Africa’s Education Technology (Edtech) ecosystem has been growing exponentially, eradicating hurdles that have for aeons plagued the continent’s education sector and in the process, revolutionizing this critical contributor to African economies. However, the pressing question remains, can EdTechs solve Africa’s dire education crisis?
Arguably, quality education is the most significant investment that countries can make for the future of their citizenry. The pivotal need for the adoption and development of hybrid learning solutions in Africa’s digital learning landscape has become a necessity that especially came to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic period, when school academic calendars at all levels were disrupted.
The pandemic became a springboard to a colossal market opportunity for EdTechs to swoop in and seal the deficit via the provision of solutions to propel learning. Edtech startups attracted an influx of funding during this period, spilling over to 2021 but slowed a notch in 2022, raising $24.6 million, a dip by 69.6 from 2021, according to statistics from Disrupt Africa.
In cognizance of EdTechs potential, venture capitalist firms have been keen to harness the potential of this lucrative sector, whose value is projected to exceed $10B by 2026 according to analysts from the Jacob’s Foundation. To boot, Africa’s 141 edtech start-ups have so far accumulated more than $935.7 million of investments, according to start-up list Africa. Nonetheless, the sector is currently valued at $1.5B. EdTechs wield the potential to make education more inclusive, accessible and diverse pertinently for the marginalized communities, bolstering students to learn at their own pace with access to high-quality educational content, aggregated from contributors worldwide.
Looking ahead, 2023 has renewed hope in Africa’s Edtech space which is snowballing with the launch of more enhanced digital learning platforms, coupled with increased investments into the sector.
Just recently the 2023 MasterCard Foundation Edtech Fellowship Program for South Africa was launched, and is still open till the 19th of March 2023.This is an Edtech specialized venture support program uniquely designed for high-growth and high-impact companies addressing pressing challenges in education in South Africa through technology and innovation.
Each selected Edtech company or fellow is set to receive Injini’s specialized acceleration support, valued at over R2,500,000. Injini is Africa’s Edtech Accelerator and Think Tank. In similar vein, in February 2023 Africa’s largest innovation hub chain, Co-creation Hub (CcHUB) announced a $15million Ed-tech accelerator program dubbed ‘The Edtech Fellowship Program to support edtech startups, by investing in up to 72 startups in both Nigeria and Kenya over the next three years.
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In January 2023, in what has been considered the largest funding round ever in Edtech in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and most of Africa; Classera, a global Edtech learning management platform focused on emerging markets, successfully raised $40 million in a Series A round. Founded in Silicon Valley with an Emerging Markets Focus, Classera is the largest Edtech company in MENA and most of Sub-Saharan Africa, catering to millions of learners in more than 30 countries.
Its also worth noting that the 2023 Edtech Expo Africa is also a landmark event scheduled to happen later in June, bringing together experts with the key goal of fixing Africa’s education crisis.
24th January 2023 marked the fifth International Day of Education under the theme; “to invest in people, prioritize education”. Building on the global momentum generated by the UN Transforming Education Summit in September 2022, the Day called for maintaining strong political mobilization around education and chart the way to translate commitments and global initiatives into action. Education must be prioritized to accelerate progress towards all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) against the backdrop of a global recession and the climate change quandary.
To boot, Agenda 2063 requires that Africa makes investments in education emphasizing on science, technology and innovation. In light of this, harnessing the capacity of ICT to improve access, quality and management of education and training systems; is among the key objectives of the AU Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA), which identifies EdTechs as central to the achievement of this goal. Moreover, the African Development Bank (AfDB), highlights education as key in its high-five priority areas, which seeks to achieve high quality life for all Africans.
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Are EdTechs the answer to Africa’s education crisis?
Africa faces a daunting education crisis. Having over 100 million children out of school across different education levels, insecurity, political instability, civil wars, displacement, trekking long distances to schools and poverty as many study under trees or dilapidated buildings. Food insecurity which often leads to health and nutrition challenges; are some of the major roadblocks causing what has been termed as ‘the learning disaster,’ with the most marginalized children and youth bearing the brunt.
By the same token, some impediments to edtechs adoption have been connectivity costs, lack of digital skills and supporting hardware to access learning materials such as computers and smart phone devices. Can edtechs tame this ‘learning disaster?’EdTech’s critical role cannot be undermined as it entails absolutely no commutes or treks to long distance learning institutions, overcrowding in classrooms as is the norm in many rural areas.
Into the bargain, Africa is home to the fastest-growing population worldwide, demand for access to education has been mounting creating a massive windows of opportunities for EdTechs. Poor education systems highlighted by poor quality of education, continue to stifle the continent and has largely contributed to high under-employment and unemployment levels, pertinently among the youth whereby two-thirds of this growing populace are in these two categories.
Furthermore, widespread Edtech adoption has been thwarted by the lack of broadband internet. The high cost incurred by EdTechs, given that they depend on expensive mobile network providers to develop and distribute educational content poses a great challenge. According to the World Bank, Africa needs $100Bn to provide universal, good quality and affordable broadband access for the continent by 2030.Moreover, expansion of digital literacy and infrastructure is needed if to create a robust education sector in developing countries, according to the UN.
A 2019 study by the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) on Digital skills in Sub-Saharan Africa, reveals that 50% of all jobs in the continent will require digital skills by 2030. With this in perspective, the current dynamic job market dictates that it’s vital for education systems to remain agile and responsive to the demands of the evolving labor market.
Therefore, students need to be equipped with in-demand skills, which appeal to both local and international employers. The expansion and bolstering of education systems via EdTech is bound to receive more investments going forward and requires concerted efforts by the government and the private sector as well.
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EdTech disruptors transforming education in Africa
One of the most prominent edtech platforms in Africa is Nigeria’s ULesson, which leverages on technology to offer holistic learning to both primary and secondary school children in Anglophone Africa. This pioneering platform has already raised $25.6 million, and has over 3.5 million downloads and is backed by investors such as Nielsen Ventures, TLcom Capital Partners, Founder Collective, Tencent, Owl Ventures, among others. Today ULesson serves learners in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and The Gambia, although its advancement aims to center on the East and South African regions.
GetBundi is another renowned edtech platform in Africa that equips African youth with high quality, accessible and affordable Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education; coupled with STI digital skills to aid in lifting millions out of abject poverty as these skills are the future of Africa.
GetBundi’s focus is also on secondary education, with currently has over 1,008 hours of audio-visual content on the platform covering six years of secondary school work using the West African curriculum. Moreover, the platform also avails revision for competitive examinations, particularly SSCE for up to three years with monthly live question and answer sessions. Through its strategy, ‘The GetBundi Vision 2032’; the platform intends to support and upskill 10 million Africans in the next 10 years, through STEM and STI digital skills acquisition.
Tunisian GoMyCode, is another edtech platform which is now present in eight countries across MENA. It boasts 30 educational courses with the intention of teaching in-demand digital skills. The company’s mission is to bridge the skills gap between the existing educational infrastructure in MENA and digital skills needed in today’s global job market. In addition, Foondamate is a South African startup that utilizes a WhatsApp bot to teach high school students, and has raised over $2 million to expand and reach out to more students across the country. Given that WhatsApp is the most popular social media App in Africa the platform is swiftly gaining momentum.
Kenyan-founded Kidato is an edtech for K-12 students in Africa providing high-quality, affordable education to Africa’s growing middle class. Kidato classes have student-teacher ratios of 5:1 and teach the same rigorous international curriculum as other private schools, but at a fraction of the price. The startup took part in the 2021 Silicon Valley-based accelerator Y Combinator and banked US$125,000 in funding. Later the Edutech platform concluded an additional US$1.4 million seed funding round, which includes both local and global angel investors. Furthermore, M-Shule is another Kenyan-based edtech platform, which combines SMS with artificial intelligence to reach offline or low-income communities with self-paced, interactive, and personalized learning resources.
Over and above, other Edtech platforms making waves across Africa include Morocco’s Smartprof, AltSchool Africa, EduKoya, Teesas, Ubongo among many more. Education is not only food for the mind but has also been declared a human right by the UN; as such EdTechs in Africa on every level will continue to evolve and burgeon.