Case study: E-learning offers personal growth and market potential throughout Eastern Africa

Here, we look at the growth of online study and how educational e-learning apps for smartphones mean that young and mature students can study with online colleges - conveniently and at the pace of their choice.


Mobile learning market in East Africa East Africa: good e-learning potential

E-learning: What is needed?

For success in e-learning, m-learning, distance education or online courses, a reasonably fast and reliable Internet connection is necessary. Recent improvements in mobile Internet coverage in the east African region mean that many potential learners now have affordable access, making online courses a feasible and attractive means of study.


Students who successfully complete distance learning courses report subsequently finding a job or boosting their income more easily. The quickest and best results are obtained with smartphone educational apps that lead to the award of a certificate that is recognized by local African employers.

Online courses: Why East Africa?

Currently one of the world’s fastest growing economic zones, sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP is expected to continue increasing significantly - perhaps even outpacing Asia’s average. In fact, seven of the ten countries with top economic growth rate are located in east Africa - Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi, as well as neighbouring Congo.


The buoyant economic growth rate helps attract skilled workers to the area, while rising average incomes mean that online courses have become affordable. Within the region, Kenya is also well-known for the M-Pesa, a leading mobile money application and popular with smartphone users worldwide.

Current Internet connectivity, the baseline for elearning

 A report commissioned on Internet development and governance in Africa(*1) mentioned that:

  • A large new large terrestrial fibre network dubbed the EABS (East African Backhaul System) is planned to cover over 15,000 kilometres, enhancing overland Internet and data connections between countries in the region. Links are planned as far as from the Sudan to the Tanzanian, Zambian and Malawian borders as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west. The links will include Kenya Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.
  • The EABS should enable landlocked countries to have cheaper access to communications, at prices closer to coastal countries. Currently, Internet access can cost up to 40 times more than in developed countries.
  • Mobile Internet devices rose to 23 percent of the African communications market in 2015 and are predicted to rise to 40 percent by 2017.
  • Africa has had the highest growth in mobile telephony year-on-year since the year 2000, with mobile revenues around 3.7 percent of GDP. This figure is three times higher than the average in developed economies.

Some interesting statistics

The regional population total is approximately 400 million, of which a quarter is urban and with a median age of 18.1 years. As young people are very familiar with smartphones, mobile Internet access (rather than a fixed connection) is essential.


Skill and training areas that are currently in demand include software development, management, communication, marketing, finance and accounting.


According to reports, Kenya remains the richest country in the area with an income of almost USD $800 per head. This level is close to meeting the international benchmark and defining level of USD $1,000 per capita per annum for middle-income groups. Nonetheless, neighbouring Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania are catching up fast - though average income per person here is still significantly lower, at around $550.


 Applying these statistics to a personal case, let us consider Stanslaus Kimani, 27, who lives in a two-bedroom flat on an estate south of Nairobi. Stanlaus works for an investment bank and is studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Nairobi. He also pays his younger brother's secondary school fees, so his daily outgoings total around $20. This means his socio-economic group is defined as middle class in Kenya; this definition applies to those with outgoings of between $2 and $20 per day. The category is expanding quickly, due to the growing economy.

Conclusion for e-learning in East Africa

 Market growth for learning has come about due to a high population of young people, a growing economy and rising incomes. However, Internet access costs and online course fees remain high.


 Elearning education apps can provide the skills needed to maintain long-term economic growth. Online learning and online university courses offer students in the region real potential to advance their learning and career-related qualifications.

 *Footnote-1 - May 2015, Towela Nyirenda-Jere & Tesfaye Biru.

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