Today’s indicator figure is 70%
70% of what?
70% of primary and secondary students in the EAC demonstrated functional literacy according to the most recent East African Community Facts and Figures Report.
Which EAC country has the highest and which the lowest rate of literacy?
Kenya shows the lowest literacy compared to the other EAC member nations at 62% while Tanzania shows the highest rate of literacy at 78%.
How does literacy in the EAC compare to other regions of the world?
Most of the developed world reports literacy rates above 95% with the lowest literacy rates in countries with low GDP per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is a strong correlation with wealth per citizen and literacy rates of students.
Is literacy in the EAC increasing or decreasing?
Overall literacy in the EAC is increasing. Burundi shows the most dramatic growth from a rate of 42% in 2005 to a literacy rate of 66% in 2015. Rwanda shows a similarly rapid growth in this area. Tanzania and Uganda are showing stable moderate growth. Kenya’s literacy rate has remained unchanged since 2006.
What’s driving the increase of literacy in the EAC?
A higher percentage of the population is attending school and studying in school longer due in large part to strong educational policies.
A larger share of the population now owns smartphones. Nearly 60% of Kenyans own smartphones as of 2017. A large downward drop in the prices of smartphones helped facilitate the spike in ownership over the past five years. However, the drive to be connected socially and otherwise to the rest of society is a very strong motivation to own a smartphone.
With smartphones, students/consumers/parents can access social media, e-books, supplementary materials and other online resources.
What is the projected growth of literacy in the mobile revolution?
There is plenty of room for growth. The presence of smartphones has grown rapidly but many still aspire to buy their own. Most owners of smartphones in East Africa are male; however, female owners spend significantly more time reading from smartphones.
As both genders acquire smartphones, the presence of smartphones in raising children will grow. Smartphones can provide useful supplementary material to students. Children are reporting greater enjoyment and ease of reading because instead of sharing sparse physical resources, they can practice their reading skills far more conveniently with smartphones.
Readers, especially younger ones, want to read about stories and characters they can relate to easily. African literature is growing exponentially and in East Africa, its strongest manifestations can be found in Kenya and Uganda. Many e-books can be found online for free or a minimal price.
Smartphones are more than a convenience or a service; these devices are bringing multi-faceted growth. A growth in functional literacy is especially important for emerging markets. This dynamic is removing a significant constraint on economic growth and strengthening East Africa’s position for future long-term growth.
How can I learn more?
To learn more about the topics in this article you can visit:
East African Community Facts and Figures Report – https://www.eac.int/documents/category/key-documents
Stepping Into Digital Life – https://mozillafoundation.github.io/digital-skills-observatory
About the authors:
David L. Ross is Managing Director of Statera Capital and US Ambassador to the Open University of Tanzania active in growing companies in Eastern and Southern Africa through primary investment, investment advisory, strategic partnerships, and executive education. Connect on LinkedIn at http://tz.linkedin.com/in/davidlross1 or at [email protected]