By Jens Ischebeck
Jens is an African edtech expert and founder of Apps-for-learning.com, a comparison site that presents the various e-learning and m-learning providers available in Africa and compares them in terms of their prices, and the type and quality of courses on offer.
The population of Africa is getting younger. Young people make up on average two thirds of the African population—and counting.
Drawing on these figures, the UN recently questioned whether Africa's increasingly youthful population is, ‘A Ticking Time Bomb Or An Opportunity?’
With old people traditionally occupying the roles of leaders simply due to their age, new models of leadership are needed to harness the power of Africa's growing numbers of young people.
Young Africans can emerge as the global and national leaders of the future. But, adhering to traditional models of 'leadership through age' may make this difficult to achieve.
Young people in Africa are in need of educational technology—edtech—and strategies to develop their leadership skills. Learning technologies such as mobile apps and online courses are the way forward when it comes to inspiring and teaching a new generation of leaders in this continent.
Inadequate infrastructure, poverty (and hence the need for young people to prioritise work over education), lack of trained teachers and a scarcity of schools are some of the key hurdles to education in Africa.
These problems are most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, though they are improving. Statistics show that net enrolment in primary school education right across Sub-Saharan Africa has grown from 58% in 1999 to 87% in the present day. This is promising as it demonstrates that there is a large appetite for education across Africa. The next generation of leaders is ready to spring into action.
This appetite needs to be met with appropriate learning resources. Online education is key here. In countries where infrastructure is poor, online education enables students to learn from their own homes. And, in big universities such as Cape Town or Kenyatta University, online courses can provide valuable supplements to classroom based studies.
Throughout Africa, both global and regional online course providers have sprung up, each with different approaches and pricing models.
Globally too, 100% online MBA and master’s programs—like Birmingham Business School’s AMBA-accredited Online MBA or Nottingham Business School’s Online MBA With Big Data Analytics—give Africans easy access to high-quality education from top tier institutions.
Bridging the skills gap
Far from being a nebulous concept, leadership is something that can (and should) be taught. Though to an extent good leaders may be said to be born, not made, anyone can be taught to grasp and apply leadership skills like clear communication, dispute resolution, managing teams and resources.
Providing young Africans with access to educational institutions which teach them leadership skills is crucial. However, as it stands, some countries (such as Kenya and South Africa) lead the way in terms of their density of schools and the quality of their universities. Other countries (such as Somalia) are lagging behind.
A leadership skills 'gap' is developing between students in countries with good quality education infrastructure and a high level of living standards, and students in countries with poorer living standards and an inadequate education infrastructure.
E-learning and m-learning, because they make learning available to all, help to bridge this skills gap. When you have access to online courses, you can study wherever you are.