Africa’s lucrative education business opportunities

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This week, the UK and Africa are coming together in a rare show of unity to raise funds to ensure that many more children can stay in school over the next five years.

The UK-Africa Education Summit in London, co-hosted by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is aiming to raise US$5 billion (£3.6bn) to support 175 million children in some of the world’s poorest countries over the next five years.

Towards raising the target amount, the UK has promised £430 million to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). The GPE collects aid from donor countries to support education in 92 countries.

Read: Education at the forefront of development in Africa

Even as the event takes place hosted by an African president, the continent remains one of the neediest places when it comes to education. If you are wondering where to invest money, this need has created a multibillion-dollar opportunity for investors in the education sector.

In Kenya, for instance, the government has been working to create access to basic education for all citizens. The East African nation allocated KSh 497.7 billion which represents 26.7 per cent of the National Budget in the 2020/2021 national budget announcement.

Out of this, KSh 59.4 billion was for free secondary education and KSh 12.4 billion for free primary school education.  The Treasury further allocated KSh 2 billion for the recruitment of 5,000 teachers, KSh 1.8 billion for the school feeding programme, KSh 6.3 billion to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, KSh 4 Billion to cater for exam registration fees waivers for class 8 and fourth form students, and KSh 800 million for the digital learning programme as well as for implementing the Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC).

The Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) that offers student loans was allocated KSh 16.8 billion.

Despite this seemingly large allocation to the sector, the funding barely addresses the needs in the sector.

Private sector involvement in education

To plug in the gaps in the sector, the country has vibrant entrepreneurship in providing education in private institutions.

This private sector involvement shows that the need in Kenya, which is replicated continent-wide requires solutions for the 1.2 billion people on the continent.

Education is big business in Africa since governments across the continent are overwhelmed with the enormous and increasing demand for quality education. As it is, education is a crisis situation in Africa.

Since the African governments no longer sufficiently meet the growing demand for quality education, this has created several business opportunities where entrepreneurs in the sector are providing solutions. Entrepreneurs can target offering education services in primary and secondary education as well as university training.

There are also numerous opportunities in vocational training, private tutoring, professional certifications, corporate-sponsored training, personal development and language training.

The best place to invest money is in Africa and the best time to invest is now because the continent has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world. Over the last two decades, the annual population growth rate in Africa has been nearly 3 per cent.

Also, the continent’s birth rates remain some of the highest in the world in a continent where more than 60 per cent of the population is below 25 years old.

Projections show that by 2050, Africa’s current population will have more than doubled to 2.3 billion. This growth portends an explosive demand for education. As such, many governments will be unable to provide education- both basic and higher- without the participation of the private sector. So if you have been wondering about what to invest in in Africa, education is one of the potentially lucrative sectors to put your money in.

Read: Future of Work: Africa should rethink its education, skills

Even though the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the world is shifting from physical learning- in physical classrooms- to online learning, there still are numerous opportunities in providing infrastructure for learning to take place.

As has been the case in many African countries, there are rarely enough structures- classrooms and all- to cater to the schooling needs of the majority. As such, the government which has the land resources will need to expand and improve current structures to accommodate the evolving needs in education.

If the Covid-19 scenario is to continue, then governments will need to build more classes to cater for the space needs and the distancing aspect. This creates an opportunity for investors in the construction sector to provide these services to governments.

Additionally, there is a need for making schools structures internet ready or even providing internet services to the institutions. This creates another opportunity in the education sector where investors could look to participate in and put their money.

Technology in education

Students in universities and high school use various platforms to stay up to date with their learning.  The pandemic has seen a skyrocket in the use of online educational platforms. Zoom and Google Meet have been the primary platforms for administering classes among university students continent-wide.

A school in Niger, West Africa. Education is big business in Africa since governments across the continent are overwhelmed with the enormous and increasing demand for quality education. [Photo/BBC]
In Kenya, local platforms such as Kytabu and E-limu were used by high school and primary school students.  Large telecommunication companies saw the potential in online learning and started offering internet bundles and educational bundles to students for use in their learning.

Most students have relied on Google for basic research and with such a limitation, there are many gaps in the tech sector providing information that is African for the African consumer.

With the options offered by tech, educational institutions should take advantage of the digital space and invest in content creation that will attract students. Investors can use virtual school tours, student life, and educational benefits to recruit students.

As evidenced during the pandemic, the internet is changing how traditional education and training is offered. E-learning and virtual classrooms are some of the innovative ways of teaching a wider audience of students no matter the location.

Moving forward, the traditional method of sitting in a physical classroom with a teacher talking to students will be replaced by other more convenient methods of learning. To tap into the opportunities in this sector, entrepreneurs should be aware of the trends in education and follow them closely.

Since the demand for education will continue on an upward trend in Africa, there are millions of untapped opportunities in the sector and only smart entrepreneurs and private businesses will benefit from the best way to invest money if they capitalize early enough.

The UK-Africa Education Summit which is basically a fundraiser shows that African governments cannot handle the demand in the sector and thus the private sector has a role to play to bridge the gaps.

Read: Unlocking the Human Potential via Investment in East African Education

I have 10 years of experience in multimedia journalism and I use the skills I have gained over this time to meet and ensure goal-surpassing editorial performance. Africa is my business and development on the continent is my heartbeat. Do you have a development story that has to be told? Reach me at njenga.h@theexchange.africa and we can showcase Africa together.

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