Earlier this month, the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEF) took place in Durban, South Africa, which convened regional and global leaders from government, business, and civil society to identify and prioritize efforts to help Africa achieve inclusive growth.

During the forum, Caerus Capital, an investment and advisory firm that focuses on education and healthcare business in emerging markets, launched The Business of Education in Africa report, which set out to address two questions:

  1. How can governments engage the private sector to also improve access, quality and outcomes?
  2. What are the opportunities for the private sector to invest and improve education outcomes in Africa?


Despite significant gains in access, tens of millions of African children and young people are unable to access high-quality education. Educating Africa’s youth is still a challenge, and one that will become more intense due to population growth, globalization, and limited public resources. Additionally, the report makes the case that it is reasonable that all resources – both public and private -- are fully utilized to meet this challenge.

The research involved nearly 260 interviews and consultations with global education sector leaders representing donors, private providers, investors, and government officials. Research covered more than 135 private not-for-profit and for-profit education case studies. Research also assessed the regulatory context for education.

The Business of Education in Africa report
The Business of Education in Africa report

The report highlights some key findings:

  • Currently, 21% or one in five pupils is educated in the private sector, compared to publicly reported figures of closer to one in 7.5. At current rates of growth, this figure is expected to rise to one in four pupils by 2021
  • Despite significant gains, 30 million children in SSA still have no access to any form of schooling.
  • Around one billion children will need to be educated over the coming three decades.
  • Private sector education is growing faster than public across most education segments in SSA, from primary to secondary and higher education.
  • Policymakers have a stark choice: engage with the private sector and benefit from the full suite of resources that public and private provision can bring together, or ignore or act against the private sector and risk poorer educational outcomes.
  • Private education in Africa offers a $16-$18 billion investment opportunity over next five years.
  • Additionally, the report provides various solutions to engaging the private sector and exploring public-private partnerships, which can assist in addressing Africa’s educational challenges:
  • Urgent action must be taken to ensure children have access to quality education. However, even if governments dramatically increase spending, the public sector—even with donor support—lacks sufficient capital or capacity to operate alone.
  • The private sector already plays an essential role in education provision in Africa—as observed for example in local pre-primary centers run by the community, in church-affiliated schools, in teacher training colleges.
  • Education systems around the world work with the private sector to improve educational outcomes and private education provision is on the rise across emerging markets. To meet the education needs of their rapidly-growing populations, African governments will need to include the private sector in their thinking.
  • Governments have a vital role to play in creating the enabling regulatory context that will support the development of high-quality and socially beneficial private sector education.
  • There is a significant opportunity for investors, both traditional and impact investors, to support the development of private education in the region
The Business of Education in Africa report
The Business of Education in Africa report

The report, whose target audience includes policymakers, donors, development finance institutions, and investors and operators of private education institutions, was commissioned and led by Caerus Capital and completed by strategy consulting firm and education specialists Parthenon-EY, and analysis and advisory firm Oxford Analytica. Additionally, the report was funded by the IDP Foundation, Inc., the Aga Khan Foundation, CDC Group, The ELMA Foundation, the UK Department for International Development, the US Agency for International Development, the Vitol Foundation, and Yellowwoods Investments – through its inclusive growth catalyst.

Click here to read The Business of Education in Africa report!

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