The past two years have completely revised commonly held beliefs in Africa’s eLearning future, as outlined in this PDF report from Ambient Insight. As dependency on expensive satellite access has been lessened by connection to the SEACOM, TEAMS, and EASSy international fiber optic cables, and telecoms and ISPs have entered into price wars to win market share, internet penetration in many countries has soared.
Combined with increased access, governments have recognized the need to lift up populations through access to education. Given the cost and impracticality of traditional university-style education for many throughout Africa, eLearning approaches have been the focus of government policy, NGO-funded projects, and the vast digitization of academic content. Kenya, for example, has spearheaded a massive digitization plan in recent years. The Open University of Kenya was funded in 2012 with this goal in mind.
In terms of eLearning products, African countries are leading the world when it comes to demand for custom content development services, cloud-based authoring tools, learning platforms, and installed authoring tools. There are, however, significant challenges in terms of language patterns and local language usage (especially in serving the youngest populations). While several countries use English as a primary teaching language, the linguistic landscape is highly fragmented. Swahili, Portuguese, French, and Arabic are all in play, depending on the region. Local-language learning objects and flexible learning Content Management Systems (CMS) will continue to be of major interest for the next several years.
From a corporate standpoint, knowledge management through eLearning platforms is a sorely needed component of Africa’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. According to Guy Pfeffermann in his article “New Models of Management Education for Africa,” “there is a clear relationship between average quality of management in a country and the poverty of its population.” With one business school for every 10 million people according to the African Management Initiative, there’s a serious deficit of resources which much be addressed before developing African companies can realize significant gains from knowledge workers.
This demand for content development, translation, and deployment will no doubt have global implications. A great convergence of expanding tech, public and private capital, and eager students will completely transform African economies in the years to come.