidarity Fund, and $50 million from GPE.

“As we reflect on our significant impact and growth over the past five decades, we are thrilled by how innovative financing has enhanced our efforts in children’s education,” stated H.E. Dr. Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, IsDB Group Chairman. “The success of SmartEd will drive our efforts forward, strengthening partnerships that enable us to offer greater access to quality education and essential skills for a future-ready generation.”

Due to dwindling education funding in lower-income countries, exacerbated by debt burdens, ongoing crises, and the residual effects of COVID-19, millions of children remain deprived of the opportunity to learn skills vital for future employment. Through SmartEd, the GPE, IsDB, and ACG have mobilized significant resources otherwise unavailable for education.

“Globally, a staggering 250 million children are not attending school, representing a severe crisis compounded by limited resources,” noted Laura Frigenti, CEO of GPE. “Amid these challenges, SmartEd offers a ray of hope and a reason to celebrate. We are eager to work with our Gulf partners to expand on its success, preparing more children for a prosperous future.”

Introduced in 2021, SmartEd utilizes the GPE Multiplier, a tool that enhances education financing by securing $4 from other donors for every $1 provided by GPE, helping lower-income countries address critical education challenges. SmartEd aims to boost access to quality education in 37 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which includes 28 million out-of-school children. To date, SmartEd has allocated $350 million to projects in Cameroon, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan.

The program is already making a significant difference. For instance, in 2023, Uzbekistan leveraged $160 million in co-financing through SmartEd to secure a $40 million GPE Multiplier grant. This funding encouraged the government of Uzbekistan to contribute an additional $20 million, culminating in a $220 million financial package aimed at improving equitable access to quality education and enhancing the efficiency of the education system. In Uzbekistan, SmartEd funds are also being used to construct and equip over 80 schools and to improve education management information systems for better data-driven decision-making.