Skip to content

How African EdTech Leaders Leverage EdTech to Develop End-to-End Value Chains for Education

“The hierarchy of educational needs—because of very limited disposable income—influences the ability to host educational intervention…the market that you are operating in could have the willingness [to leverage these edtech tools] but may lack the capacity to pay.”

Faith Ngogoyo, MBA, Chapter Co-Founder & Director of Strategic Partnerships (Kenya) at 1 Million Teachers

Edtech is providing important solutions to education providers and students globally, and is gaining speed in developing regions of the world, such as Africa. A Microsoft startup accelerator recently announced its acceptance of 12 African startups into its program. Meanwhile, countries on the continent such as Morocco began launching venture capital (VC) funds backing edtech startups and opportunities.

However, even with the growth of the edtech sector, there still sometimes exists a perception that traditional education and edtech exist as a dichotomy. While this perception persists in various global pockets, it presents an interesting challenge and opportunity for educators and providers in developing countries or regions.

We spoke with an expert in the African EdTech space about hierarchies of educational needs, developing effective end-to-end education value chains, and African edtech solutions.

Meet the Expert: Faith Ngogoyo, MBA

Faith Ngogoyo

Faith Ngogoyo, MBA, Chapter Co-Founder & Director of Strategic Partnerships (Kenya) at 1 Million Teachers

Faith Ngogoyo is the chapter co-founder and director of strategic partnerships at 1 Million Teachers, an organization that supports training and professional upskilling opportunities for teachers to enhance learning outcomes and opportunities globally.

In addition to her work in education technology, Ngogoyo has experience in finance, business and development. Ngogoyo holds a MBA and bachelor’s degree in banking and finance from the Africa Nazarene University in Kenya.

Q & A with Ngogoyo on African EdTech Solutions What are some of the major factors influencing the development of EdTech in Africa? And what are some of the challenges related to this within the region?

Ngogoyo: I see three key points. The first one [is] that there has been a shift in government and policy when it comes to education. For a very long time, it was pretty slow. Policymakers are very slow in adapting to technology-based education. And then there was this big-bang kind of situation with the novel coronavirus pandemic where we were all thrown into this situation when people needed to adapt very quickly to a new digital environment.

I think the shift in policymaking within the political environment is changing constantly in the African states, and there are a lot of calls and pressure among governments to embrace technology-based education.

We have seen the government of Kenya recently introduce a competency-based curriculum that is very focused on 21st-century skills. We have also seen the Kenyan government recently signing off on coding programs in primary and secondary school education. I think the political environment is a big influence when it comes to that option of edtech.

Then secondly, let me talk about influences from the sociocultural environment. I think it is crucial for us to be able to understand the society that we are working in for education and technology within Africa. Because you realize that even if policy is passed down from the top, we are then implementing it with people who exist in different social and cultural environments. They have different biases; they have different perspectives and may have a certain way of doing things.

Just to bring this [point] home, when you think about implementing policy in urban versus rural places, for example, urban societies are a little bit more individualistic compared to how rural societies are set up, which are a bit more communal. Understanding the community that you are working in is crucial when it comes to the adoption of edtech.

The third point then is timing when it comes to the development of edtech. We operate in various communities, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where you are operating close to where the impact lies in communities. In these communities that need this intervention, however, they may not have the finances to support its development, so the funding to support our work and the development of edtech in Africa is very crucial. Can you please share about the hierarchies of educational needs and how this influences access to educational opportunities?

Ngogoyo: Yes, so this is something I really like to talk about because it’s the reality in the environment in which we are operating.

We have this hierarchy of educational needs. What that basically means is that when it comes to paying for educational intervention, the people who pay on behalf of the end consumer—parents, for example—they first pay for the most basic thing they consider [primary] needs and then what they consider as secondary.

So the primary needs in education, for example, can be considered as, my child is going to school. Do they have a pen? Do they have a book? Do they have a school uniform?

Even if I am operating in an environment with free or public primary and secondary school education, I have to be able to meet the basic or primary needs to support this education first before I can consider paying for what is largely considered a secondary, supplementary, or extracurricular education need.

So in this environment, we see a lot of parents and many schools that don’t have capacity to deliver computer-based education or technology-based education, for example. And so that hierarchy of needs—because of very limited disposable income—influences the ability to host educational intervention. It also really influences the capacity of edtech to be implemented in this model of education and space because as I just mentioned, the market that you are operating in could have the willingness but may lack the capacity to pay. Or maybe they are unwilling to pay for it because they do not consider it a primary need. How do you go about developing end-to-end educational value chains? What factors do you take into account and what can this look like?

Ngogoyo: Yeah, this is an interesting question because it may be difficult to have a one-for-all approach or solution that covers the entire educational value chain. But then that presents an opportunity for educational stakeholders to collaborate. And I really emphasize the power of collaboration—when thinking about developing end-to-end solutions for the educational value chain, that collaboration is key.

For example, by looking at policy and an institutional perspective, the value chain includes the government, the school, and the household life where the child exists. If you’re looking at the individual processes, then the value chain would consider the policymaker, the teacher, parents, and the student. And so it’s very important that we are able to recognize that as educational stakeholders, we all need to collaborate.

That being said, I think there has been great emphasis on student-based interventions or student-focused interventions, which may leave all kinds of stakeholders in the educational value chain out of the process. I just talked about the household, for example. Who is in the household? The parent is in the household, but what do their wage or work schedule and other needs look like?

Then, there is the school, which includes the teacher who spends time with the students Monday to Friday. Do they have the skills to support the needs and resources that the students have been connected with?

A key part of our work can sometimes be to support the jobs of other key stakeholders in addition to the students when we are offering help. A very aspect of our educational intervention is that it is comprehensive and includes a unique training program for teachers across the globe, especially in the Sub-Saharan market.

And so, if different players—multiple players—could leverage the power of PPP (public-private partnerships), then I think we would be able to find ways of developing end-to-end solutions for the educational value chain. How have you leveraged edtech or online learning tools to support educational access and opportunities?

Ngogoyo: So, as you know, in my current work at 1 Million Teachers, we provide a very unique program that has over 250 modules for teacher-based training to support training and upskilling of teachers. We onboard teachers to learn and provide them with the opportunities to train. In Africa, this is gravitating towards skill-based training like technology-based training. And we realize that sometimes teachers are ill-equipped to handle the skills-based training or technology-based training. So we support teachers in that area.

Over the last three years, we have reached over 250,000 students through the teachers that we have trained. We have supported close to 30,000 teachers now. We have partnerships that are supporting us to scale and reach over 250,000 teachers in the coming year.

Just being able to see the part of technology in supporting teacher-based training and then seeing the outcomes in the classroom where these teachers work has been very satisfying.

Chelsea Toczauer

Chelsea Toczauer is a journalist with experience managing publications at several global universities and companies related to higher education, logistics, and trade. She holds two BAs in international relations and asian languages and cultures from the University of Southern California, as well as a double accredited US-Chinese MA in international studies from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University joint degree program. Toczauer speaks Mandarin and Russian.