Private Education Booming in Africa


The African continent, and particularly South Africa, is seeing a blossoming of private education — and school fees, from as little as $2,000 a year to as much as $16,000. Investors are aware of Africa's interest in quality education and are joining ventures to support and offer independent education opportunities to the continent's youth.

The rising income for the majority of South Africans is the reason why the country is now seeing parents eager to pay for private, quality schooling for their children, Reuters reports. A 2015 report from the World Economic Forum ranked South Africa last in terms of math and science education quality. In terms of overall education system quality, South Africa was ranked 139 out of 143 assessed countries.

Parents want better.

The South Africa Centre for Development and Enterprise reported in May 2015 that private school enrollment in South Africa has doubled with half a million children enrolled in the last 15 years.

Poor public education, lack of resources and the sheer number of students per class lead many parents out of public education and into independent, private schooling for their children:

"For me it is the numbers. There are too many children in the classes and, of course, there's not much attention given to a child," Wanjiru Muchiri, a parent spending annually $6,000 so that her children attend a Nairobi private school says.

In January 2015, UK's Pearson invested $50 million in a fund that supports ventures in emerging markets and focuses on providing budget school education. Back in 2012 when it was set up, the Pearson company invested $15 million in the fund. Katelyn Donnelly, the head of Pearson's Affordable Learning Fund, said of the potential African education has to flourish:

"By any metric – demographic growth, economic growth – or by demand for better educational outcomes, the circumstances are ripe for African education to significantly improve in the next two decades."

Apart from Pearson, GEMS Education, a Dubai-based investor and Bridge International Academies are among high-profile investors with their eyes on Africa's education.

Curro Holdings, a low-cost private schools operator, is according to Reuters and Tendai Dube, "growing at a breakneck pace, both operationally and in the stock market."

In 2015, Curro Holdings developed 40 academies five years earlier than it was planned to, which was Curro's goal. In 2011, Curro had only twelve schools. The company wants to build 80 academies by 2020.

Egypt-based Qalaa Holdings is an investment company that prioritizes education among its corporate social initiatives and offers Egyptian university beneficiaries scholarships for studying abroad.

"Education is one of the major determining factors of any nation's economic growth and for Africa and Uganda in particular. It should be steered to innovation empowerment," Roni Madhvani, the Director of Madhvani Group said, an organization with an education charity under its umbrella.

He insists that science education is both an economy building block and a drive for innovation.

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