EU-Africa Business Forum looks to PPPS to take e-learning to rural Africa
Microsoft has co-chaired a round table discussion in Brussels on the need for private and public partnerships (PPPs) to deliver relevant, sustainable and scalable solutions that will promote e-learning in Africa. The round table resulted in the proposal of an EU pan-African solution that will allow school to have access to devices, connectivity, and e-learning services. The round table is one of the key side events at this year’s EU-Africa Business Forum.
The round table was jointly led by Microsoft’s Africa Initiatives Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, Louis Onyango Otieno, alongside SES’ Vice President for Institutional Relations, Christine Leurquin. The session brought together representatives of African governments and their respective ministries of education, multilaterals, information technology and telecommunications specialists, financial institutions and other private sector players.
It gave participants the opportunity to discuss connectivity and affordability challenges in the roll-out of e-schools across the continent. With devices, connectivity and e-learning services identified as some of the key barriers in promoting universal access to education, the forum provided a platform to open up dialogue between European and African public and private actors on how to improve access to the internet, and its related services. Microsoft is already piloting three solar-powered TV white spaces trials on the continent as part of the 4Afrika Initiative. The pilots in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa, aim to provide low-cost, broadband access to neighbouring schools and universities.
Specifically, participants addressed the need for infrastructure, resourcing and the related financing required to deploy education solutions. The creation of an enabling policy environment that promotes infrastructure development, access to dynamic spectrum, as well as online safety and cyber security will be critical to meeting this goal.
Speaking at the event, Louis Onyango Otieno said,” The goal of the round table is to take away outcomes and solutions that will ultimately help Africa achieve the MDG’s agenda for universal education by advocating for connectivity, access and services that are relevant and affordable. Access to capital remains a major obstacle for African businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in and deploy low-cost technologies.”
Last month, Microsoft partnered with Intel East Africa and the Kenya Private Schools Alliance, to launch the 4Afrika Youth Device Program, which provides a bundle of affordable devices, educational applications, online services, data plans and smart financing to Kenyan learning institutions. Other partners include Safaricom, Mitsumi Distribution, Equity Bank and M-Changa, a mobile fund-raising app.
“The collaboration of these partners is key to the success of the 4Afrika Youth Device Program in making it practical and affordable for learners and educators. We are excited to have been able to share our experience and learnings during the roundtable, and look forward to participating in the growth of e-learning on the continent,” says Otieno.
The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum has attracted over 500 high level participants from the business communities across Europe and Africa. The event is happening back-to-back with the 4th Africa-EU Heads of State Summit in Brussels, Belgium.