We have been sharing stories of how innovations in learning are impacting opportunities in the developing world. We live in a time of unprecedented opportunity to help spread new schools and new tools to the 6 billion people on the planet who are currently not connected to the idea economy.

At the same time, we are living in a world of great complexities, and the only way we can see through the solving of some of our most significant planetary challenges is through increased opportunities for all to learn.

Enra Sornberg, who is the co-chair of the UN sustainable development goals advocacy group (and is also the Prime Minister of Norway), recently wrote, “For the first time in history we can succeed in providing education for all children and young people. If we put education first, we will gain multiple benefits in terms of development and prosperity.”

Michelle Obama recently traveled to Spain, Morocco and Liberia as part of the Obamas’ Initiative, Let Girls Learn, which aims to ensure that all have access to quality education.

5 Organizations to Watch (and Learn From)

At Getting Smart, we have written about low-cost elementary schools such as Bridge International Academies, operating schools in Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria (and soon in Liberia) and serving over 100,000 students for about $5 a month. We have also highlighted Kepler University, a nonprofit in Rwanda which offers a quality American-accredited degree and a clear path to good jobs for around $1,000 in tuition per year. We’ve also highlighted business training organizations such as Spire, which offers training for university and postgraduate students to boost talent and leadership.

34799e74-b97e-481d-804e-fc92bc5fb39d_Screenshot202016-07-112009.09.38Spire is looking to launch high-quality and affordable secondary schools for families in Kenya. When I taught in East Africa in the early 2000s, a huge barrier to education was the financial cost of schooling. Typical secondary schooling cost about $200 a year in Tanzania and that amount of money is a huge burden for many families.

We recently talked with Ryan Findley from African Leadership Academy, a pan-African leadership development program that also boasts an acceptance rate rivaling Harvard, and Christine Magee from Andela, a talent development program in Nigeria that helps train and then place top developers in organizations across the world (Microsoft and 2U among others are partners). We asked:

  • What’s the biggest challenge your organization faces as you continue to grow?
  • What’s the biggest opportunity your organization sees as you continue to grow?

Christine said, “As we scale, our biggest challenge has been keeping up with the demand for our developers. Andela only accepts around .7% of those who apply, and we methodically vet each developer over a period of six months before placing them with one of our company partners. In order to expand access to Andela, we’re currently ramping up operations in Lagos and Nairobi as well as announcing a third country before the end of the year.”

Ryan said, “I think we need people who better understand modern Africa and where it is heading; though the narrative of ‘poor Africa’ pervades much of the U.S., the reality is that Africa is growing and becoming much stronger economically. We believe if you want to be a cutting edge leader in any realm in 2030, you’d better start understanding Africa today. It holds massive potential. People need to visit places like ALA, Asheshi University in Ghana, and Kenya’s ‘Silicon Savannah’ to see what the continent’s future holds.”

The Opportunities

Christine said, “If you consider the fact that brilliance is equally distributed around the world, it’s clear that there’s a monumental opportunity on the African continent. With more than 1.2 billion residents, countries like Nigeria and Kenya are home to an incredible amount of untapped talent. Through Andela’s Technical Leadership Program, we are connecting Africa’s most talented engineers with top tech companies around the world so that they’re working with and learning from the best. In the next few years, you can expect Andela alumni to be launching the next generation of startups across Africa, solving both local and global problems.”

Started with MasterCard Foundation funds, Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership began as a place to convene the thought leaders, practitioners, leaders and entrepreneurs who could shape young change makers in Africa. Ryan said they are now setting up to start helping support schools across Africa (and the world) in training values-driven entrepreneurial leaders.

“We are helping design the next generation of schools and curriculum,” Ryan said. “Cambridge International Examinations were born of 19th Century British education; Advanced Placement tests were born out of 1940s American education; the International Baccalaureate was written for 1960s Europe. None of these are suitable for modern-day Africa, so we have set our sights on creating a new secondary curriculum that would equip young Africans for the realities they face on the continent today. We see this as the game changer for Africa, and probably the world.”

This blog is part of our occasional Smart Planet series, where we explore innovations in learning across the globe. Do you have an idea or an organization that we should know about? Use the hashtag #SmartPlanet or consider submitting a guest blog by following our guest blogging procedures and emailing [email protected] with the title “Smart Planet.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. I have been to ALA a couple of times to participate in their annual summer program dubbed Global Scholars Program. As an Educator, I am awed at the curriculum and the well-thought out activities that are geared towards raising the next generation of values-driven African and global leaders.

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