The evidence is overwhelming: education systems across Africa do not prepare youth for the 21st century workforce. Although access to education is increasing due to the MDG's and higher enrollment rates, most schools across the continent are poor quality with high drop-out rates, particularly for girls. Most use outdated methods of lecture-based pedagogy and rote memorization of content, with few opportunities for practice-based experiential learning and skills development.
As a result, we have a learning crisis on even the most basic skills: 40% of African children "fail to meet basic learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy" (UNICEF). And this is constraining economic growth; in high-growth industries, employers cite lack of high quality human capital as their biggest obstacle. This is not due to a lack of demand; in Kenya alone, over 800k youth enter the job market annually, but less than 50k find employment in formal jobs (World Bank).
Despite the thousands of education initiatives across the continent, there are too few schools that are truly high quality and moving the needle on learning and life outcomes for kids. Although hard-working leaders exist, who have the potential to drive reforms, our research found that they are not receiving more support for four reasons:
1. Most investors fund later-stage entrepreneurs, not an ecosystem of leaders that makes more innovation and higher quality possible in the long-term. They don't coach government leaders to shift complex regulations, intrapreneurs to drive quality within existing schools/organizations, or entrepreneurs with pre-seed ideas.
2. Most investors lack expertise on how to enable higher quality education initiatives because they invest across multiple sectors, or they focus on a narrow silo in education (such as secondary), which means practitioners do not learn from best practices in the sector and education-specific innovation around the world.
3. Many large investments are selected by non-Africans living outside of Africa, often male, disconnected from local political context, realities and opportunities. Few large investments are in initiatives founded by people of color and women. As a result, many investors miss the potential of models purpose-built for local contexts.
4. Investors typically fund individual models with disruptive approaches, not collective impact that creates the conditions for local practitioners to collaborate, address common challenges together, and build solutions to entrenched and complex problems.