Mastercard Foundation, ADEA share initial findings from a landscape assessment of the EdTech ecosystem in the WAEMU region

Representatives from six countries in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) region and EdTech entrepreneurs convened in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire to engage with and provide feedback on the report from the landscape assessment of the EdTech ecosystem in the region. The report was presented at a workshop organized by the Mastercard Foundation in partnership with ADEA. The study, which provides a baseline for EdTech investments in the region, availed information on the opportunities towards deepening the use of digital technology in the delivery of teaching and learning and supporting countries to build resilience in their educational systems.

According to the initial findings, the WAEMU region boasts of a population of nearly 159m people of which 47.3m comprises the student population. Literacy rate and internet penetration are at 48 per cent and nearly 33 percent, respectively. Digital innovations and education technology hold the key to improving this literacy rate and ensuring improved outcomes at different levels of education. The COVID-19 pandemic further underscored the need to build resilience in learning systems in Africa and ensure learning continuity. During the pandemic, countries in the region such as Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire relied on technology to keep some semblance of learning going. 

But beyond the education landscape is also the need to boost the digital economy and the technology ecosystem in the region through hubs, accelerators, innovators, and tech entrepreneurs. Out of 68 identified EdTech firms, 15 have already shut down with 53 still in varying degrees of activeness. This indeed signposts a sector in need of further support and assistance to thrive and scale. While education budget hovers around $5.6 billion, a major percentage of this goes into government recurrent costs with little left to drive investments in education technology. Innovative efforts by entrepreneurs offer an opportunity to boost education outcomes.

‘This is the basis for commissioning this study, the need to understand where the challenges and opportunities lie but also to derive the data that will form the baseline for future interventions’, says Serge Auguste Kouakou, the Country Director of the Mastercard Foundation in the WAEMU region.

Equally, in his remarks, the Director of the Mastercard Foundation Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), Joseph Nsengimana notes that:

‘What we are doing here is the first of several initiatives. We have the data now, what will follow will be subsequent interventions and initiatives to support the ecosystem and ensure we can build out a cadre of entrepreneurs who can help improve the education outlook of this region’. 

Opening the event, Hon Khalil Ibrahim Konate, Minister of Digital Transition and Digitization in Cote d’Ivoire, represented by Olivier Avoa who is the Director General of the Digital Transition in the Ministry, presented the government’s readiness to partner with stakeholders to grow the use of technology in achieving improved learning outcomes and in expanding the digital economy and ecosystem in the region. 

‘We are open for partnership and engagements especially towards improving our digital economy but also boosting outcomes in learning’, he reiterated.

Giving his opening remarks, the Executive Secretary of ADEA, Albert Nsengiyumva, underlined the value of technology, data, and information in improving access, quality, and affordability in education. According to him, 

‘technologies can help improve access to education, facilitate learning, help teachers deliver knowledge, and help match educational provision to the job market. These are the reasons why we are meeting here with various stakeholders to facilitate access to technology for education, and thus give our schools and students the means to adapt accordingly’.

The workshop also afforded an opportunity to leverage stakeholder insights to improve the assessment findings and initiate critical conversations towards improving the overall outlook of the EdTech ecosystem in the region. It also offered a chance for networking between the government representatives and the and tech entrepreneurs as participants sought opportunities to align and grow their service offering. 

On Friday, 1st December, CITL equally recorded the first edition of EdTech Mondays in the WAEMU region. The EdTech Mondays is a television discussion that facilitates critical conversations about the use of technology for teaching and learning by bringing together key stakeholders including policymakers, EdTech entrepreneurs, teachers, and parents. Aligning with the monthly Africa theme, the Mastercard Foundation offices in Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria, in partnership with local EdTech support organizations, broadcast the discussions with local context, experts, nuances and case studies.

The first episode of "EdTech Mondays" in the UEMOA region discussed the results of the UEMOA EdTech landscape study with representatives of ministries of education, where the representatives provided their reactions to the gaps and opportunities and articulated their plans to strengthen the EdTech ecosystem in their countries.