African-based entrepreneurs and innovators will benefit from a 20 million shillings (about US$200k) fund that was launched to promote remote learning in the continent during the COVID-19 pandemic era.
The International Publishers Association (IPA), which will administer the fund, said in a statement issued in Nairobi that it will help tackle negative impacts on remote learning in Africa linked to the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has taught us that technology can protect people and enable life and learning to continue. But this technology is not accessible to everyone,” said Bodour Al Qasimi, the vice-president of IPA.
“We are looking for bright minds and clever solutions to overcome these challenges in Africa by bringing learners, teachers and educational materials closer at a safe distance,” she added.
Al Qasimi said that IPA will fund cutting edge ideas from African innovators with potential to eliminate bottlenecks to distance learning created by COVID-19.
She said that anti-COVID-19 containment measures like lockdowns have slowed down distance learning in Africa, adding that home-grown innovations are required to address the challenge.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says that 89 percent of learners in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to a computer, 82 percent have no internet access and around 56 million learners live outside mobile networks, thus complicating their ability to study remotely.
Tariq Al Gurg, chief executive officer at Dubai Cares, an Emirates-based charity, said that COVID-19 presents an opportunity for African publishing industry to innovate and become a key player in distance learning.
“The COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as a tipping point to a digital transition in the publishing industry in Africa,” said Al Gurg.
“We look forward to witnessing a high turnout among entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa along with their unique solutions and ideas in support of the publishing industry,” he added.
Al Gurg said that investments in high-speed internet connection and capacity building for tutors and learners is key to improve distance learning in Africa amid closure of schools linked to COVID-19 pandemic.