Davos Agenda

Why being innovative with education across Africa requires a network approach

People studying in an open-plan room, illustrating changing educational needs

Education is changing across Africa. Image: Red & Yellow Creative School of Business, South Africa, a member of Honoris United Universities

Jonathan Louw
CEO, Honoris United Universities
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

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  • Africa is poised to harness its youth demographic and provide the next global workforce.
  • Only with the collective action of the education ecosystem can this become a reality.
  • Fostering an educational environment that nurtures and unleashes Africa's potential is crucial.

Innovation has long been recognized as the driving force behind societal progress and economic growth. In today's disrupted and rapidly evolving world, the imperative for innovation has never been more pressing. As global dynamics continue to shift, Africa stands poised to harness its youth demographic and provide the next global workforce. But only with the collective action of the education ecosystem can this become a reality.

Since our inception, the approach to deploying innovation at scale has been diverse across the student journey, leveraging partnerships with local and global EdTechs to improve learning outcomes, future-proof our academic models and fast-track digital transformation, all geared to increasing access to quality education.

For innovation to have a practical effect, a deliberate and adaptive approach is required through testing, learning and scaling solutions, whilst building cross-functional and cross-border teams. Quality, relevant education must adapt to the pace of change in industry as new technologies disrupt a multitude of sectors, bringing with it greater requirements for 21st-century skills.

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An ecosystem of partners must be nurtured to multiply success, widen access to quality education, answer the need for critical skills and prepare tomorrow’s leaders for work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For higher education institutions, this should include multiple stakeholders, such as governments, policymakers, foundations, employers, EdTech and wider associations, to ensure that innovation at scale is equitable and sustainable, focusing on priorities such as:

Enhancing education and skills development

Invest in education and skills pedagogies that equip students with the necessary knowledge and abilities to engage in innovation-driven industries. Emphasise STEM education and promote digital literacy to ensure a technologically proficient workforce.

Increasing the development of alternative academic models, such as coding bootcamps, answers the need for skills acquisition with high Return on Investment (ROI) for students. We partnered with bootcamp provider, Le Wagon, to roll out coding bootcamps across Africa and we now have established centres in Morocco, Mauritius and South Africa.

Develop a supportive ecosystem

Foster an environment that encourages innovation by promoting collaboration through innovation hubs and incubators that provide resources, mentorship and networking opportunities. We opened the Collective Lab in Tunisia to break down organizational silos and bring together multiple stakeholders to develop entrepreneurial talent across our education hubs in Africa. So far, almost 300 entrepreneurs have been incubated with 26 scalable start-ups created, raising more than $220,000 in seed capital.

Partner with EdTech to test and scale pilots of solutions that increase student outcomes and learner experience. Data by GSV Ventures shows that, as of August 2021, Africa’s Edtech industry had attracted investment worth $20 million since 2019.

Adaptive learning uses the power of AI to recreate the experience of a personalised tutor whilst continually assessing student progress. In Tunisia, our health schools have rolled out Lecturio, an online medical education platform training tomorrow’s healthcare professionals with the latest in adaptive learning techniques.

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Promote entrepreneurship and startup culture in the classroom

Encourage an entrepreneurial spirit throughout the pedagogy and through the provision of key 21st-century skills. Students are increasingly opting for entrepreneurship courses or shorter modules that provide key entrepreneurial skills. We now have over 4,000 students across the Honoris network choosing to study entrepreneurship.

Support research and development

Allocate resources to research and development initiatives that focus on solving local problems and developing solutions tailored to African needs. Encourage collaboration between universities, research institutions and private sector employers to promote innovation and knowledge sharing.

Global consortiums and networks provide a powerful platform for collaboration. The Honoris Medical Simulation Center in Tunisia recently gained notable success with recognition of its research at the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare in Florida, USA. More than 5,000 students, 400 healthcare professionals and 60 obstetricians from Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa have been trained at this facility.

Teachers need further training

It's important to note that these priorities can only be realized through the upskilling of teachers. Whilst progress has been made, there remains a considerable knowledge gap in the capacity of educators across the continent, ensuring that the future of education, teaching and learning aligns with the digital transformation seen in the world of work. Our Reimagine Education course, a transversal programme across our pan-African academic community, strengthens existing academic models and explores new ones, with over 1,300 teachers trained so far.

Our network of 15 institutions in Africa takes best practice learnings from one institution and applies these to another, continually building on the proven success of test and scale approaches and fostering collaboration at all levels to improve the quality of education for African students.

In 2022, the World Economic Forum recognized Honoris as a New Champion and later awarded us the New Champions Award for Excellence in Adaptive Capacity. We continue to encourage a network approach within the New Champions community for achieving the shared vision of a united Africa, alongside global partners, underpinned by quality, accessible education.

Our vibrant entrepreneurial spirit and rich tapestry of diverse cultures make our continent an untapped powerhouse of innovation. Now, more than ever, fostering an environment that nurtures and unleashes Africa's potential is crucial. Collaborative efforts will propel the continent towards a future defined by progress, prosperity and inclusivity.

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