Africa’s young people are our future leaders and will be the driving force behind sustainable growth across the continent. Investment in education and training is essential in building an educated and skilled workforce and to encourage innovation. – The Africa-America Institute
Many African nations are on the brink of becoming something incredibly special. Of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, seven are located in Africa. As a result, the middle class is expanding at a rapid pace, making it even more exciting to watch what develops within Africa in the next five, 10, 20 years and beyond.
Education, of course, plays an important role in economic development. Better-educated citizens translates to a more productive workforce, and a more productive workforce translates to the surfacing of bright, innovative entrepreneurs and companies. This means more job creation, better-paying job, increased cash circulation, expanded opportunities, and a rise in living standards.
Education has made some recent strides in Africa. This is particularly true for secondary education (i.e. “high school) and post-secondary education (i.e. “college” or “university”), where enrollment has increased – in some cases dramatically.
For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, enrollments for secondary education had the greatest gains in the world between 1999 and 2012, with approximately 49 million students as of 2012. Still, far too many students are out of school. In a study conducted by the Africa Learning Barometer, nearly one out of every 10 school-aged children never attend.
As African nations continue to make their presence felt in the global economy, expanding and improving education will be critical. The continent is currently the world’s youngest, with 50 percent of the population under 15 years of age, making it all the more crucial to emphasize and insist on a quality education for all.
Fortunately, many African “e-learning” (i.e. online learning) education startups are making a positive impact on the scene. As we’ll see here, some of these companies have achieved success through belief in purpose, innovation, continued improvement, and dedication.
Here are five such startups:
Ubongo – Tanzania
“Increasing access to smartphones presents a great opportunity for delivering information learning content to learners of all ages,” says Nisha Ligon, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Ubongo.
Ubongo’s primary focus is to teach mathematics and science via interactive games that are heavy on animated content. Children access the content through cell phones, answer multiple choice questions via text, and even receive feedback from their favorite cartoon characters.
Ubongo introduced Ubongo Kids to widespread acclaim. Its chief product, Ubongo Kids is a daily occurrence on televisions throughout Tanzania. In keeping with its “cartoony” feel, the broadcast implements songs and animation to teach math and science.
Samaskull – Senegal
Samaskull is a welcome addition to this list. The Senegalese startup designs interactive, open and free courses called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), similar to the hugely-popular Coursera in the United States. MOOCs are poised to be a significant part of the African learning experience, as the platform directly caters to low-income students who are eager to learn.
In addition to various MOOCs, Samaskull also offers Small Private Online Courses, called SPOCs, for learners wish to engage one-on-one with educators.
Sterio.me – Nigeria
Sterio.me, a Nigerian-based e-learning company, relies heavily on SMS texting for just about everything. Students can access materials, lectures and lessons anywhere, anytime.
Instructors can pre-record lectures, send materials, grade assignments, and give more feedback all through mobile phone. It’s a win-win scenario for teacher and pupil alike. Even better: the platform does not require internet access or a smartphone.
Sterio.me recently announced a partnership with Tutor.ng – another popular Nigerian startup – that complements the learning models of each. The strategic partnership is expected to make a significant impact that further benefits students.
MEST – Ghana
The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is a seemingly-perfect manifestation of Africa’s budding startup scene. MEST focuses exclusively on the “training, investment and mentoring for aspiring technology entrepreneurs,” with a mission of “creating globally successful companies that create wealth and jobs locally in Africa.”
MEST implements a 12-month program, fully-sponsored, to achieve the ambitious goal of cultivating Africa’s future entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurs-In-Training” (EITs) are comprised of the top graduates from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Subjects taught are broad in nature, and include: computer programming, product management, and software development along with business-oriented processes such as finance, marketing, and sales.
BRCK Education – Kenya
Perhaps the most unique addition to the list, BRCK wasn’t initially designed to be an e-learning company, either in whole or in part. Current products and services span from cloud software to medical device programming, and of course, e-learning services. Because of its great success, and opportunities in the market, BRCK launched a subsidiary unit appropriately-named BRCK Education.
Unlike other startups on this list, BRCK implements an array of products to expand educational access and improve quality. Its most popular product used in classrooms, the “kio kit,” includes 40 tablets, a BRCK (a wi-fi and battery extender unit), and a lockable case that is both water and damage-resistant. Such products are critical for expanding education to rural areas, in particular.