This blog was originally posted on February 6, 2024 on African Business, by Joseph Nsengimana, Director of the Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning at the Mastercard Foundation
Africa is at a pivotal moment, boasting immense potential with the world’s youngest population. By 2030, the continent’s working-age population is projected to increase by two-thirds, from 370 million adults in 2010 to over 600 million, according to World Bank estimates. This demographic shift positions Africa as a key global player. Yet, significant challenges persist, with UNESCO highlighting that 98 million children and young people, half of them girls, are out of school Urgent action is needed to create accessible, inclusive educational systems that equip young Africans with 21st-century skills.
In response, African organizations are spearheading transformative efforts. The African Union has declared 2024 the year of education, aligning with the Continental Education Strategy (CESA 16-25) focused on resilient systems for increased access to quality learning.
Central to this transformation is the integration of technology in education, championed by African-led initiatives to not only respond to the gaps exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic but also the systemic educational challenges. These innovations in technology are cultivating market-relevant skills and fostering resilient educational systems that offer inclusive, accessible lifelong learning while highlighting the need for technical and vocational education alongside conventional learning pathways.
The Mastercard Foundation, recognizing the crucial role of African organizations in transforming education, set out to support these efforts through its Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning. The Centre is a catalyst in building an impactful African education technology (EdTech) ecosystem through fostering ICT innovations, sharing best practices and research with key stakeholders in the education and technology ecosystem.
In collaboration with African tech hubs, the Mastercard Foundation EdTech Fellowship is creating a thriving ecosystem of innovation. Since its roll-out in 2019, this initiative has supported and accelerated 48 EdTech companies and impacted over 2.3 million learners across the continent, with a particular focus on underserved communities and learners. The EdTech companies in this accelerator program are transforming Africa’s education. For instance, Zeraki, a Kenyan EdTech company, provides EdTech solutions to over 50 percent of secondary education schools in Kenya; 97 percent of which are public schools. South Africa’s Matric Live, a multifunctional education app-based solution, is reinventing the way students learn by making learning contextual, visual, and interactive for students in Grades 10 through 12, empowering them to excel in their education. It reached over 400,000 learners in 2023 alone, illustrating the profound potential of EdTech in Africa.
At the higher education level, institutions like Ashesi University in Ghana are playing a critical role in driving digital transformation. Ashesi’s education model is building a network of institutions across Africa that share insights, stimulate collaboration, and empower stakeholders to drive educational transformation on the continent. The university also underscores the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in education in its curriculum.
Some of the critical investments being made in education as a driver of future skilling are lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program e-Learning Initiative, a partnership comprising the Mastercard Foundation, Arizona State University, United States International University in Kenya, and other partners, was born out of a significant need to address the disruption that the pandemic had on learning. This initiative aims to strengthen partner universities, deliver high-quality and inclusive online instruction, and provide virtual support to all students regardless of their location. This is building a community of practice in e-learning and is influencing change in policy, developing practices, and opening resources that create favourable conditions for scalable, sustainable online education.
By taking the lead in shaping Africa’s future of education, these stakeholders are playing their role in not only integrating technology into education but also redefining how education on the globe is evolving.
To further influence the role technology can play in transforming education in Africa, the Mastercard Foundation will host its EdTech Conference in mid-2024 in Abuja, Nigeria, focused on accelerating quality and relevant learning for young Africans. This signature event will gather key stakeholders including education ministers, advisors, development partners, technology hubs, and representatives from academia, teachers, learners, and parents to explore the role of technology in enhancing Africa’s education systems. It will also serve as a platform for African EdTech innovators to collaborate while promoting solutions that work.
The Mastercard Foundation is at the forefront of supporting African institutions and entrepreneurs in realizing a new education paradigm – one that is inclusive, innovative, and capable of unleashing the full potential of Africa’s youth. This aligns with the Foundation’s efforts to enable 30 million young people to access dignified and fulfilling work by 2030 through its Young Africa Works strategy. As a result, young people will acquire the skills and tools to achieve their potential, contribute meaningfully to society, and support themselves and their families.