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eLearning A Lesson

Technology is driving growth in Africa, especially in the poorest areas

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In a bid to preserve Africa’s customs and beliefs, a fourth-generation clan chief of a village in rural Cameroon, Gaston Donnat Bappa, launched the African Traditions Online Encyclopaedia (Atoe) at eLearning Africa’s ninth conference in Uganda.

Bappa says that Africa has more than 2,000 languages, but a language dies every two weeks in the world and faster on the continent. With this in mind, the aim is to put every single tradition from each country online.

The chief’s project is one of many that were presented at eLearning Africa, which draws more than 1,500 participants and speakers from the information, communication and technology sector across the continent.

eLearning is the use of technology to communicate, develop and exchange knowledge. This has noticeable benefits for Africa.

A combination of education and technology is a powerful driver for growth on the continent. The prospects for African education will increasingly depend on good communication and connectivity.

Harold Elletson, editor of the eLearning Africa Report 2014 says eLearning is making a huge difference, and not only in education.

“It is a key factor in African economic growth and the potential for that growth as well,” he says.

The report includes analysis of the tourism, health and agriculture sectors and a guide to 55 eLearning African initiatives. It says 50% of the world’s population lives in rural areas. In Africa, it is 70%.

“These are the poorest, least educated and most disadvantaged. This population survives nearly exclusively on agricultural activity,” writes Bappa in the report.

“All studies have concluded that rural populations are also those with the least access to ICTs and the advantages they offer.”

Today, many farmers use their cellphones to get information on market prices and are able to adjust their prices accordingly to ensure maximum profits. Nakaseke Telecentre in Uganda introduced an SMS service which works on low-end cellphones and smartphones. The application updates farmers on prices and weather.

“The agriculture sector employs 65-70% of the African workforce. It accounts for about a third of the continent’s GDP. There is a fast-growing regional food market which is being fueled by population growth and rapid urbanization,” said African Union’s Agriculture Commissioner, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime.

Digital literacy campaigns and computer skills training are helping farmers become more efficient in increasing sales, getting bigger yields and managing their land better.

Aida Opoku-Mensah, director of ICT, Science and Technology Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, writes that technology has transformed the education sector globally.

According to the 2011-2016 Regional Forecast and Analysis by Ambient Insight, a market research firm, eLearning covers just over 15% of education in 16 African countries with revenues reaching $250.9 million in 2011 and will more than double to $512.7 million in 2016.

Africa must develop its own education content and distribute it to learners. In Kenya, a Kindle for Schools project was launched in 2013. With 3G coverage, solar charged e-readers have helped improve the resources available to teachers.

Governments and private institutions need to work together implementing projects. Senegal leads with an eLearning growth of 30% annually over the next few years. This is due to support from government, businesses and universities.

Ambient Insight states that by 2016, Angola will displace Tunisia as the fourth largest consumer of eLearning products on the continent. Nigeria will be the second largest after South Africa.

This is transforming Africa into one of the most dynamic eLearning markets in the world.

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