I have just visited Africa (Tanzania, South Africa and Ghana) and seen for myself the immense challenges and opportunities presented by this vast continent. Internet connectivity is certainly a problem when you are out in the wilds of Tanzania. If you are able to visit an industrial site operated by a multinational, then you will usually have WiFi access but the speed is slow. In the towns, you can usually access WiFi but again the speed is slow. Bandwidth is expensive due to the limited infrastructure that everyone has to share. This is a great pity because Africa has a burgeoning young population that would benefit from the opportunities offered by the Internet, especially e-learning.

A recent article from Reuters asks, “Africa’s demographics: dividend or disaster?” It is indeed a pertinent question. It discusses the increasing numbers of consumers with discretionary income. It says that “Credit Suisse estimates African household wealth grew at 19 percent in 2010-2011 – outpaced only by India and Latin America. But, “(It) doesn’t tell you about the peasants, it doesn’t tell you about the urban slums,” author Duncan Clarke told Reuters this month. “The idea that because there are expanding consumer markets or more mobile phones in Africa and more people waltzing around in Armani suits, that this is somehow going to drive the economies out of poverty, is pure fatuous nonsense,” he said.

According to the World Bank, about 40 percent of Africa’s population is below the age of 15 and estimates of its unemployment rate run as high as 80 percent. “In 1900 there were only 110 million people in Africa, now there are over a billion. In 2050 Africa is going to have 2 billion. So there will still be huge problems of poverty, of income scarcity, and most importantly of unemployment,” said Clarke.

Another article, “Africa: Online Learning Inspires Refugees” explains that refugees desperately want access to higher education. It says “With only three-quarters of refugee children accessing primary education and just over a third enrolled in secondary schools, according to a recent assessment by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), higher education is generally considered a low priority and opportunities for young refugees like Kabeya are extremely limited. Kabeye, is a 24 year old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He says “”I was just staying at home with nothing to do and I lost hope in everything.” It goes on to say “Recently, however, there has been a growing recognition of the benefits that higher education can bring, not just to individual refugees, but to the vast reconstruction needs of countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and the DRC which will require a new generation of teachers and other professionals when peace finally comes.”

Links to these articles are provided below:

Africa’s demographics: dividend or disaster?

Africa: Online Learning Inspires Refugees