african children

This is How E-Learning Education Startups are Making a Difference

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:

  1. Ubongo – Tanzania

ubongo“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.

  1. Samaskull – Senegal

samaskull logoSamaskull 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.

  1. Sterio.me – Nigeria

steriome logoSterio.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.

  1. MEST – Ghana

mest logoThe 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.

  1. BRCK Education – Kenya

BRCK EducationPerhaps 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.

entrepreneur

3 Ways the US Supports Promising African Entrepreneurs

“I’m here because, as the world gathers in New York City, we’re reminded that on so many key challenges that we face – our security, our prosperity, climate change, the reduction of conflict – Africa is essential to our progress. Africa’s rise in not just important to Africa, it’s important to the entire world.”

–  United States President Barack Obama

Many African countries are experiencing tremendous economic growth, and while more work remains to be done, the future seems promising. One factor that has contributed significantly to Africa’s success is the number of bright, hardworking entrepreneurs on the continent. These entrepreneurs have successfully launched startups in a number of economic sectors, including finance, financial technology, solar and alternative energy, education and training, and many others.

Leaders of nations around the world understand and appreciate the importance of an economically-viable Africa. As such, these countries have committed significant resources to stimulate an African economy brimming with potential.

This article examines three of the organizations the US government has established to help buttress Africa’s growing economy. In particular, it discusses a number of commitments made to assist African entrepreneurs.

  1. YALI and the United States African Development Foundation

YALI logoIn December 2013, President Obama started a program called the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) to “provide virtual resources and vibrant physical spaces to equip young African leaders with the skills and connections they need to foster change in their communities and their countries.” Members of YALI have access to virtual training in leadership and entrepreneurship, as well as a Facebook group, through which they can connect with other young leaders.

In August 2016, the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) awarded 50 African entrepreneurs from 20 countries a total of $1.25 million. These new business owners will use the money as seed capital for growing their respective companies and social ventures. Since 2014, USADF has awarded more than $2 million of grant funding to 95 YALI entrepreneurs.

  1. African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program

Women comprise a significant number of Africa’s entrepreneurs and business leaders. To empower this important demographic, the Obama administration designed and implemented the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP). The rationale behind the initiative’s founding is that, while African women provide a disproportionate AWEP logoamount of the continent’s labor, they often lack or are denied access to the necessary resources needed to drive economic growth. Furthermore, while Africa’s female entrepreneurs have made significant contributions, they remain economically disenfranchised in several areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

To counteract the obstacles to African women’s full economic participation, AWEP establishes networks of women entrepreneurs. Through these connections, women business owners can grow their companies, increase trade, improve the business environment, and give voice to important issues in their communities. Entrepreneurial sectors represented by AWEP include agri-business, fashion, food processing, and home décor and textiles.

  1. United States Agency for International Development

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) focuses its efforts on “expanding and deepening partnerships with African governments, businesses, universities, and civil society— as well as with the new generation of African leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, who are leading the transformation of their USAID logosociety.” Currently, USAID supports a variety of African energy entrepreneurs, particularly those who aim to provide electrical power to Africans who are off the grid.

In August 2015, President Obama announced the awarding of up to $100,000 to 11 energy companies from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. Via a collaborative partnership with General Electric (GE) Africa and the USADF, USAID has committed to supporting novel energy solutions with the goal of expanding access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable power sources.

Entrepreneurs benefitting from the funds are working on a number of energy solutions, such as home solar systems, solar-powered mini-grids, and micro-financing of assorted energy technologies, predominantly for rural communities. Of the projects that received funding, five specialize in solar systems, three are biogas regeneration projects, and one is constructing a small hydro-electricity power plant. As these firms complete their projects, nearly 10,000 Africans will gain access to electricity and power for the first time.

Future US Commitments in Africa

President Obama spearheaded all three of the abovementioned organizational mechanisms supporting African entrepreneurs. Because the President is nearly at the end of his term, it is difficult to predict whether or not such efforts will continue after he leaves office.

Fortunately, the administration has been working closely with the private sector in efforts to keep the projects funded. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), for example, plans to contribute $200 million as part of a $450 million loan from Equity Bank Group to small and medium-sized African enterprises focused on young people and women over the next four years.

In collaboration with Deutsche Bank, USAID undersigned $25 million of the $50 million to be distributed to social enterprises in developing nations around the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the White House website, these funds will be used to support entrepreneurs in the energy, financial services, and health sectors.

At the Global Economic Summit (GES) of 2015, the President reemphasized the importance of private sector leaders supporting entrepreneurs around the globe, including in Africa. At the conclusion of GES, it was revealed “private sector companies…committed to train and mentor over 1 million burgeoning entrepreneurs and pledged nearly $700 million of capital.”

sales pitch

How to Perfect a Startup Pitch

A pitch is a critical step in garnering financial backing for a startup. An effective pitch must be concise, easy to understand, passionate, and well rehearsed. However, you may receive only three minutes to share your concept, depending on the platform. Make the most of your time by considering these factors when building your pitch:

Know Your Audience

vinyl recordsFight the urge to talk about yourself at the beginning. Despite being the brains and leader behind your startup, investors are looking to be sold to and convinced that your business model is worth their time and money. In that respect, kick off your pitch by talking to audiences about your venture and how it solves a consumer problem. Share the critical nature of your business product or service and why it is worth an investment. Anticipate their questions and prepare answers that they will respond to positively.

Do not forget to include the logistics of how you intend to deliver your product or service to a specific demographic, as well as the type of consumers you wish to reach. For example, if you sell shirts displaying “nerdy” messages and graphics, your pitch should highlight a consumer profile that includes people ranging in age from 13 to 50, fans of science fiction and comic books, and people with limited discretionary funds.

Create a Value Proposition

Investors wants to know the main point of your business, so you must develop a compelling value proposition. A value proposition tells the public what product or service you provide and how it is unique compared to others of similar nature. To build an effective value proposition, Forbes recommends defining the issue you intend to solve and making sure it is worth the effort, then determining if your solution is gripping enough to draw in investors. You will know it is if your product or service shows innovation, creates a competitive advantage, and yields significant returns that can scale a business.

You also want to take into consideration how user friendly your product or service is. The goal is to have the amount of gain, which includes revenue, cost savings, and time invested, outweigh the pain of purchasing and using your product and service. Ideally, the gain should outweigh pain by 10 times.

With this information, develop a value proposition to explain why your company beats competitors. Answer for who the product or service is for, which competitors are not meeting consumer needs, what your product or service is, how it answers buyers’ problems, and what alternative will not effectively achieve the same results.

Talk about Traction

shoppingWhile there were once many websites similar to Groupon, the latter earned millions in support by venture capitalists because it demonstrated solid traction. Traction is a good indication of how your product or service will perform in its respective market. In a perfect scenario, you will be able to show that there is high consumer demand for your particular offering. For online traction, you should develop a strong brand that attracts attention. Make a video that explains your product or service and how it works. This can be touted across the Internet, making the public more aware of your startup.

Gain media attention by becoming an expert in your field and presenting yourself as such. Early research can help you identify a trend that reporters may find interesting. Pitch the trend to them. If selected for an article, leverage the opportunity to highlight your company with a quote. Be careful, however, that the topic is applicable to a wide audience; reporters are more likely to invest media efforts in a story that appeals to more people.

More traditional ways of sharing traction are reports indicating financial gains and company growth. Provide potential investors with information about your consumers, partnerships made, quantities of retailers selling your product or service, and consumer conversions. You can also share details about the evolution of your company and how you took a product or service from alpha testing to launch.

Highlight Your Support Team

Investors want to know about the talent behind your company. Build a solid management team and workforce that can support the business’ growth. Be selective in who you choose, so when you are ready to pitch your concept to venture capitalists you can proudly share their backgrounds, along with how they have improved and will benefit your startup. It is important to convince others of good team chemistry.

Discussion of your team should also include information about endorsements. Endorsements from others, such as advisors, illustrates credibility and legitimacy. Further, promoting existing financial support will establish your business’ solidity. As a whole, being able to explain the success of your startup, thus far, with the team and support you have in place will make investors believe in your value as a business owner, recruiter, and salesperson.

Agnes Mulewa and her success story. Don’t give up and be positive

African women continue to surprise the world in every aspect of life. Form being survivors of the cruelty in war to starting new businesses and giving back to their community. African women are now at the front of many companies and startups that are now becoming successful.  African women and families have to struggle a lot to reach their dreams, but even so it is possible for each one of them. The story of Agnes Mulewa is about how somebody can overcome obstacles and still reach the goal of having a multimillion business under her watch. This is her story, or at least some of the highlights of it.

Since she was very young odds were not on her favor. She grew up without a father figure and struggling family to pay for education fees. “All these however, did not stop me from becoming somebody in this society” as she says. She started working at the age of 17 and having contact with people from higher economic level who gave her the motivation to look for a brighter future. Even since she was very young, she bought pencils to re-sell them at school for a higher price. She sees herself as a positive person “I believe I am a very positive person, I do not allow anything to bring me down, although emotionally I struggled I believe due to the lack of a father, I pushed on” Business was in her blood, she knew the ups and downs of life  and now she had the motivation.

Students_startups in Africa_Cecilia ibru_Agnes Mulewa
Image courtesy of United Nations Photo at Flickr.com

Agnes has not yet finished the university because she took a break from classes to focus full time on the business. She is now going back to study in May. While taking classes at the university, she realized that she had a lot of free time between classes. She then decided to start doing research on her business idea and get a better picture of it before formally launching the business and start looking for clients.

She then came up with an idea called IBS, International Brands Solutions. IBS is a Market Research company that works at understanding markets and targets and report to their clients whether their products will sell or not, or if it is viable to launch a product or tap into certain market. Most people start businesses assuming they will work in the market, but they do not have accurate information to know if their product is going to be successful or not, or what could be the product´s life cycle on certain market. She then realized while in 2nd year that there was a need to explore research for business purposes for products for new markets and old products that wanted to explore new possibilities. IBS focuses on questions such as Who are the clients selling to? Is there a need in the market? If there is a need, how are clients going to sell? IBS then proposes a marketing strategy for the clients and based on those and many other key questions and in depth research.

The business was registered only in 2015 but had been working for many years before. IBS is not a big company at all and in only six months and with only six employees (A research analyst, a creative officer, an operations officer, an accountant, digital marketer, and a social media officer), according to its latest accounts, it has already made profits of over Sh1 million.

Agnes Mulewa faces challenges like any other company or CEO in any other business. Some of her biggest challenges are that companies are not ready to hear that they need to rebrand or that they cannot sell in certain market despite the numbers and figures;  some companies are not totally convinced of the success of such research and the period of time and budget are not enough for Agnes´ company to complete the mandate. Also, her age sometimes is an issue when it comes to very traditional companies. But the results give a different picture and always attract more clients.

Although she is much respected in the business world, she feels that being young and rich is part of a stereotype for women. She thinks that women in Africa are not prepared for the future because education is not giving them the tools or the direction they need to stand out in society. She thinks girls should give the same attention they give to beauty and fame to education, business knowledge and career advance. She also has a girl empowerment program to mentor those girls who want to get into business.  The audience in this program is mainly women and girls that are discovering what they really want to do in the future with their career choice so they can be prepared to be successful and manage their personal, spiritual and professional wealth the best way possible.

computer

7 of the Best South African Incubators Improving Entrepreneurship

A hub for entrepreneurs to thrive in their business endeavors, South Africa offers a supportive ecosystem for ventures to gain mentorship, training, and other business development needs. The following seven incubators are making it possible for African startups to achieve their goals:

Razicorp

razicorp logoLed by Allon Raiz, Colin Kapeluschnick, and Alfie Naidoo, Razicorp offers entrepreneurs a safe environment in which to grow their business ventures with the support of mentors. The company, which prefers to be considered a Prosperator, guides growth-hungry entrepreneurs through the process of gaining capital funding, accessing markets, and developing marketing and sales strategies.

The for-profit business incubator also supplies back-office support to ensure program participants have the necessary resources to carry out daily operations successfully. Educational curriculums that promote business growth and a platform to connect with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs are other benefits of joining Razicorp.

Shuttleworth Foundation

Founded by Mark Shuttleworth, a creator of free and open source software (FOSS), the Shuttleworth Foundation provides fellowship programs for social entrepreneurs that seek change through innovation. Its social investment model aims to grow entrepreneurial endeavors by 10 or more times the initially invested amount.

shuttleworth logo

Specifically, the organization upholds the philosophy of openness that will improve access to essential information, thus reinventing how people live. The foundation’s mission of creating positive change challenges the status quo by investing in ventures that support free content and data exchange as well as open access and open source for all. Its entrepreneurs envision a world with no social, technological, and legal restrictions, so the opportunities for replication and innovation are unlimited. They also value collaborative processes that help elevate the success of foundation.

JoziHub

jozihub logoWith backing from Google, ISlabs, and Omidyar, JoziHub is a product of the Praekelt Foundation. As a technology incubator, the Johannesburg-based organization supports entrepreneurs in growing sustainable business models by connecting them with developers to create mobile, internet, and social media technologies that tackle social issues.

Entrepreneurs gain access to open work environments that are interactive and dynamic. In addition, they obtain education and networking opportunities through inspirational events and activities. JoziHub leverages partnerships with 10 organizations, including Google for Entrepreneurs, AfriLabs, and Venture Solutions, and numerous mentors to help each program participant achieve success. As of February, the 2016 cohort includes 27 startups.

Standard Bank

Establishing co-working spaces in Rosebank for startups to learn and grow, Standard Bank launched two incubator programs in 2015. The programs offer traditional educational and training support in areas of business development and acceleration.

standard bank logo

Further, the financial institution helps startups overcome the major barrier of designing and creating prototypes of products.  Its ability to offer a brick and mortar facility to develop, test, and deploy prototypes is unique as many incubators do not extend the service.  This plays a valuable role in gaining financial support from investors and lenders, who typically struggle to assist in the growth of a product they are not able to see and examine for viability.

In short, Standard Bank provides a full spectrum of assistance that aids startups in enhancing value chains.

Entrepreneur Incubator and Academy

Located in Cape Town, Entrepreneur Incubator and Academy is headed by business coach Bruce Wade. The organization lives by the motto of “Growing Your Business is Our Business” and hosts a virtual incubation platform comprised of coaching and marketing tools.

EIA logoIn respect to the former, the academy developed four coaching opportunities that meet the needs of businesses in various development stages, ranging from startups to established companies. In addition, one-on-one coaching is available to help business owners address specific challenges and develop strategies to overcome obstacles.

The company’s marketing program guides entrepreneurs through marketing and social media strategy as well as videography and social media management. Program participants learn how to target specific demographics that can result in greater business success and discover the importance of timeliness in achieving goals.

LaunchLab

launch lab logoLaunchLab is a product of Nedbank and offers mixed-use space for startup businesses at Stellenbosch University. The organization has a mission to grow an entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout Africa that focuses on business development and acceleration. Sponsored by 10 partners, including Mentors & Business Coaches International (MBCI) and Innovus, LaunchLab hosts a Lift-Off program that mentors and educates startup leaders as well as offers them a pitching platform to grow ideas.

The incubation program caters to companies in the agritech and food, edutech, paid media, cleantech, and fintech and big data industries. However, the leadership behind LaunchLab also considers startups outside the five areas that show promise in creating a successful product that does not currently exist in its sector.

Awethu Project

Awethu logoServing under-resourced South African communities, the Awethu Project uses a Talent Identification Process to select program participants based on their potential to become world-class entrepreneurs. By removing stipulations, such as a minimum level of education and capital, the incubator gives promising individuals the opportunity to launch innovative ideas poised to change their lives as well as the communities in which they live.

Individuals entering the program must be in the early stages of establishing a company. The organization guides entrepreneurs through business development and funding with the support of mentors. To date, the Awethu Project has successfully incubated hundreds of entrepreneurs and received recognition from the Echoing Green Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.