Africa is going digital, and this is happening rapidly unlike ever before. Access to digital communication technologies is now an intricate part of the lives of many people in Africa, most especially the middle class. Nigeria for instance, Africa’s most populous country, and most populous black nation in the World, already enjoys 47.1% internet penetration. Smartphone usage, including mobile internet data access, are increasing in demand. A roughly 25m – 40m people in Nigeria use a smartphone. This according to Statista, and the figure is expected to increase significantly by 2025.
The number of smartphone users in Nigeria from 2014 to 2025 (in millions). Source: Statista
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), Africa already has 122 million active users of mobile financial services. This is more than half the global total. The number of smartphone connections is forecasted to double from 315 million in 2015 to 636 million by 2022. Mobile data traffic across Africa is also expected to rise in sevenfold over the same period. What does this translate into? A growing knowledge economy for Africa, and of course, a growing digital economy.
Report from research conducted by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Orange and UNESCO shows that ICT in education in general, and mobile learning in particular, offers several possible benefits. These include access to low-cost teaching resources, and added value compared to traditional teaching. Also, it includes a complementary solution for teacher training. This means that there’s a huge potential to reach those excluded from education systems. This will also help to improve the quality of teachers and to ensure quality teaching.
There is currently a large influx of foreign universities seeking a market share for their international education programmes. Interestingly, many of these programmes are for online study. They include graduate and postgraduate degree programmes, and prospects in Africa are now embracing these opportunities. For instance, Unicaf, an international education body, and owners of Unicaf University reported earlier this year that its academic platform has served over 25,000 students across Africa.
How has Unicaf evolved?
In 2015, Unicaf had a presence in just 3 African countries, namely, Nigeria, Malawi and Zambia, today, it has a presence in about 11 African countries. These are Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia. Including plans for further expansion as its official website stated. Its academic delivery method is mainly online; a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). You can now study online or on-campus or blended with both. What does this mean? Africa is embracing digital education.
This also means a digital education revolution for higher education in Africa, and Unicaf is taking the lead. It doesn’t stop there, however. The digital revolution in Africa has led to a boom in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in education. Small businesses are leveraging this opportunity to provide online short courses. In Nigeria for instance, businesses are adopting digital education to make education more accessible to professionals.
Let’s explore the current trends in Nigeria
Many professionals in Nigeria use MOOC platforms to train themselves and enhance their professional career. But it does not stop there, more professionals are beginning to bag British, American, European and other international degrees online. They study in their home countries and obtain a foreign degree. This gives them more edge to compete with professionals with only local degrees. They also become more prospective in the job market as international students. One of the benefits is a flexible study system, making it possible to study and still work. Another major benefit is the affordability. The cost of the programme is comparatively more affordable than an on-campus study.
For instance, Unicaf University’s MBA originally cost about 10,000 USD, but it is delivered through a partial scholarship model where up to 65% is waved to help students. The remaining balance of about 35% could be paid by students in instalments of up to 24 months. This has made the programme a top choice for many African students and professionals.
Another interesting thing to note about these online degree programmes is that in most cases, the degrees awarded does not state online. More specifically, for Unicaf University, the degree awarded by Unicaf University and its university partners does not state online study. The certificate issued by these institutions is the same as that of students who have studied on-campus. They are also of top quality and globally recognised.
Online education brings students closer
Another important thing to note about online higher education is that it provides access to specialised programmes. Online higher institutions are increasingly dishing out unconventional degree programmes. Most of these programmes are not available in most traditional institutions. An example of this is Unicaf University Master’s Degree in Web Design and Development. The institution also offers other conventional and unconventional online programmes. You can also find out more about its academic courses here.
Online higher education also helps students to build a rich alumni network. This brings together a rich community of alumni network of students with diverse background and culture. As part of the culture for online education, they still maintain their connections and network. This could lead to running a number of start-ups in joint partnerships, patronising each other’s businesses, and other meaningful needs.
Since the study method is mainly virtual, students tend to connect and engage through various communication mediums. Occasionally, institutions organise workshops, conferences and other events to enable these students to connect physically. Unicaf University recently launched a major education conference in Cape Town, South Africa, the Unicaf Cape Town Conference 2019. The primary aim of the conference was to provide networking opportunities for university students. Various Unicaf students across the globe were invited to the conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Direct feedback was collected on the spot, including the discussions on contemporary digital education trends. They also provided other career advises and guide to help these students and professionals in their various career paths.
Online education brings students closer
African students are leveraging online higher education to obtain international degrees, and this is the emerging trend for higher education. Online higher international education is suitable for those who genuinely wish to obtain an international education. They can do so through distance learning online, and won’t need to travel overseas and incur high living and study costs.
Okeke Vincent Chidozie (Entrepreneur, Writer & Digital Education Consultant - Africa)