Education is the sole response to the global rise of extremism, French President Emmanuel Macron told a conference in Senegal on Friday where he pledged €200 million ($248 million) to support an international education fund.
Macron and Senegal’s President Macky Sall co-hosted the financing conference of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which seeks to ensure access to classrooms for 870 million children in 65 developing countries.
“The risk of terrorism that we have lived through … that convinces children that their future is war … the risk of seeing actual human bombs continue to deploy in our societies, there’s only one answer,” he said.
France has been a target of militant violence, including attacks in Paris in 2015 that killed more than 130 people, and is engaged in the fight against Islamist fighters in Africa.
It has deployed troops as part of a regional operation in West Africa’s arid Sahel band. Paris is also supporting a new multinational force created by regional governments to take on Islamist groups, some of whom are linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group, operating in the area.
The French president joined forces with singer Rihanna, the GPE’s global ambassador, to urge world leaders and donors to scale up support.
Cheers and whistles rang out as Rihanna was announced in the audience that included seven African heads of state and the World Bank president.
“This is a fight we’re never gonna stop fighting until every boy and every girl has access to education,” said the singer, who emphasized the importance of improving education on a continent where the youth population is exploding.
“We have the youngest population on the planet, on the richest continent with the worst living conditions,” Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo told the conference. “That paradox can only be broken by education.”
Rihanna tweeted “merci” to thank Macron for co-hosting the conference as part of his two-day trip to Senegal. The host nation was praised for spending 7 percent of its GDP on education.
Macron said developed countries around the world were struggling with the fear created by vast societal changes brought on by technological advances and disruption.
“Without education, what is the response? Retreat. Hatred of others. A revival of nationalism and everything we have survived and thought we’d vanquished during the 20th century,” he said.