Berlin (GER), October 2018 - International experts at this year's eLearning Africa conference, which recently took place in Kigali, Rwanda, were upbeat about the long-term prospects for African economies. The reason, they say, is that there is a new mood of "confidence" and a growing understanding among African political leaders and employers of the vital importance of investment in education and training.
"The mood was very striking this year," says Rebecca Stromeyer, the founder of eLearning Africa, which is Africa's largest conference on technology assisted learning and training. "It is quite clear that learning professionals and political leaders from different parts of Africa are feeling a lot more confident about the future.
"They understand what needs to be done. They are beginning to work together. They are using technology very effectively and in increasingly innovative ways to meet new challenges. Information and communications technology offers Africa huge opportunities, and African educators have not been slow to take advantage of it. Now we are starting to see the benefits."
In part, the growing sense of confidence that African educators feel may be attributed to the African Union. The fact that it set out a clear vision for the future, its 2063 Agenda, which maps out the path to a "transformed continent", has shown both governments and citizens that there is a realistic possibility of ending poverty and building sustainable economic growth.
It is a message that appears to be getting through to governments and international organisations.
Roland Lindenthal of Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) said that the German government would ensure that at least one quarter of all its development aid for Africa in future is devoted to support for education.
Several speakers at both the eLearning Africa conference and its accompanying Ministerial Round Table, at which African ministers of education and ICT discuss the role of new technologies in spreading learning opportunities, called for a greater percentage of both public spending by African countries and development aid to be devoted to education and training.
"Now is the time to increase spending on education," said Maximilian Bankole Jarrett, the Director in Charge of the Africa Progress Panel, which was chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from 2007-2017. "We have to show our commitment. It is pointless talking about the crucial importance of education in transforming Africa if we don't show our commitment by investing in it. We have a huge opportunity now, provided in large part by new technologies, to spread the benefits of education to every corner of Africa."
International investors are well aware of the benefits that support for education can bring. Margot Brown, Director of Knowledge Management at the World Bank, told a plenary session of the conference, "African countries have a chance to leapfrog many of their competitors. The African Union has set out is ambitious 2063 Vision for a 'transformed continent'. That vision can be a reality. It will happen, as both the AU and the World Bank realise, if we focus on education."
Other keynote speakers at the conference, which was attended by over 1,000 participants from more than 70 countries, included Hon Dr Eugene Mutimura, the Minister of Education of Rwanda; Hon Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, Minister of Information Technology and Communications of Rwanda; Dr Bitange Ndemo of the University of Nairobi; Clarisse Iribagiza, the CEO of DMM HeHe; Dr Martin Dougiamas, the founder of Moodle, the world's biggest online, open source education platform; Professor Laura Czerniewicz of the University of Cape Town; Dr Mamphela Ramphele of Reimagine SA; Prof Nii Quaynor of the African Network Operators Group; and Elliott Masie, founder of the Learning Consortium and Director of the Masie Center.
The conference was accompanied by a large exhibition of products, services, and courses.
During the conference’s closing session, a lively debate on the possible implications of a “fourth industrial revolution” for Africa, it was announced that next year's eLearning Africa will be held 23-25 October 2019 in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.