Mirco Martins
Mirco Martins Mike Gurman

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to over 1 billion people. Yet according to a report published by the World Bank last year, the percentage of people enrolled in tertiary education is just 9.4%, compared to a global average of 38%.

Almost 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making it the continent with the largest youth population in the world. Yet the range of disasters which have affected the continent, including domestic conflict, drought, flooding and now the COVID pandemic, has meant that optimism is waning amongst Africa’s brightest students, causing them to seek education opportunities elsewhere.

This brain-drain affecting sub-Saharan Africa - as well as the shortage of universities in the continent to serve those that remain - paints a difficult picture for future generations. The economies of African nations, particularly those which are rapidly diversifying, depend on the contributions of well-educated young people.

As an Angolan national, I was fortunate to pursue my undergraduate education in the United Kingdom before obtaining an MBA in the United States. The educational opportunities I was provided with as a young man were instrumental in furthering my business career in Africa and overseas, and I remain a committed advocate of the provision of such opportunities to future generations. Some twenty years after I began my own educational journey, Africa now faces an unprecedented health and economic crisis which can only be solved by those committed to its recovery.

That is why it is so important to me that the Kuculá Foundation , which I established out of a fervent belief that education should form the basis of sustainable development in Africa, plays its part in tackling this challenge. Whether through our scholarship programme, which helps secure access to tertiary education for high-performing students from less fortunate backgrounds, or its mentorship and coaching activities, which provide children and young people with the personal and professional skills they need to thrive in a competitive world – philanthropy can help fill a public sector gap where governments facing economic hardship may struggle to.

When I moved to the UK to start my career at BP, Angola was in the midst of civil war. Now at peace, the country faces a new range of challenges; from COVID-19 to the need to build an economy less dependent on oil. We cannot afford to let this crisis lay waste to another generation of future businesses and political leaders, at a time when our countries depend on them the most. Angolans, and Africans everywhere, deserve access to education.

It was therefore encouraging to see innovators stepping in to help Angolans deprived of education as a result of the pandemic. Last year, the closure of schools across the country led to the launch of a scheme by People in Need (PIN), a Czech NGO which is focused on improving access to education in Angola. The scheme helped identify areas where teachers could improve, to make informed decisions regarding training needs and professional development.

The roll-out of innovative EdTech solutions such as these can provide revolutionary and cost-effective ways to deliver education to those that need it the most and must sit alongside the work of philanthropic organisations to ensure that Africans are granted the educational opportunities that will help them, and in turn, help their countries. But there is much more to do, as argued convincingly by the Center for Global Development who state that even though 2020 saw an uptake in EdTech solutions in Africa, the COVID crisis was not EdTech’s moment in the continent.

That is why philanthropists and innovators everywhere should do all they can to ensure we avoid a lost generation for African education. As Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, the International Labour Organisation Regional Director for Africa said last week , “it’s very important…to ensure that we don’t lose a generation. If we don’t look after them, if we don’t equip them, if we don’t skill them up and prepare them, then they’re not going to be useful in the labour market’’. She is right in her assessment - it is as much of an economic issue as it is a social one; the future of the continent very much depends on our young.