E-learning startups in Africa face a raft of challenges, in spite of the level of innovation in the sector. But the continent is getting frustrated with waiting for a new era of learning to begin.
Disrupt Africa has reported before on the challenges facing e-learning startups in Africa, though there are a number of exciting companies across the continent working to ensure tech solutions to educational issues take hold.
There is growing frustration at the time it is taking for e-learning to truly become a reality in Africa, with attendees at this year’s eLearning Africa conference in Cairo, including ministers, businessmen and education experts, expressing impatience.
“We are not going to wait until 2063,” Egyptian minister of communications
and information technology H.E. Yasser ElKady told the conference’s opening session, referring to the date the African Union (AU) has set for the realisation of its vision of a “transformed continent”.
Attendees said they wanted Africans, particularly young people, to feel the benefits of e-learning within the next ten years, with Professor Ismail Serageldin, the founder and director of the Bioblioteca Alexandrina, saying it was time to embrace the “new era”.
“There is so much we can do for a new generation and for the whole world. We cannot let the gap between us and the advanced nations continue to grow. We must translate rhetoric into action. Rhetoric, declarations, plans and targets are not equal to action,” he said.
Experts at the conference agreed the failure to accelerate the pace of change could have devastating consequences for Africa.
“There is a widespread awareness among educators, politicians and businessmen that we really have to move quickly now,” said Charles Senkondo, executive director of Tanzania’s Global Learning Agency.
“We’re all aware that Africa is a young continent and that soon the majority of our population will be under the age of 24. We can’t afford to leave the future of 200 million young Africans to chance. Unless we invest heavily in education and training, and ensure that our young people are fully equipped to compete in the digital age, we will store up some very serious social problems for ourselves and our neighbours.”
Social entrepreneur Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, founder of RISE Networks, agreed, saying the fact there were 56 million Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 that have not completed primary education would leave to societal problems going forward.
“The more uneducated children Africa has, the more prisons we’ll have to build,” Akerele-Ogunsiji said.
The theme of this year’s eLearning Africa event was “Making Vision Reality”, with participants from across the continent focusing attention on how to turn the dream of change through e-learning into reality.
“The African Union’s 2063 Vision is a wonderful challenge for Africans,” said Senkondo. “It has education at its heart and we all want to make it happen. Here at eLearning Africa, we’re all focusing now on moving beyond ideas to implementation. There’s a real willingness to collaborate and to share knowledge and experience, so that the whole of Africa can move ahead.”