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African countries face many new challenges that also offer new opportunities.

Democratization, globalization, decentralization of governance systems, HIV/AIDS, and other factors are reshaping learning needs and priorities.

To meet these demands, a wide variety of innovative educational programs are required, which cannot be provided by the formal education system. For this reason, individuals and communities are turning to alternative forms of provision, which may be grouped under the broad heading of non-formal education. 

Non-formal education does not merely fill a gap. It also enables countries to consider their educational needs in a more holistic manner as they progress toward the goal of education for all. Moreover, non-formal education is better placed to meet the needs of disadvantaged groups and offers the advantage of being grounded in the workplace and the grassroots level. It can thus help to revitalize education in Africa by forging closer links between education and the realities of everyday life.

Clearly, education will never be enjoyed by all without a wide variety of non-formal or 'non-school' forms of provision: 'second chance' schools for children having passed the legal enrollment age; community schools for children in areas lacking formal provision; literacy and 'post-literacy' programs for teenagers and adults; programs combining basic education with various forms of vocational training; and so on.