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New tactics needed to tap African demand, experts say

Africa is a market hungry for quality education but many destination countries have been slow to react to demand due to a challenging lack of infrastructure, financial constraints for students and unwelcoming government regulation in some countries.

Kenya is strengthening sovereign links with India and China. Photo of Nairobi: Clara Sanchiz

After decades of investment in the continent from China, Africa is beginning to look East

However, mobile students and profits are there for the taking if providers are willing to think outside of traditional recruitment channels, delegates were told at the sixth annual African Student Recruitment Conference in London this week.

Adding a sense of urgency to the issue, delegates were told that although the US, Canada and the UK are among the most popular study destinations for African students, competition is not far off.

Student mobility patterns historically follow trade routes and after decades of investment in the continent from China, Africa is beginning to look East.

“Universities in the UK and the US have got to start seriously thinking about competition from India and China,” commented Raj Gill, COO of Edulink, adding that both are offering competitive scholarship programmes for African students.

Margaret Lesuuda, Education Consultant at the UK’s Kenya High Commission agreed, saying sovereign ties between Kenya, India and China have been strengthened recently with the reinstallation of a cultural attaché in India and the first post established in China.

“The private sector is thirsty for foreign partnerships”

Beyond traditional student recruitment, distance and online learning, university partnerships and in-country provision are among the tools that have proven successful in key markets including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana and Kenya.

“There’s a tendency for delivery centres rather than partners,” noted consultant Guy Doughty. “Online learning and tuition support gets institutions around the regulatory environment and also maintains quality standards.”

Doughty added that the private sector is thirsty for foreign partnerships as the public sector struggles from lack of funding and capacity limits.

However he underlined that successful partnerships centre around regional needs. “Work with local priorities,” he said. “Don’t just offer another international business course.”

The theme of compatibility was echoed by Arthur Appianda of Regent University College of Science and Technology in Ghana. “True linkages are developed on a foundation of joint partnership, transparency in financial arrangements and democratic decision processes,” he said.

Emphasising the need for equality in university partnerships, he added: “We reject being seen as objects of assistance, that time has passed.”

In Nigeria, recruitment specialists warned educators to brace for change

Outbound student mobility remains strongest in Nigeria but with national elections taking place in February next year, recruitment specialists warned educators to brace for change. Social disruption in the country could affect students going abroad and a newly elected government could take international education off the country’s list of priorities.

The Kenyan government is also making it easier for foreign providers to establish private schools. Lesuuda said the University Act of 2012 increased access to electricity and heightened security across the country are all part of the government’s efforts to minimise roadblocks for private educators.

The country has also committed 2% of it’s annual GDP to research.

Gill, formerly regional director of Middlesex Mauritius, stressed that setting up overseas campuses isn’t easy. “Knowledge hubs will have to cater to local and international student demands,” he said. “Never mind academic provision, climate, cuisine and working out cultural differences among students should be your first priority.”

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5 Responses to New tactics needed to tap African demand, experts say

  1. From my experience,private students from Africa only go to China when there are no other alternatives,so a small adjustment by western universities such as a concessional tuition fee for Africans can do the trick.

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