Co-creation Hub (CcHub) and MasterCard Foundation have partnered to empower edtech startups who are building solutions that enhance learning outcomes and accelerate access to equitable and quality education for Africa’s next generation. The fellowship programme is seeking brilliant innovators with groundbreaking edtech solutions that can revolutionise learning from early-childhood to corporate education.
Edugist earlier reported the partnership and launch of the $15 million backed Edtech Fellowship. Following the announcement, Edugist has taken a step further to dig deeper into the details of the fellowship by interviewing CcHub representatives at their offices in Yaba, Lagos.
Edugist spoke with Chinyelu Akpa, practice lead for education at CcHub and Akinwande Akinsulire, head, Startup Support at CcHub.
What is the Edtech Fellowship about?
The Edtech Fellowship is an edtech accelerator programme designed by Co-creation Hub (CcHub) in partnership with MasterCard Foundation to support 36 edtech startups across Nigeria and Kenya, (a total of 72 in both countries) over the next three years. The fellowship is focused on identifying edtech startups in Nigeria and Kenya building innovative, relevant and useful edtech solutions that will help improve learning outcomes, drive inclusion (creating access to people currently excluded from access to education), and make significant impact in the education landscape in Africa.
The fellowship will select 12 edtech startups in Nigeria and Kenya each year, over the course of three years.
What kind of support does this fellowship provide to edtech startups?
The kind of support expected from the fellowship include product development, talent sourcing and identification, product distribution and access to funding. The fellowship programme comes with an equity-free USD100,000.
Who qualifies for this fellowship?
The fellowship is open to edtech startups that have gone beyond concept and ideation phase and possess developed, tested, viable products. Products which have been tested with unique users and have gained significant traction are the most attractive to the fellowship judges. Edtech startups which have achieved a minimum viable product (MVP) with scalable solutions are welcome to apply.
What sort of edtech solutions does CcHub require from applicants?
Edtech startups applying for the fellowship may be building from an immersive learning approach or edtech solutions within the different verticals of education including K-12, skills education, corporate learning, vocational education and education for disabled people, among others.
The fellowship is open to solutions that are scalable, and not solutions restricted and limited to few people. The fellowship is looking for a gender-balanced team among co-founders, for example, male and female co-founders. The fellowship has a strong leaning and preference towards female founders building edtech solutions, and strongly encourages them to apply. The fellowship is also open to receiving unique patterns of application in its inaugural year so, any edtech startup building any edtech solutions is welcome to apply.
What is the timeline of application for the fellowship?
There are slightly different application deadlines for the fellowship for Nigeria and Kenya.
- Nigeria: February 17 – March 17, 2023
- Kenya: February 21 – March 21, 2023
After which, shortlist selection and winners’ announcement follow subsequently.
What is the plan for sustainability of the fellowship for applicants?
The unique thing about this accelerator programme is taking a spin on education which has never before been taken and addressing key areas in the edtech space. We have found that when people build solutions in edtech, there is not enough research that backs the learning sciences behind the creation. The issue of funding has also been a challenge for startups with wonderful ideas which oftentimes, do not go beyond the idea stage. This can also be because not enough people understand education to want to back or support it.
Overtime, we have noticed the problem of skills required to build a project. Software developers abound, but not enough developers understand what it means to build products for education. So the plan for sustainability of the fellowship for applicants addresses these key areas by providing support in research, funding and skills.
What happens after an edtech startup receives USD100,000?
CcHub has a strong investment team. After getting the fellowship grant of USD100,000, CcHub will be placing the grant winners in front of its carefully-curated investor network. From this network, grant winners will benefit from investor-readiness sessions, market strategies, preparation programmes, demo days and sessions, among others. This provides a strong footing with people who could invest into the products and also offer follow up funding to what grant winners have received from the accelerator programme.
There will be an implementation timeline and guidance. Once into the programme, CcHub deploys a team to assess the products of grant winners. This team will serve as critiques to the solutions and learning sciences behind products from grant winners which have passed through the MVP stage.
CcHub has a teacher’s lab and test bed in its building and a strong teachers network which creates rare access to rigorous testing of products from grant winners. Such testing sessions are not easy to find since they enable grant winners to get direct, unadulterated feedback from teachers, parents and learners.
The fellowship provides all of this to edtech startups that’ll be part of the programme. This helps grant winners create well-rounded products which will be hitting the mark and checking the boxes in learning outcomes, revenue drive and investor-readiness, among others.
What is the overall goal of this fellowship?
There are many nice-to-haves in education right now. Everyone is building something, from learning management systems to exam review apps. But are you building something that will bring about global competitiveness?
One of the goals of the fellowship is to have products that will help learners across different verticals earlier mentioned, to meet learning goals and outcomes. This is so that at product testing stage, a trajectory movement will be recorded in success, retention and knowledge is attained.
The fellowship looks to support edtech startups building products that are contextualised and localised for Africans. We want indigenous products by people who understand the learning challenges for people in Nigeria and Kenya. We also want to back super products, products that can cross international borders. An edtech startup may be building a product in Nigeria but good enough to be used in Kenya, and vice versa.
Also, in line with MasterCard Foundation, CcHub hopes to prepare grant winners for meaningful and skillful employment. The fellowship envisages that each edtech startup will employ 10 people. That’s a total of 360 employed workforce across 36 edtech startups each in Nigeria and Kenya. This will continue to create ripple effects which in turn, is going to be an employment pipeline of conduit in the education sector.
CcHub’s overall goal is to bring skilled manpower and workforce for the education system that expands across Africa.
The Nigerian space is ripe for education technology. Do we see the possibility of leveraging the power of edtech to improve early childhood education?
Yes, education technology can be used to improve early childhood education. This can be done through various means such as creating interactive learning tools such as games or simulations that can attract and hold students’ attention at that age, digitising content and making them available both offline or online so children, no matter their socio-economic status or location can learn. However, to achieve this, there is a need for collaboration between edtech product developers and other key stakeholders such as the government and even parents. Such collaboration will ensure that these edtech solutions can reach as many children as possible and that the right support is available.
Startups and organisations building edtech solutions that address early childhood education are welcome to apply to this accelerator program.
Among the subsets of the tech industry providing solutions, why has CcHub chosen to focus on edtech and not fintech or healthtech, for instance?
CcHub has been in existence for 12 years and education practice has been in existence for almost that long. When Mark Zuckerberg came to Nigeria, he came to CcHub education practice, at which point we were doing education.
So we didn’t just wake up and say we want to start doing education. We understand that education is the driving force for any type of innovation and development you want to see in any nation. So we can’t be pushing fintech, or health tech when the bedrock is still in shambles. If we are doing everything that will give us the glitz and glamour while the foundation is problematic, then we need to rethink our methods.
Education practice leverages technology in smart ways to improve learning outcomes. We started with running coding programmes for kids over summer holiday periods. However, when kids go back to school, teachers could not support them so we had to create programmes to train teachers, as well.
When COVID-19 happened, we were not even scared because we had been running virtual classes for a very long time on WhatsApp, without any learning management system. So these evidences are what give us the credibility to run an edtech accelerator programme. We have partnered with Google, MacArthur Foundation and Meta, among others, and we are continuously building evidence for what we are doing.
Is there any more you’d like the public to know about the fellowship?
This is the chance for every innovator out there looking to build something significant in education technology. If you have been testing out solutions with some users, built something amazing, tried to commercialise a product or raise some funds, or even tried to push with the government and it’s been a struggle, take the chance to apply, if you believe in the solution you’re building.
The application portal for edtech startups;
- Nigeria: futureoflearning.cchub.africa
- Kenya: futureoflearning.ihub.co.ke
Apply, we look forward to having you.