“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” – Kofi Annan.
Education is vital for any society looking to make any form of progress. In Africa, however, that is not always the case. The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that close to half of Africa’s population is under 18.
Thanks to steady growth in births and declining child mortality rates, Africa’s child population is expected to reach the 1 billion mark by 2055.
According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, one in five children between the ages of 6 and 11 are out of school. That number increases as the children get older, with one-third of youth between the ages of 12 and 14 out of school and almost 60% of youth between 15 and 17 out of school.
These numbers are more startling when we consider school enrolments by gender. Nine million African girls between the ages of 6 and 11 will never go to school compared to 6 million African boys. By the time these children are adolescents, the exclusion rate for girls is 36% compared to 32% for boys.
Recognising the role of education in development, the United Nations designated quality education as one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Edtech startups are rising to the occasion in Africa. Although they do not receive as much coverage or funding as fintech or agritech startups in Africa, they supplement the job of the continent’s existing educational structures. However, they face a major hurdle with low internet penetration meaning that only a few children can access these services.
Data from Techpoint Intelligence showing the percentage of students with access to digital connectivity in West Africa reveals that The Gambia has the highest rate of digital connectivity among school-age children with 65%.
Nigeria, on the other hand, has just 3% of school-age children able to access the Internet at home despite having more edtech startups than any other African country.
The sector has grown consistently, with a Briter Bridges report stating that there are over 210 edtech startups on the continent as of Q1 2020. These startups adopt different models but with the same goal, making learning seamless while getting outstanding outcomes.
Listed in no particular order below are 11 randomly selected edtech startups you should check out.
Following stints at Konga, DealDey, and E-motion Advertising, Nigerian serial entrepreneur, Sim Shagaya, founded uLesson in 2019 to bridge the gap in learning for kids in secondary schools across Africa.
Since its launch, the startup has recorded more than one million app downloads and raised over $10 million from investors, making it one of Africa’s best-funded edtech startups.
Currently serving students in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and The Gambia, uLesson has its sights trained on the East and South African regions in its expansion plans.
Using interactive videos and focusing on producing content that students enjoy, uLesson seeks to augment the existing educational systems.
It can be accessed through an Android device or a Windows PC for a relatively affordable fee. Depending on what plan a user chooses, they could end up paying as little as $6 monthly.
In 2005, Godwin Benson was not paid for tutoring services he rendered. Worse still, the man who hired him searched for two months before he found him.
That experience inspired him to co-found Tuteria — an online platform that connects people who want to learn to people who can teach them — with Abiola Oyeniyi in 2015.
Some of the startup’s investors include Microsoft, Facebook, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
PrepClass was founded in 2014 by Chukwuwezam Obanor and Olumide Ogunlana to address the severe shortage of trained teachers in Nigeria. Similar to Tuteria, PrepClass connects learners and tutors for a fee. The startup has raised over $400,000 from investors such as Venture Garden Group and Africa Angels Network.
Examinations are an important part of the educational system. For a long time, the only resources available to Nigerian students preparing for examinations like the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) were voluminous past questions. But with Pass.ng, students have the opportunity to test their knowledge of different subjects through a series of mock tests.
Although the startup initially focused on students preparing for WAEC and the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination — now the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) — it currently supports tests for the University of Lagos (UNILAG) diploma programme and the Federal Government’s N-Power programme.
Launched in January 2016 by Julie Otieno and Claire Mongeau, Kenyan edtech startup, M-Shule, utilises artificial intelligence to deliver personalised learning experiences to learners through SMS and chatbots. Performance data from students is then shared with parents, schools, and teachers to enhance the learning process.
As more parts of Africa become urbanised, there is the danger that indigenous African languages would be lost in the process. For families that feel this way, Ambani uses augmented reality (AR) to teach young people African languages. The languages currently available on the app include isiZulu, isiXhosa, Setswana, Sepedi, Tshivenda, and English.
Ghanaian-based Smartix Education develops learning solutions for students using animated videos, activities, and books delivered through an Android and web app. It also runs a vacation school for students in kindergarten and upwards.
Syafunda was founded in 2013 by Zakheni Ngubo in South Africa to provide access to digital content. The startup partners with local content developers setting up digital libraries in places where Internet connection is limited or non-existent.
The Kenyan edtech startup’s name means education in Swahili, and it creates educational apps and content for students in primary school. In 2020, it was acquired by CcHUB as part of its content creation expansion plans. The idea for eLimu was conceived by Marie Githinji and Nivi Mukherjee in Kenya’s iHub; the startup uses local examples to teach concepts to students.
Public schools in Africa have a high student-to-teacher ratio of 1:50. An alternative is private schools which have a student-to-teacher ratio of 1:20. However, this comes at a steep price for parents. Kenyan serial entrepreneur, Sam Gichuru, founded Kidato to solve this problem after he had to take his children out of school to be homeschooled.
The startup was accepted into Y Combinator in 2021. Kidato is an online school for students between the ages of 4 and 18. It offers both regular academic classes and after-school lessons for students. To ensure that the students also have the interaction that occurs in regular schools, the school takes students on monthly educational field trips.
Gradely provides an adaptive learning platform that helps parents and schools identify learning gaps in students and recommends specific ways to close those gaps. It was founded in 2019 by Boye Oshinaga, Femi Ibiwoye, Seyi Adelaju, and Babatunde Caleb, and counts Microtraction as one of its investors.
Accidental writer, covering Africa’s startup landscape and its heroes.