Pause: How we got into the business of education: the story of Econet EduTech

__”…If you’re determined to learn, no one can stop you!”

One day my wife told me that she was concerned about two issues for which she wanted an urgent solution…

#1. The cost of books, particularly for university students.

She told me that books for courses like medicine and law are so expensive that they exceed the cost of the tuition.

“Is there a way we can solve this problem?” she asked.

I put a little team together at Econet to look into the problem. They solved her problem, and gave us a new business idea: We call the business EcoSchool. Essentially we negotiate with the publishers of books and get them to release to us eBooks, and we then make them available to students at up to 50% of their retail value. You can learn more about EcoSchool by visiting: www.ecoschool.co.zw

#2. Access to books and other materials at primary and high school.

This was really tricky because books used in primary and high schools are generally not available in digital format. We decided to digitize primary and high school books in Zimbabwe, and also the entire school curriculum. This would allow us to develop teaching support material for students and teachers.

The platform we created is called Ruzivo, and now has more than one million students who access the platform, primarily using desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones!

This means that a third of Zimbabwe’s total student population of 3,2 million has registered for Ruzivo. Almost 500,000 are using it on a daily basis. More than 16,000 primary and high school teachers are also registered. Right now it covers 24 subjects and counting.

If you are a parent, student, teacher or school administrator, check it out at https://www.ruzivodigitallearning.co.zw/

In this case technology is helping us to democratize the quality of education.

Teachers and schools have enthusiastically embraced this support system throughout the country including some of the most rural students.

Now that we have “proof of concept” through the Zimbabwe market, we are preparing to roll out these educational services in other African countries. Several African governments have even sent representatives to see this educational revolution that we have started:

#Muzinda Hub for training in computer coding – http://Muzindahub.co.zw

#EcoSchool for university educational support; and

#Ruzivo for primary and high school scholars.

I believe now is just the beginning of an education revolution that will sweep Africa.

Thank you to all who shared your own education ventures with me here a few weeks ago. There’s so much good happening on this continent! We’ll talk more about this in the months to come. Starting at the town hall in Ghana on Tuesday…

If you’re near Accra on 13 March, good news! We just made available a few more seats, and you can RSVP here (if you are quick): http://bit.ly/Accra2018_Townhall

Everyone else, you are welcome to join us LIVE on Facebook at 2 pm Ghana time:

http://bit.ly/AfripreneurTalk

As I mentioned last week, I will be joined by Prof Peter Salovey (President of Yale University), Dr Patrick Awuah (founder and President Ashesi University), and Elizabeth Elango-Bintliff (President and CEO of Junior Achievement Africa). Our conversation on the Power of Partnership in Strengthening Education will be chaired by Prof Ebenezer Oduro Owusu at the University of Ghana. #AfripreneurTalk!

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you!”

Amen!

End.

by 6 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

6 thoughts on “Pause: How we got into the business of education: the story of Econet EduTech

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    Who can name the most famous people in history who studied at Yale University? Write me a note here. Also if you studied at the university, we want to hear from you!

    Reply
  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Reflection:
    Without doubt one of the most profound, liberating revelations in my life was the realization that to get anything done, it is not the high (office) position you hold that matters most, but your positioning with regards the issue.

    Take education for instance; you don’t have to be a Minister of Education before you can help children get to school, or get a better quality education. That is a “high office position”, and there are many that held it and never did anything memorable with it.

    If you say to yourself “I will wait until I have money, and have taken care of my own needs”, you may never get to do anything at all.
    If you wait for the perfect President in your country, what happens if none ever comes?
    Remember we ourselves were doing all these things even as Zimbabwe went through a very tough time.

    You start with a #Positioning that says, “Surely there is something I can do to help just one child?”
    That is always much more important, because that is like the woman in the Bible who put ALL she had into the offering basket, “even though it was just one kobo (Nigerian coin)”.

    “If not now, then when? And if not us, then who?” Ronald Reagan would always ask those around him.

    # For a child, education can never wait. It is NOW!
    # There is someone to do something NOW:
    you and I, because we care to respond.

    Reply
  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Akwaaba Ghana!
    We are here. Landed at 4am!
    Look forward to the Townhall this afternoon.
    Meanwhile I really enjoyed reading those amazing comments on the various Edu-Prenuers!
    You guys really deserve a pat on the back.
    The opportunites created by the need to educate, and skill up over 600m young people in Africa over the next 10 years are totally limitless.
    Who will Be Africa’s first billionaire from the education sector, I wonder?!
    If we can scale up Ruzivo into a market like Nigeria, I might beat you to it…who will join me in this race?!

    Reply
  4. Mike

    I can attest to the high cost of textbooks… I recently enrolled to study part-time towards a biotechnology degree at Unisa and I can acutely feel the cost of textbooks is having on me (and my fellow students), especially since I was laid off late last year. To make matters worse, I missed an opportunity to join the kwese call center (as a team leader, nogal!) at this time last years. I deeply regret not having seized the opportunity and helping build and grow an African media empire. You are a true inspiration to me and I hope one day to be a billionaire like you and have a businesses like kwese that creates sustainable jobs for our people.

    Forgive me for my digression, but I am thinking of organizing a discussion/debate on the cost of textbooks because I feel that the university may be having a collusive relationship with the publisher and that since most of the textbooks are written and published by Americans/Europeans it means we do not have capable african academics who can produce textbooks of comparable standards cost effectivey while supporting our publishing industry and giving our academics an opportunity for passive income from their copyrights (Intellectual property).I also think e-books can be a solution as EcoSchool shows.

    I haven’t decided yet because I am so worried about my finances (which wouldn’t be the case had I joined Kwese).

    I look forward to partnering with you in tackling such challenges.

    Kind regards,
    Mike Idagiza

    Reply
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