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Actis invests $275m in pan-African HE network

UK-based private equity firm, Actis, has made a $275m investment to establish a higher education network spanning nine countries in Africa.

Actis, Honor United Universities, AfricaActis invested in the Université Centrale Group, the leading post-secondary education group in Tunisia, in 2014. Photo: UCG.

Over 40% of Actis investments are located across Africa

The Honoris United Universities platform will offer on-campus and distance learning degrees from member universities including the largest private higher education provider in Morocco, Ecolé Marocaine des Sciences de l’Ingénieur (EMSI), Université Centrale Group in Tunisia and the Management College of Southern Africa, a leading distance learning university.

The platform currently serves 27,000 students but has aims to expand to 100,000 students as the network grows into west Africa, Luis Lopez, the newly appointed group CEO and former CEO of EMEA at Laureate International Universities, said.

“Africa needs a healthy public supply and an ecosystem of public and private providers”

The group will invest in improving infrastructure on members’ campuses, developing teaching talent, growing student mobility between the institutions and expanding provision of the MANCOSA online platform, Lopez told The PIE News.

Members will offer degree programs in subjects including engineering, business, law and architecture at a range of price points between $1,000-$6,000 a year for university degrees and $300-$1,500 a year for a vocational degree, Lopez said.

Demand for higher education in Africa is outstripping supply and the shortfall shows no signs of shrinking. According to the UN, by 2100 the continent will be home to 4.4 billion people. Currently about 40% of the population is aged 0-14 years old.

“No one has the solution for such big numbers,” commented Lopez. “It needs a healthy public supply and an ecosystem of public and private providers.”

Other institutions in the network include vocational provider L’Académie d’Art de Carthage in Tunisia and Regent Business School in South Africa. The network spans Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Swaziland, Mauritius, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Since spinning out of the UK government’s development corporation in 2004, Actis has invested over $5.5bn in companies in consumer industries, financial services, health care and industrials. According to the company, over 40% of its investments are located across Africa.

“Employers in Africa need candidates with global perspectives”

Actis made its first investment into education in 2014, with the acquisition of Université Centrale Group, the leading post-secondary education group in Tunisia.

In 2016, the platform expanded to Morocco through its investment in Université Mundiapolis.

It has also invested over $500m in recent years in the education sector in China and Brazil.

“We understand not only what students are looking for in terms of quality and access but what their prospective employers are looking for when they graduate,” Rick Philips, partner at Actis, said.

“Businesses are looking for applicants with internationally accredited levels of education. Employers in Africa have ambitions across the continent and beyond – they need candidates with global perspectives but who understand the diversity of Africa and their local markets and can demonstrate the skills to operate successfully.”

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