EdTech in Africa: A Landscape

TL;DR

  • Education in Africa has improved dramatically over the past few decades: today, primary school enrollment is free and guaranteed in much of the continent, having reached 80%.
  • Despite the progress in enrollment, education on the continent has yet to produce quality & equal outcomes: 30–50% of secondary school children are out of school, and only 7% (17M students) are enrolled in university.
  • Moreover, 87% of African CEOs reported being “extremely concerned” about the availability of key skills among their workforce.
  • Africa’s total economies are promising: over the next 10 years, the 54 countries will collectively grow at 8% CAGR, faster than most regions in the world.
  • While GDP per capita varies widely (as low as $300 and as high as $11,000), the largest countries (Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa) will grow at fast rates, and can serve as a regional launchpad for regional development.
  • Africa’s population will double to 2 billion over the next 30 years, and will add 15–20M people to its workforce every year for the next two decades.
  • Africa’s population will urbanize quickly (half of the population will live in cities by 2050), and will expand its currently small middle class, today at 30%
  • Africa still has some serious impediments to widespread technology adoption: internet coverage is low (at 27% in SSA), hardware and software costs are high (up to 30% of GDP per capita is spent on a smartphone).
  • African governments spend 5% of their GDPs on education, more than any other region in the world.
  • Due to failing public school systems, households contribute up to 46% of total education spend on their children. This has resulted in 20–45% of K-12 population enrolled in private schools.
  • Investments in EdTech can help solve issues of access, quality and affordability.
  • Spend on education in Africa is estimated today at $224B, set to grow to $740B by 2030, at a 14% CAGR. We estimate spend on EdTech to grow fast, from 1% today to 6–10% in 2030, reaching $57B.
  • EdTech in Africa today is very small, having attracted only 20M in venture capital in 2019–2021 to-date. (Note: GSV Ventures invested one of the largest rounds on the continent, $7M in Valenture Institute)
  • In Africa, some EdTech sectors are more promising than others. Below you can read about some of the trends we identified in the market.
  • African EdTech founders are innovative, resilient and resourceful: they are building interesting products and are even creating markets. Today they are not growing because of market constraints, lack of capital and lack of access to talent
  • There is a growing web of ecosystem builders that support these founders: investors, incubators, accelerators, corporations and foundations.

Why education matters

Africa today has most of the ingredients to support a nascent EdTech market

First, economies that will grow fast

Second, a young and fast-growing population

Infrastructure issues are the biggest obstacle to the proliferation of EdTech in Africa

Africans spend a lot on education today

EdTech in Africa: The Opportunity

  • Accelerated Learning: advanced technology (RoboEd, AI, ML) will be crucial for EdTech on the African continent. Indeed, due to the large disparities in learning resources and outcomes, learners increasingly need to be offered personalization.
  • Knowledge as a Currency: in a continent where only 17M people have access to higher education, proving your skills is more important to employers than university degrees. It is people who are able to prove that they can code, sell and solve problems who will thrive in Africa’s future job markets.
  • Lifelong Learning: As new technologies emerge, new industries are born (and others die). In much of the world, as in Africa, new skills will repeatedly be required to grow individually, economically and socially. As such, Africans will be required to keep expanding their knowledge through lifelong learning, either within the workplace or through personal initiative.
  • Modern Fluency: In a continent where more than 2000 languages are spoken, fluency in common languages (Swahili, Arabic, English, French) will be required across borders. Moreover, learning to code and computational thinking will also be crucial to the jobs of tomorrow.
  • Return on Education: In an environment with low purchasing power, there is fierce competition between EdTech products to prove their educational and economic impacts. As such, thriving products will be those that will tangibly demonstrate their return on education.
  • Weapons of mass instruction: With the population doubling to reach 2 billion people by 2050, EdTech tools need to be designed to scale rapidly (at low cost). Improving infrastructure will be crucial to achieving scale on the African continent.

The EdTech opportunity exists in select segments

EdTech founders in Africa are innovative, resilient and resourceful

  • Create rather than disrupt: Where there are no established industries to disrupt, entrepreneurs create new sectors that are taken for granted elsewhere. For example, Dext Technology ships portable science kits to schools where no physical labs exist. Another company, Arifu, teaches digital and financial literacy skills to encourage the adoption of financial products, thus creating an EdTech for FinTech market.
  • Cater to the most disadvantaged: Serving the bottom of the pyramid is not a choice for Africa’s EdTech entrepreneurs, but a requirement to do business. Valenture Institute, a GSV Ventures portfolio company, just launched a quality, low-cost, fully online private school in collaboration with Africa’s top research university: the UCT Online High School (Imagine partnering with Harvard for an online high school and charging community college prices!). The traction to-date suggests that the model was able to reach out to a wide and diverse audience: 90% of applicants are non-white, 67% are female and 70% come from South African public schools.
  • Foster the full stack, not just software: Where infrastructure is lacking, African entrepreneurs build the infrastructure themselves in order to sell their products. In South Africa, Syafunda sells and ships “wifi boxes” with their e-learning platforms to schools where internet is not available. In Tunisia (and quickly expanding to 8 countries), GoMyCode provides access to collaborative community spaces in addition to online learning content to train the next generation of tech workers.
  • Scale by charging a low price for their quality product: to achieve scale in environments where purchasing power is low, African EdTech entrepreneurs have to charge low prices. In North Africa, Colnn and Koolskools offer a full school management system (including learning, admin and payments), charging prices as low as $2.5/student/year.
  • Adapt to hardware and software challenges: Even when they can create sleek iOS apps and incorporate AI in their products, African entrepreneurs have to adapt to their environment. Instead, they create SMS-based products to engage with learners who do not have a smartphone. This is what e-learning companies Eneza and M-Shule do in Kenya. Others create WhatsApp chatbots to limit the amount of data consumed: Botter uses Facebook / Instagram Messenger to teach languages, and Foondamate uses WhatsApp to search and send learning resources to learners.
  • Establish global partnerships with established institutions: To quickly gain the brand name required to scale, African EdTech entrepreneurs collaborate with global brand names to offer their services. This is the case of Kepler, a Rwanda-based online university that offers learners accreditation from Southern New Hampshire University.

Below is a market map of the EdTech companies on the African continent

Venture Capital interest in African Edtech is still very small

A nascent ecosystem that is growing fast

The way forward

Acknowledgements

--

--

--

Curious. Passionate about storytelling through data. Interested in Work, Skills and EdTech. Twitter: @KenzaBouhaj

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

How to Creatively Name your Startup (a Product, a Project, or a Baby)

Progress Report — August 2020

Productive Hours in August

Four Disturbing Facts About Elon Musk That Will Change Your Outlook on Life

GRACE’S SHOP — expertly crafted. ethically sourced. sustainably produced.

The Outsourcing Checklist: 7 Essential points for building long-term remote teams in the…

Interviewing an Entrepreneur

Week 17: Finals Pitch Deck Experience

Buzz Up! Learnings from the “BTB” Launch

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kenza Bouhaj

Kenza Bouhaj

Curious. Passionate about storytelling through data. Interested in Work, Skills and EdTech. Twitter: @KenzaBouhaj

More from Medium

We Founded A Startup To Tackle The Gender Health Gap

Retail’s Edge: Personal Assistant

The chat with a personal shopping assistant

2021 Learnings

Disinfection Innovation for Our Schools