ACQF recognised a Good Practice of South-South and Triangular Cooperation for SDG-4 (UN Publication)

South-South and Triangular cooperation is fundamental to transform Education. ACQF is recognised a Good Practice. By: Eduarda Castel-Branco

South-South Cooperation opens new horizons

The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation published "Good practices in South-South and Triangular Cooperation. Transforming Education and Delivering on SDG-4"

The publication highlights 40 innovative South-South and triangular cooperation solutions that have been identified and documented, with a focus on how they can be scaled up to advance the implementation of SDG-4. It contributes to the body of knowledge in South-South and triangular cooperation, showcasing initiatives from school feeding to digitalization, from capacity development to combating gender-based violence. It highlights the important role played by governments, local actors, the private sector, and other development partners in contributing towards the SDGs.South-South Cooperation.png

Education, lifelong learning, skills and qualifications improve the lives and livelihoods of every human being and should be available to all. SDG-4 places it as a fundamental precondition to development. It opens a world of opportunities, making it possible for each of us to contribute to a progressive societies.

South-South and triangular cooperation is increasingly recognized as an important driver of progress in our collective journey towards a sustainable and peaceful future. The increasing engagement of sub-national entities, such as municipal and provincial governments, and non-State actors, further highlights the value of this modality of cooperation. In education, South-South and triangular cooperation provides an opportunity for countries of the global South to improve the capacities of their human capital and to exchange resources, technology, skills, and knowledge.

South-South cooperation can activate and mobilise action, empower countries and stakeholders and contribute to relevant change and creation between the countries of the South and beyond. Countries of the South, with the support of partners, must enhance South-South and triangular cooperation to exchange resources, technology, skills and knowledge to realize the promise of making inclusive, quality education available to all.

The year 2023 marks the mid-point of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While progress has been made, we have also seen unprecedented challenges that exacerbated existing inequalities and threatened the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The education sector was severely affected by shutdowns and other public health measures taken in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, setting us back years in the path towards the attainment of SDG4 on Quality Education.

ACQF Good Practice

ACQF is one od the 40 cases of Good Practice selected for this publication. ACQF was nominated by the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD).

The challenge

People are Africa’s greatest asset. The accomplishment of the African demographic dividend in the post-pandemic recovery era will depend on the development of the right mix of skills and the comparability of qualifications of all levels of education and training systems across countries. Africa is characterized by great diversity of education and qualifications systems with different structures and types of qualifications and scarce information on quality assured qualifications in the public domain. New skills (transversal, digital and green) are required for workers to adapt in the context of the transformation of work and learning, digitalization and demands for a greener economy. Migrants and refugees carry skills and experiences – but recognition is often hindered. Moreover, continental free trade is likely to trigger demand for new skills and qualifications and more efficient recognition. The informal sector needs quality programmes of recognition of prior learning and modular skills development opportunities with certification.


Towards a solution

The African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF) is an overarching regional qualifications framework (RQF) embracing 55 countries and eight regions. The ACQF is a policy initiative of the African Union (AU), underpinned by key policies and strategies, such as the AU “Agenda 2063” and its Ten-Year Implementation Plan, the Continental Education Strategy 2016-2025, and the African Continental Free Trade Area. Development of the ACQF
 s supported, in the context of Africa-European Union Partnership, by a specific project contributing to the Skills Initiative for Africa (SIFA). The ACQF project component is technically implemented by the European Training Foundation (ETF), the European Union (EU) agency specialized in policies and capacities in the domain of skills and qualifications. Development of the ACQF is based on the political leadership of the African Union Commission (Department of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation), and close cooperation with the ACQF Advisory Group (ACQF AG). Over 45 representatives of AU member states, regional economic communities, regional education councils, students' union and social partners participate in the ACQF AG, contributing to a high-quality consultation process.

To address the above-mentioned challenge the main objective agreed for the project was the development of the conceptual and technical foundations of the ACQF, supported by a validated policy and technical document, trained stakeholders, and a website to disseminate the research, guidelines and training modules, and activities to foster networking between African countries. The ACQF aims to enhance the transparency, quality and comparability of qualifications and mutual trust between National Qualifications Frameworks (NQF); facilitate recognition of skills and qualifications and mobility of learners and workers; and promote cooperation and connection with NQFs and RQFs in Africa and beyond.

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A key characteristic of the ACQF process is the combination of technical and analytical processes (research, studies, guidelines and policies) with people engagement for trust-building (through dynamic peer learning webinars, communities of practice, thematic surveys and training events). The outputs of the ACQF process are grounded in a thorough analysis of the African context and reference to the global experience (Europe, Asia, America). Moreover, the process built on flexibility and top-down & bottom-up collaborations, such as elastic response to new requests from countries and stakeholders and tailoring of ACQF technical and advisory products to different needs and contexts. Importantly the ACQF process integrated actions for sustainability, namely through the online dissemination of outputs (website), streaming of peer learning and training webinars, and the training of a pool of informed focal points in over 30 countries. Finally, the ACQF activities are associated with a “quick-wins” approach, oriented to countries’demand on issues related to their NQFs.

The ACQF programme of peer learning webinars, networking and communities of practice reflected the systematic orientation to multilateral and bilateral South-South cooperation, which involved 44 countries from all African regions. These mutual learning activities illustrated and clarified concepts, practices and new developments related to NQFs, quality assurance of qualifications, recognition of prior learning, referencing between frameworks and public access to databases of qualifications via digital online platforms. Most importantly, this approach stimulated and encouraged countries interested in developing their NQFs. The full programme of 15 ACQF peer learning webinars is documented in videos, presentations and briefs. In addition, countries have shared their policies and practices on recognition of qualifications through a dedicated programme of five webinars organized in partnership with the African Qualification Verification Network (AQVN). Over 50 experiences from Africa, Europe, Asia (ASEAN), Middle East were shared with policymakers and practitioners, and a unique source of tested knowledge and contextualized solutions is now accessible for the first time in digital learning tools and the package of 10 training modules. The qualifications authorities and stakeholders can relatively easily find updated information on NQFs and systems of African countries, while until now easily accessible information was mostly focused on European NQFs.

ACQF connects and collaborates with all regional communities in Africa, notably with SADC, IGAD, EAC, UEMOA, ECCAS.

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Cooperation with SADC is robust and growing, thanks to joint work in reviewing the implementation of SADCQF, to the ACQF support to specific SADCQF dialogues and workshops in 2023 and 2024, and to NQF development and implementation in a range of SADC Member States. More importantly, in 2024 ACQF provided valuable technical contribution through research, evidence, and networks for the successful process of comparison of the SADCQF with the EQF. This comprehensive comparison report is in the consultation process in both communities (SADC and European Union).

ACQF connects with other continents, notably with the Inter-American Centre for Knowledge Development in Vocational Training (CINTERFOR) for Central and South America, contributing to training programmes, exchanges and analysis on the RQF development dynamics.

With the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) the linkages are established, and we look forward to being ready to compare to EQF and other regional qualifications frameworks.

History will not remember the ACQF unless the member states, regions and stakeholders are determined and capable to implement the ACQF, communicate it and use its tools and potentialities to connect African qualifications and qualifications and credentials platforms and frameworks. ACQF - the regions - the countries working as ONE for better societies and livelihoods in Africa and for cooperation with the World.