Why Not Ghana?

As we witness the start of 2016, I am sure all of us in the education sector in Ghana would have done their analysis of business performance for 2015, which was affected by Ebola, impact of low oil prices on the economy, currency devaluation across Africa and many other factors which were not in an institution’s control. One of the major factor which impacted university enrollments across Ghana was turbulence in Nigerian economy. I am sure all of us agree on the fact that majority of the international students studying in Ghanaian private colleges (university colleges) are from Nigeria, any disturbance there is having a direct impact on the enrollment graphs in Ghana.

Despite these challenges, there were institutions that performed well by introducing innovative ideas in their recruitment and retention strategies. I remember one of the well-known institutions in Accra with majority of foreign students partnering with a bank to complete student’s verification process on their campus itself. This activity not only saved students time and money to verify their bank account to enable them to withdraw money from ATM in Ghana itself, but also benefited institution in reducing their default rate.  Without this, students were required to go back to their home country to complete the verification process.

But, is there such a big potential and sustained market existing in the tertiary sector and is there a scope of potential growth. If these factors exist, are we on the right track!! I tried to find out the potential markets in Africa and globally and took a clue into what other countries are dong to develop this sector as a mainstream contributor to their respective economies.

  • AFROL News (www.afrol.com) quoted that according to statistics published by Merill Lynch, the private higher education market will reach US$ 8 trillion by 2025. 
  • As per www.mgafrica.com, University World News cited a French government’s Campus Agency that noted that there were 380,376 African students were on the move in 2010, representing about a tenth of all international students worldwide and 6% of all African students.  

Good number of countries across the globe has developed themselves as a preferred destination for higher education for international students. Most of those countries have a strategic plan to make higher education attractive for international students which will eventually contribute significantly to their economy. Looking into the high number of African students crossing their national boundaries to get globally competitive higher education, I thought to check on the preparedness of some of those preferred or preparing to be preferred destinations.

Let me start by discussing about Mauritius. As per the Education Minister of Mauritius, country seeks 100,000 foreign students by 2020. Strategic plans developed by the country stressed on the development of Mauritius as one of the most preferred destination for higher education globally. The Government of Mauritius announced in 2015 that it had earmarked funds for the construction of five campuses in rural areas of the island, which otherwise are known more as a luxury holiday destination.  Mauritius government wants to transform higher education sector as one of the pillars of their economy.

But how is the Mauritius government planning to increase their international student strength from 1500 (from 65 countries; data as of 2014) to 100,000 by 2020? They are planning to do this by facilitating visa procedures, allowing full-time students to work, providing accommodation facilities and good infrastructure, developing new attractive study programmes for international students, starting a global marketing and public relations campaign and enhancing general conditions such as security aspects.

I would like to bring out more factors here, which will definitely help Mauritius achieve its target.

  • As per Tertiary Education Commission website, as of 2012, there were 71 higher education providers, as compared to 42 in year 2000.
  • Out of 71, 60 are private institutions.
  • Out of 45,969 students, representing 45% GER (Gross Tertiary Enrollment Ratio), 50% of the students were studying in the private institutions. It is to be noted that Mauritius has set itself a target of increasing the GER from current 45% to 72% by 2020.
  • Dedicated single window information portal to know more about studying in Mauritius. Portal managed by the government agencies responsible for improving international students enrollments in the country.
  • One of the most significant strategic goals (Strategic Plan 2013-2025) of the government is “Internationalisation of Higher Education”. Some of the key points in this are:
  • Implement marketing schemes to attract International students to study in Mauritius.
  • Encourage International tertiary institutions of high reputation, including renowned institutions among the top 500 universities to set up local campuses/units or partnerships in Mauritius.
  • Establish mutual recognition of qualification agreements on both bilateral and multilateral basis.
  • Encourage public-private partnerships to develop infrastructure projects for tertiary education.
  • Establish scholarships for international students to study in Mauritius.

If we discuss about South Africa, as per the numbers quoted by University World News about African students crossing their country to get higher education, South Africa gained the most in Africa. With over 15% students entering South African universities, it gained 57,321 international students in 2010 itself, which is much higher than UK, USA, Germany and Malaysia. According to www.mgafrica.com almost 18% of African students studying abroad are currently studying in South Africa, which has seen an 8% increase in international students since 2007. As of 2014, 68,000 international students were studying in South African universities.

If we talk about more developed nations, Australia, UK, USA, Germany, Norway and host of other European countries, their embassies and dedicated agencies for international student’s recruitment has been targeting Africans to register in their respective countries. Most of these countries have dedicated agencies which act as one point information centre for universities in their respective countries.

Does Ghana with a current tertiary GER of only 15.57% (2014, as per UNESCO Institute for Statistics) have a chance to challenge South Africa and attract more international students? As per data presented by Ministry of Education in June 2015, there were 10,383 international students representing merely 3.2% of 315,000 total university students. With over 81% of the total international students studying in private institutions, Ghana is among the top three destinations for tertiary education in Africa. But apart from these high accolade from international agencies, Ghana don’t have any dedicated agency like http://www.studymauritius.infohttp://www.australianuniversities.com.au, promoted by government to attract international students and implement marketing schemes to attract International students to study in Ghana. Ghanaian universities rely on their own innovative marketing and promotion schemes to attract international students and provide guidance to those prospective students.

If Ghana also sets up an agency like Mauritius, Australia, UK and other countries, I am very much sure that our universities which are very well competitive with our counterparts in other countries will be able to attract more international students. WHY NOT GHANA plan for 100,000 international students in its universities. It requires developing a strategic plan for tertiary education which can increase the number of international students in next 10 years and make Ghana as a preferred destination for higher education in Africa. If we do so, this sector will become one of a major pillar to the country’s economy too.

Increase in University Education access can lead to increase in Africa’s GDP

One of the top headlines in most of the news media nowadays is about unemployment. This topic of unemployment has also taken a key space in most of the speeches across the country in public and private universities.

A new report by the World Bank on unemployment in Ghana has revealed that about 48 percent of Ghanaians between the ages of 15-24 do not have jobs. (source: http://pulse.com.gh/business/unemployment-in-ghana-48-of-ghanaian-youth-jobless-world-bank-report-id5026856.html)

The report, “The Landscape of Jobs in Ghana”, touched on ways of finding opportunities for youth inclusion in Ghana’s labour market. “In Ghana, youth are less likely than adults to be working: in 2012, about 52% of people aged 15-24 were employed (compared to about 90% for the 25-64 population), a third were in school, 14% were inactive and 4% were unemployed actively looking for job. Young women in the same age group are particularly disadvantaged and have much higher inactivity rates that men: 17% of young female are inactive as opposed to 11% of males,” the report said.

But the lead researcher and senior economist with the World Bank, Sarah Johansen said the youth in the country could only be empowered to get or create jobs, if their educational foundation is solid.

“Ghana has been able to increase access to education. Now the issue is how to go to the next level and ensure that there is quality education. Because the skills you have at the end of secondary education is not maybe such a big problem, if you don’t have the labour market relevant skills; that you need to be able to acquire it. For that you need to have basic skills- so the question is have you learned those in school? And I think this is the issue that Ghana needs to be looking at now”

Higher education yields significant benefits for both African young people and society, as a whole: better employment opportunities and job prospects, improved quality of life, and greater economic growth. As the world becomes more technological, the school curriculums in Africa need to evolve to provide the right education and training for jobs in today’s workforce. A severe mismatch still exists between the skills of young African workers and the skills that employers need for today’s global workforce.

It is this skill gap persisting in this country, which needs to be addressed and I must say that BlueCrest College is committed to graduate workforce who can take up those available jobs. This has been made possible with sheer dedication of our academic staff and a fine blend of professional and academic qualification in our curriculum. Yes, we do face resistance sometimes, from different sectors on the blend in our curriculum, but at BlueCrest College, we believe that someone must stand up and take the lead to solve this problem of unemployment.

We should dream to create a world  where higher education doesn’t end with a degree, but starts at entry and continues through life, as the world changes around us, like a biological ecosystem. As access to higher education is increasing  significantly in Africa due to combination of full power of technology and the Internet with the best teaching and learning approaches in the world, institutions should work towards to craft a student-centered educational ecosystem.

I would like to bring out some key points from a report published by Africa-America Institute on State of Education in Africa for 2015 (Full Report available on:  http://www.aaionline.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/AAI-SOE-report-2015-final.pdf).

    • Today, only 6 percent of young people in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in higher education institutions compared to the global average of 26 percent.
    • The promising news is that universities in many African countries are experiencing a surge in their enrollment. Between 2000 and 2010, higher education enrollment more than doubled, increasing from 2.3 million to 5.2 million.
    • In 2008, about 223,000 students from sub-Saharan Africa were enrolled in tertiary education outside of their home countries, representing 7.5 percent of the total global number of students who study outside of their home country.

 

  • As per UNESCO and World Bank, A one-year increase in average tertiary education levels would raise annual GDP growth in Africa by 0.39 percentage points, and eventually yield up to a 12 percent increase in GDP.

 

  • Globally, public education expenditure accounts for 4.7 percent of the world’s $18 trillion GDP per capita. The Africa region devotes 5.0 percent of total GDP of about $1.5 trillion to public education expenditure, which is the second highest percentage after North America with a total $32 trillion GDP per capita and Europe at 5 percent with a total $24 trillion GDP per capita.
  • African countries have allocated the largest share of government expenditure to education at 18.4 percent, followed by East Asia and the Pacific at 17.5 percent; and South and West Asia allocated only 12.6 percent.

Above statistics on mass student’s movement to foreign countries for higher education validate my point that Ghana needs to be developed as a recipient of this mass movement. We need Study in Ghana policy by the Government to promote Ghana as one of the favoured destination for higher education in Africa. Made in Ghana degrees are having more credibility and recognition in Africa and beyond.  If Mauritius can target for 100,000 foreign students enrolment by 2020, WHY NOT GHANA?

Today, youth in Africa are the architects of their development, not just beneficiaries. The new model for development is focusing on partnerships — with governments, businesses, universities and civil society. We must join hands with strong and credible international partners to invest in local research and have industry relevant course structure. As private university college we fully support the same and have already taken significant steps to catalyze the growth.

Amid political turmoil, recession and a severe cash crunch in the Greek economy, there were a lot of companies that tripled its revenue with a team of young entrepreneurs with an average age of 29.

For students it’s not the time to get dragged into this unemployment debate going around and use employable skills and knowledge gained at universities to become successful entrepreneurs.

Our experience has been that the entrepreneurial spirit can shine through despite economic or political failure. Beyond the sheer determination to create and progress, maintaining a global perspective has been the most important ingredient in one’s success. There is no stronger antidote to the over-emphasized unemployment debate engulfing this region and students have all the tools to succeed.

Importance of Cloud Computing for Education Penetration and Development in Africa

Since last one decade or more, government across Africa has realised the importance of investment in building broadband capacity as a tool to economic development and this policy has been the centre to their growth policy. As per World Bank, for every 10 percent penetration of broadband in a developing economy, there is typically 1.38 percent increase in GDP. Access to internet in Africa is more influenced by mobile penetration, as more and more people tend to use their mobile phones to access internet, than their computers. Mobile penetration in some of the African countries are as high as 119%, which provides an excellent opportunity for businesses and organisations to reach them through mobile.
Cloud Computing as per the US National Institute of Science and Technology is “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” Or in a comman-man language it simply refers to consumption of infrastructure and application services on a utility basis, paid per unit consumed. As the Cloud becomes fundamental to the world of information and communications technology (ICT), it delivers major benefits for both low and high income countries.
Cloud Computing allows significant flexibility in the choice of end-user devices linking the user to information applications. Many institutions across globe use Cloud Computing to bring services to their patrons. Cloud applications enable centralised implementation of academic and administrative services on campus wide basis.
Ghana has always been an integral part of studies conducted by various agencies and service providers on implementation of Cloud in Africa. As early as 2006, HP and UNESCO launched a pilot project in Africa to create the first African regional university network through distributed computing and to help reduce the number of skilled workers, scientists, academics and researchers that leave the region. KNUST from Ghana was among the first five universities along with universities from Nigeria, Senegal, Algeria and Zimbabwe to be a part of this pilot project. In 2011 Ericsson lead a project to introduce Cloud Computing in school in Africa under their Connect to Learn initiative in which Ghana was a partner. 2014 report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services “Business Agility in the Cloud” conducted a survey that found that 70% of organisations were using Cloud services.
Usage of Cloud Computing in education would bridge the technology and information divide between privileged and underprivileged institutions, as it allows access to educational resources to high number of learners, without having access to their desktops. Cloud Computing, especially with relation to mobile learning, will improve the current institutional system of education, and also the quality and affordability of education. Mobile broadband and Cloud Computing will bring far reaching changes in education in classrooms in Africa – for both students and teachers. Internet access not only provides a wealth of educational information for tutors and students attending schools but will also allows them to reach out to each other, and to the world.
Stakeholders in Cloud Computing should develop solutions which can be delivered across low speed networks also and focus on educational development and research across all section of the academic community. As per a Global Forecasts to 2020 by www.marketsandmarkets.com published in December 2015, Cloud Computing in education is going to be an industry worth USD 15.05 Billion by 2020 from USD 5.83 Billion in 2015, growing at an Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 20.8%. At this expected high growth rate, there exists an opportunity for institutions to take more advantage by incorporating this technological advancement into their day to day execution. This will not only enable efficient management of business processes and effective knowledge delivery to students, but also will result in higher student engagement, better collaboration among stakeholders, and improved student performance. It is quite commendable that some of the pubic and private universities in Ghana have already realised the importance of Cloud Computing within their setup and incorporated the same. Few among them are UPS, BlueCrest and Ashesi. Service providers, such as Google, IBM, Microsoft and Ericsson, have also taken keen interest in providing solutions to hosts of education institutions across continent and promoting research and development in Cloud Computing with institutions of higher learning.
All HE institutions across the continent must embrace Cloud Computing for reaching out to cross section of the academic community and also to reduce their cost of hosting expensive hardware and software applications at their site. Cloud is the way forward for a sustainable education development in Africa.

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