The Business of Private Education in Africa

By Emmanuel Allottey

Africa is booming with business opportunities. The rise of the middle class has increased the demand for private schools as an alternative to public schools to ensure their children get a good education. School closures resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered the review of traditional learning models and ultimately the value derived from private school education. Entrepreneurs are looking to capitalise on the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to introduce low-cost private education models underpinned by technology.

The population of Africa will double in the next 25 years, reinforcing the market for both public and private education. The number of new Private schools opened and enrolment in Africa has exponentially grown in the last decade with lucrative returns. Private investors have started investing in the acquisition of international schools across different countries and building a brand to differentiate themselves from competition.

The biggest driver of the cost of private school education is the quality of teaching staff, seconded by the infrastructure and extracurricular activities provided by the school. This cost can be fully recovered through the school fees and other additional fees. The fee structure can be itemised to allow for different amounts to be charged for the different services offered. The fees levied are not regulated can be adjusted to maximise profitability.

The accelerated adoption of technology in Africa has provided the opportunity to reduce the cost of education. In Tanzania, a low-cost private primary school model uses a technology-based approach and offers a curriculum taught by internally trained teachers. The cost of providing teaching material to students is greatly reduced with the use of online learning and technology. As more players enter the private education space and compete for market share, the competition is expected to improve the quality of education and lower the cost of delivering private school education.

Rapid population growth, rural to urban migration combined with mismanagement of resources have caused a deterioration in the quality of education in public schools. Government policies for inclusive growth, the eradication of poverty and exclusion, increased investment in education and human development, and good governance to ensure a fairer distribution of assets will reduce the long term effects of inequality between private and public education.

Quality education has been linked to improved career prospects with an increased likelihood to secure a high-status occupation and higher wages. For parents seeking to secure their legacy, private school education is the best foundation for their children to succeed.

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