The purpose of this short paper is to both highlight Africa’s tradition of lifelong learning and comment on the way lifelong learning appears to be positioned in contemporary development discourses for Africa. The argument is that lifelong learning in its current form has failed to capture the imagination of policy-makers in the way required by the multi-dimensional development needs of a continent that is rich in culture and diversity but ravaged by poverty and inequality. The paper starts by reiterating some traditional values attached to African age-related learning, reviews some of the global development agendas for lifelong learning on the continent and refers to selective policy documents to illustrate some tensions between global and local agendas. It concludes with a suggestion that more Africa-centric policies are required, perhaps incorporating a ‘capabilities’ approach towards lifelong learning.
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