African leaders and education policy makers have called for the urgent prioritisation of foundational literacy and numeracy to address a learning emergency that has left 9 out of 10 African children unable to understand a simple text by the age of 10.
Speaking on the sidelines of the UNESCO Pre-Summit for September’s flagship UN Transforming Education Summit, Human Capital Africa Advisory Board Chair and former President of Malawi Joyce Banda said: “Of the 100,000 children who are born everyday in Africa, 90% will be unable to read well enough to understand a simple text by the time they celebrate their 10th birthday.
“That means we are failing nearly 33 million children every year. How can Africa prosper as a continent if this is the case? How will our children compete in a modern economy if they cannot read and write? We have no choice but to tackle this learning crisis head on.
“We are delighted that the global community has begun to recognise the severity of the problem. We need all African governments to do the same, and we have to work tirelessly to ensure that these translates into action.”
Emphasising the potentially devastating impact of the learning crisis on Africa’s future, Dame Graca Michel, the former First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa, who has been an education advocate for decades said: “The results of our apathy and lack of action to improve our education systems and invest in better academic outcomes will be felt for decades to come. Quite clearly, we are condemning the African continent to be even worse off in 20 years’ time than it is now.
Africa’s children are being handicapping and we are setting up the next generations for catastrophe. There will never be escape from the entrapment of intergenerational cycles of poverty Africa finds itself in now, nor the ability to contribute our full talents to advance our societies or compete on a global stage should we continue on this path of self-destruction.
This is a failure of monumental proportions. The millions of children who are intellectually stunted by a lack of adequate learning opportunities today are the very same people who we are entrusting to lead our communities and our nations tomorrow.”
Human Capital Africa convened a panel of distinguished guests including Serigne Mbaye Thiam, the Minister of Education of Senegal, Honourable Agnes Nyalonje the Minister of Education from Malawi, Adama Momoh, the Director of policy and planning from Sierra Leone, as well as Professor Charles Soludo, the Governor of Anambra State in Nigeria, who shared their experiences having prioritised foundation learning in recognition of the scale of the crisis.
Demonstrating the practical steps that are already being taken to address the challenge, Honourable Agnes Nyalonje said: “We have started to focus on evidence informed policy making, and one of the things we want to do is to put our best teachers into grades 1-4. These children want to obtain an education but the system is failing them.”
Emphasising the importance of data, the Director of Policy at the Ministry of Education in Sierra Leone said: “We have established a national assessment unit to gauge learning outcomes and we have digitised our annual school census, to ensure we have the evidence we need to design informed policy.”
Concluding the event, Human Capital Africa founder and former Minister of Education in Nigeria Dr Oby Ezekwesili said: “We believe that the responsibility to get out of this crisis is our own. By working together, we can rapidly change the future of this generation, and those to follow. That is why I am so encouraged by the collaboration and knowledge sharing we have seen today, which is essential if we are to implement the solutions to this crisis quickly. It is critical that we understand this is not just about allocating resources, it is about prioritisation and focus. There are simple things that the progressive leaders we have seen today are implementing which can begin to move us forwards.”
To track the progress that African governments are making to resolve the crisis, and to drive transparency and accountability, Human Capital Africa is developing and will launch a scorecard, which will measure countries’ performance on indicators within six categories that represent the ability of the education sector to provide quality education to children at a young age and prepare them for a future of learning.
WATRA Advocates E-Governance and Technology to Boost Jobs for Youths In Nigeria, W/Africa
WEST Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) has advocated greater adoption of e-Governance and concerted effort to expand the digital economy in Nigeria and other countries of West Africa.
The executive secretary of WATRA, Aliyu Yusuf Aboki stated that this will boost investment and create quality jobs for young people in Nigeria and West Africa. He stated that despite the comparatively low rate of literacy in West Africa, there is a very wide scope for digitizing government services.
He said he sees the enormous opportunity for e-governance as he travels across the 15 ECOWAS states. He explained that governments at all levels could increase their taxes dramatically by digitizing the identities of taxpayers and tax collection processes. He also emphasized that there is a great opportunity to expand access to education and healthcare through digital tools.
WATRA is a regional organisation that has the mandate to promote the adoption and harmonization of regulations that stimulate investment in telecommunications and increase affordable access for citizens.
The WATRA boss cited the example of India where over 1 billion citizens, including the poorest citizens, could easily receive or make payments using their telephones through a government-supported platform, the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
Other government-backed digital schemes in the country enable municipal governments to manage healthcare online and citizens to store and readily access government documents such as tax returns on their phones.
Aliyu pointed out that the digitalization of government services has transformed the lives of the 273 million Indians who are classified as living in poverty. While noting progress in the adoption of ICT to deliver and manage government services in West Africa, the WATRA boss emphasized the need to scale up existing schemes in the sub-region.
Africa’s Smartphone Market Declines 3.4% In Q1
Africa’s smartphone market declined 3.4 per cent quarter on quarter (QoQ) in Q1 2023 to total 17 million units, the lowest level of shipments since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Q1 2020. That’s according to the latest figures announced by International Data Corporation (IDC), with the firm’s newly released Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker showing that rising inflation and local currency depreciations against the U.S. dollar have negatively impacted demand for smartphones across the continent.
Shipments of feature phones across Africa also declined in Q1 2023, although not to the same extent as smartphones. Feature phones remain relatively affordable and are still the preferred secondary device option for many consumers.
“Africa’s smartphone declined throughout 2022 amid weak consumer demand, and this has been exacerbated by rising inflation and higher device prices,” says George Mbuthia, a senior research analyst at IDC. “The average selling price (ASP) for smartphones grew QoQ due to high import costs and the fact that many vendors’ flagship devices are now equipped with 5G and have therefore moved up in price to the premium segment.”
Africa’s top 3 smartphone markets recorded a mixed performance in Q1 2023. South Africa and Nigeria both saw shipments decline QoQ, while the Egyptian market registered growth. South Africa was impacted by seasonality issues and weak demand, meaning vendors were unable to bring in new units while they continued to clear the channel. Egypt remains below its potential, but local assembly is picking up in the country and the government has now dropped its “letters of credit” requirement for vendors, both of which have helped the market to recover from its low base.
Transsion (Tecno, Itel, and Infinix) accounted for the largest share for smartphone shipments across Africa in Q1 2023, despite experiencing a decline in units. Samsung placed second, while Xiaomi came in third.
M-KOPA raises $250m to scale high-impact consumer fintech across Africa
M-KOPA, a leading fintech platform, today announced it successfully closed over $250m in new debt and equity funding to expand its financial services offering to underbanked consumers across Sub-Saharan Africa. This marks one of the largest combined debt and equity raises in the African tech sector, enabling M-KOPA to continue its rapid growth.
Over $200m in sustainability-linked debt financing was led and arranged by Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank and long-term strategic partner to M-KOPA. Other participating lenders include The International Finance Corporation (IFC), funds managed by Lion’s Head Global Partners, FMO: Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank, British International Investment, Mirova SunFunder and Nithio. A further $55m in equity investment was backed by existing strategic investor Sumitomo Corporation, which is contributing $36.5m to the total raise and will engage closely with M-KOPA on new growth markets and products. Blue Haven Initiative, Lightrock, Broadscale Group and Latitude, the sister fund to Local Globe, also participated in the transaction.
M-KOPA’s fintech platform combines the power of digital micropayments with the Internet-of-Things (IoT) to provide customers with access to productive assets. In markets where individuals have limited pre-existing financial identities and conventional collateral, M-KOPA’s flexible credit model allows individuals to pay a small deposit and get instant access to everyday essentials, including smartphones, electric motorcycles and solar power systems, and then graduate to digital financial services such as loans and health insurance. M-KOPA’s solution embeds credit into the product through a smart digital connection, giving customers ownership instantly, which they can pay off through micro-instalments over time. The company has sold over 3 million of these products through a unique direct sales model that includes more than 10,000 agents. M-KOPA’s operations started in East Africa and successfully expanded to Nigeria in 2021 and, more recently, Ghana. From 2020 to 2022, M-KOPA recorded a compound annual growth rate of 85% in new customer acquisition, and was recently recognised as one of Africa’s Fastest-Growing Top 100 companies by the Financial Times for two consecutive years, in 2022 and 2023.