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15 creative edtech startups empowering Africa’s learners

eLearning Africa 2014 recently saw both thinkers and tinkerers from around the continent and abroad get together in Kampala, Uganda. They discussed the current state of innovation in education. We thought this a fitting opportunity to then round up some of the startups that have been making headlines for their impact in Africa’s education industry.

As various reports have suggested, Africa’s elearning scene has grown on an impressive scale in the last few years with some estimating revenues in Africa reached about US$250-million in 2011. The same sources suggest this number is set to double, if not triple, in most African countries by 2016.

Obami

Obami is a social learning platform that aims to create a bridge between educators and learners. It prides itself on being the first organisation to digitise three year’s worth of past papers for South Africa’s Annual National Assessments and National Senior Certificate.

Obami launched its Tutor initiative earlier this year that wants to connect students with qualified mentors via their phones. Though currently in beta, Obami Tutor is currently free for Maths and English across Grades seven, eight and nine.

Daptio

Adaptive learning is the name of the game for Daptio. By tracking learners’ performance, the company’s software is able to curate content according to the students’ specific needs. It offers SaaS to publishers and other content creators.

The startup was recently named by business and entertainment publisher Fast Company as one of Africa’s top 10 most innovative companies for 2014. It also won Telkom’s Open Innovation Mega Challenge at the end of last year.

Together We Pass

Born from the same founder who started the more recent Daptio, Together We Pass was created out of a frustration with the distance-learning University of South Africa (UNISA), specifically the fact that students could not connect and collaborate on their studies.

The company launched its peer-to-peer social learning platform in 2008 and has helped over 7600 UNISA students since. It offers subject resources to students from assignments to forums and revision assignments.

Rethink Education

We recently featured Rethink Education on Ventureburn. The startup aims to offer digestible content through web-based applications and Mxit to high-school students. A for-profit business, Rethink last recorded 400 000 unique visits to its platform with over fifty schools on its books.

Siyavula

Supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation, Siyavula has been around since 2002. Siyavula is an online service that offers curriculum-aligned openly-licensed textbooks. It’s responsible for Everything Maths and Everything Science which offer free online textbooks to grade 10 to 12 students.

Tutor.ng

This Nigerian startup describes itself as an online tutoring platform that provides the right tools for engaging and teaching learners. The startup provides online classrooms that cover a range of features like tests, live chats and multimedia interaction which is mobile compatible.

The company is aiming to have 20 000 users by the end of 2014. It recently partnered with Sterio.me which will help specifically craft SMS and voice content for learning, health, spiritual and agricultural content, as well as produce translation and dictionary services.

Sterio.me

Founded by Christopher Pruijsen from the UK, Sterio.me was developed during Africa’s first Startup Bus tour. The company aims to reinforce school content by offering interactive audio lessons. These lessons are pre-recorded by the educator and delivered via an SMS-triggered inbound voice call to the learner.

Prep-Hub

Prep-Hub describes itself as an academic question and answer website. Think of it as a South African version of Quora with education as its main angle. Questions are posted on the platform for free and the ones with the most votes get more recognition.

FunDza

This literary trust provides reading materials in a variety of formats such as mobi or through a Mxit app and boasts more than 50 000 readers each month. With a strong focus on the youth, FunDza provides readers across South Africa with quality, locally-generated reading content via their mobile phones.

FunDza was recently named as one of the supported projects for Cape Town World Capital of Design. It’s also been named one of the 15 2014 WISE Awards Finalists.

GetSmarter

In partnership with the University of Cape Town, Random House Struik, and the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, GetSmarter offers a variety of short courses online. These courses range from Social Media and Finance to Creative Writing and Health and Wellness.

According to its website, the company has educated over 16 000 students since it was founded in 2008.

Now Novel

Now Novel is different to the other startups as it doesn’t follow the traditional approach of solving a broad social issue in South Africa and abroad. Instead, it aims to satisfy a niche industry of writers. From finding an idea for a book to creating and finally writing, the online platform acts as a writer’s guide to self-publishing.

Funda

Based in Cape Town, Funda wants to make education fun for both trainers and trainees. The company provides elearning management systems and content development for high institutions and corporates. It prides itself on creating training content that is both engaging and educational for its clients.

Edge Campus

Edge Campus launched Qurio last year which helps educators create digital surveys, tests and quizzes that can be easily distributed. It claims its products are scalable in high volumes as well as cost-effective.

Paperight

The publishing startup allows any business with a printer and an internet connection to turn into a print-on-demand bookstore. Given South Africa’s shortage of textbooks and geographical challenges, Paperight has created an online library that sees copy shops legally print out books, magazines and other documents for their customers.

Well known for all the international awards it scooped up over the years, the startup is also backed by the Shuttleworth Foundation.

Prepclass

Prepclass helps Nigerian students prepare for the national university JAMB exams by providing the relevant online content. The mobile-friendly service helps to monitor students’ performance and allows the course to be structured according to the specific needs of the learner.

The startup was chosen as one of the seven finalists in TechCabal Battlefield contest last year.

These are of course not all the edtech startups shaping the continents learning environment so if you feel we’ve left any out, please let us know in the comments below.

Image by spykster via Flickr

Author Bio

Jacques Coetzee
Jacques grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Keen to take over the world, one word at a time, he has always been interested in both politics and development and studied International Relations (BA) at Stellenbosch University. With an interest in innovation and social change, he seeks to tell the... More

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