Education is improving throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Enrollment rates have risen significantly at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. However, these improvements are not occurring fast enough. With more than 30 million primary and 90 million secondary school children currently outside of the system, limited gains over the last 25 years in literacy rate across the continent from 53-60%, rapidly increasing youth population and an enormous funding gap of over US $1 trillion, there is an urgent need to focus attention towards the education system.
Not doing so will result in SSA falling enormously short of its economic promise and will create or perpetuate massive social inequities. Governments are squeezed from all ends due to the rising populations and increased demand for education. Now is an opportune time for private investors to enter the market. And there are early signs of this happening.
Private capital, including impact investments, is flowing throughout SSA to innovative low-cost education business models, high-impact technology products and financial systems with the intention to bridge the access to education gap across the continent. The private investment market is still nascent, and more effort is needed to identify and promote education investment opportunities through SSA.
Private investment in education presents the exciting opportunity to go beyond the simple provision of private capital and complement existing education delivery and funding systems. The most promising impact investment opportunities will support the growth and integration of the entire education system across students, education providers, employers, governments and private investors. These include public-private partnerships, tailored student financing solutions, and venture capital funds.