Press release

UK announces major investments in future of African youth through education and voluntary family planning

New UK aid programmes to help millions more young people to plan their families, stay in education and get better jobs

family planning tanzania
  • UK aid to help 5,000 young Kenyan girls who have dropped out of school due to early marriage, motherhood and gender-based violence get back into education
  • UK will also improve affordability and accessibility to voluntary family planning and vocational skills training for millions across Africa
  • This will save girls’ lives and allow young people to plan their families, stay in education and get better jobs to support Africa’s future prosperity

UK aid will help millions more young people across Africa to access vital family planning services, receive a quality education and help them get better-paid jobs, it was announced as the Prime Minister was in Kenya today (30 August 2018).

This will empower young people to have better control of their health and futures, allowing them to choose whether to have children and when, while tackling inequality and improving youth education and employment for a strong and prosperous continent.

New UK aid programmes through the Department for International Development will:

  • support up to 5,000 girls to start or get back into school for a brighter future – including girls who have dropped out due to early marriage or motherhood, or being the victim of gender-based violence – through UK aid’s new Leave No Girl Behind programme in Kenya;
  • help hundreds of thousands more Kenyans access to safe, voluntary modern contraception over the next five years – particularly young people who want but currently struggle to access family planning services;
  • help to create much needed, high quality jobs for young Kenyans by providing advice and grants to innovative start-ups or technology ventures that have most potential to create high numbers of jobs through the new Kenya Catalytic Jobs Fund;
  • launch the Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) programme that will ensure six million couples can use voluntary contraception every year of the programme, and prevent the deaths of around 20 women every day; and
  • launch a global Skills for Prosperity programme, including major investment to help young Africans access skills training and vocational courses focused on getting them into better paid, future-proof jobs in industries struggling with skills gaps.

Minister for Africa Harriett Baldwin said:

It is a tragedy that so many young girls are needlessly robbed of their education and career aspirations. We will only lift people out of poverty by ensuring that every child can access quality education, healthcare and employment regardless of circumstance or gender.

By tackling these issues together, UK aid will save countless girls’ lives, while allowing young people to plan their families, stay in education and get better jobs, building better lives for millions of young Africans for now and the future.

In Kenya, 18% of girls have had or are pregnant with their first child by the age of 19. Improved access to family planning services will empower girls and women to plan when or whether to have a child, giving them the opportunity to complete their education and pursue a career, while contributing to sustainable economic growth in Kenya. It will also save thousands of lives by averting preventable maternal deaths.

Leave No Girl Behind will tackle other common barriers to girls’ education by helping girls that cannot afford to go to school due to poverty or poor accessibility for girls with disabilities. Up to 1,000 of the girls supported through the programme in Kenya will have a disability.

Skills for Prosperity will not only improve employment rates among young people, including in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt, it will also strengthen core industries in those countries and allow them to trade more prosperously with the UK.

Kenya’s young tell us they want opportunities, choices and jobs; we want to empower them with the means to ensure greater prosperity for themselves, their families and their country. The Kenya Catalytic Job Fund will support better paid, sustainable employment for Kenya’s youth by providing technical advice and grants to innovative business ideas with high potential to create a large numbers of jobs. This will give the country’s young people opportunities to leave poverty behind and stimulate economic growth and investments that will benefit the UK too.

A huge number of African women want to use contraception but do not have access to it, with 58 million women in sub-Saharan Africa wanting to avoid or delay pregnancies. WISH will prioritise the poorest and most in need, particularly young and marginalised women, increasing the number of ways and places they can access the vital family planning services they need, and helping to avert tens of thousands of maternal deaths.

This will empower millions of women with control over their bodies and support the future prosperity of young people in some of the world’s poorest countries by allowing them to plan when to have children, stay in education and get better jobs, to contribute to their country’s economic development.

This is why, as part of the UK’s new and distinctive offer to work alongside, invest in and partner with African nations, we will be bringing in more specialist health advisers to work with African governments and civil societies to enable women and girls to access the voluntary family planning that is right for them.

Notes to editors

Leave No Girl Behind

  • Leave No Girl Behind is a UK aid project (up to £6.6 million) that will support up to 5,000 out-of-school girls get the vital education they need to lift themselves and their families out of poverty – and to play a transformational role in their communities and societies.
  • It will help an estimated 2,000 girls get back into mainstream primary or secondary school, and help give a further 3,000 girls education and training opportunities. Up to 1,000 of the girls supported by the project in Kenya will have disabilities.
  • The UK is also strengthening Kenya’s education system, through support to the Global Partnership for Education. This will make Kenya less dependent on aid, as it moves towards a modern partnership with the UK.
  • This is part of the UK’s commitment to ensure every girl across the globe can receive 12 years of quality education.
  • Getting girls into school, and then into good employment, allows them to play a transformational role lifting their communities out of poverty, growing their economies and shaping the future of their countries. Globally, if all women had a quality primary education we could:
  • Reduce maternal deaths by 2/3, saving 98,000 lives
  • Reduce the number of child deaths by 15%
  • Save 1.7 million children from stunting
  • Avert 14% of child marriages

Family Planning in Kenya

  • By the age of 19, 18% of girls in Kenya have had or are pregnant with their first child. Early pregnancy carries significant health risks and limits girls’ life choices and their ability to fulfil their potential.
  • The Government of Kenya recognises family planning as an essential tool in reducing poverty, particularly by stabilising population growth and allowing young people to choose when to finish school and get a job, which will help to stimulate economic growth and prosperity in Kenya.
  • The UK will provide £36 million between January 2019 and January 2024 to support the Government of Kenya to increase access to modern family planning services in 19 counties (out of 47) where fewer than 45% of women use any modern contraceptive. This will support at least 320,000 additional users of safe, voluntary, modern contraception in Kenya.

Kenya Catalytic Job Fund

  • Africa’s young people tell us exactly what they want: opportunities, choices and jobs. We want to empower them with the means to ensure greater prosperity for themselves, their families and their country.
  • The Kenya Catalytic Job Fund will invest £5 million over the next four years with a focus on creating jobs for young people in agriculture and manufacturing; for the most marginalised such as youth with disabilities; and those outside of the formal economy, such as in small-scale farming and microenterprises.
  • The programme will provide technical assistance and grants to test innovative business ideas with the most potential to create jobs at scale and remove barriers to growth, such as start-ups providing new solutions to unmet problems or technologies that will overcome current barriers to growth.

Skills for Prosperity

  • Countries with growing economies are often frustrated by a lack of skilled workers. Young people in these economies are at risk of being left disenfranchised and unemployed because they cannot access the skills they need to get quality jobs.
  • The UK is investing up to £75 million in the Global Skills programme to support nine countries to tackle the key skills gaps in their most important areas, which are holding back growth and prosperity. These countries will include Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
  • The programme will look to improve the affordability, quality, relevance and equity of Higher Education (HE) and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).


  • The UK is investing £200 million in a new flagship programme ‘WISH’ which will ensure three million extra girls, women and men, to consistently gain access to life-saving voluntary contraception in some of the world’s poorest countries.
  • Globally there are an estimated 214 million women who want to delay or prevent pregnancy but who are not able to access or use contraception. Unintended and early pregnancy is a key cause of high maternal death rates in Africa. Having access to contraception is critical for women continuing their education and being able to take up employment opportunities.
  • The programme will operate across at least 18 countries in Africa and Asia, to ensure previously unreached people, especially young and poorer women, are able to access contraception and have the choice on whether, when and how often to have children. This includes more accessible sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) sites, mobile clinics into rural and poorer areas, community outreach services and family planning commodities.
  • To ensure sustainability beyond the life of the programme, WISH will work with national governments to bolster their own capacity to provide longer-term services.
  • Voluntary family planning - with women’s choice at the centre - contributes to wider development by bringing down fertility rates. This could enable African countries to unlock economic growth and prosperity.

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Published 30 August 2018