Sparking innovation through collaboration in African edtech

November 18, 2021

By Wesley Lynch, CEO of Snapplify

Sparking innovation through collaboration in African edtech

The educational landscape has shifted

As a growing number of educational institutions embrace remote and blended learning in Africa, the need for accessible, sustainable solutions is becoming increasingly vital. COVID-19 has only accelerated e-learning adoption further, with a recent survey finding that 85% of African education and edtech pros anticipate more widespread use of technology in education in the future.

Last year, the African e-learning market reached a value of US$2.20 billion, and between 2021–2026, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.5%, according to a May 2021 report. And so it’s no wonder that global corporates are looking to African edtech companies, with innovative approaches and strong regional ties, to help them fuel their growth into this thriving market.

As an African edtech company, both local and global partnerships have been an integral part of Snapplify’s growth and expansion strategy. We’ve partnered with key players across the education ecosystem – from leading global educational content producers, and retail partners like Book World Zambia and Textbook Centre in East Africa; to technology leaders like AWS and Promethean, and other edtech players (e.g. Yenza, and Papervideo) and LMS providers (e.g. Classera, Blackboard and D2L Brightspace). These (and other) partnerships are powerful: they enable each partner to expand their product offering and to reach more potential customers.

Leveraging each other’s strengths

In the edtech space, there’s an immense amount of power in businesses learning from each other. If we are to scale and reach new markets, we must leverage each other’s strengths – not just to reach new markets, but also to scale. Success in a new market is deeply tied to localisation and relevancy.

Over the past three years, Snapplify has expanded into more than 20 African countries. Most of the early traction we garnered in these regions was the result of lowering barriers to access. After that initial burst of growth, we were faced with a challenge (which many edtech companies who’ve experienced similar growth following COVID will be familiar with): deep adoption requires deep connection with the market.

Because of this, our partnership strategy fosters growth by driving that meaningful connection with expert partners in each region that we work in. In turn, we play that role for international partners who come into southern Africa.

Domain knowledge is critical in the development of quality products and services, processes, and technology, and best practices and norms can differ across regions. It’s important to bring our diverse strengths to bear in order to deliver a highly relevant, localised and world-class e-learning offering into a new market. With a partner like Scholastic, for example, who has established itself as a leader in literacy intervention tools with its Literacy Pro platform, Snapplify’s Engage e-library brings relatable, local content to hundreds of thousands of students across the African continent. The integration between these two platforms has empowered schools, while creating wider reach for Scholastic and an even stronger offering for Snapplify.

In the words of Alissa Valiante from Scholastic: “Local partnerships are an important part of creating effective and relevant solutions for different communities in all of the 165+ countries we serve, including those in Africa. They have a deep understanding of their specific markets and have keen insight into the potential for creating lasting and meaningful change.”

Market knowledge, and the reach and relationships that come with it, are also crucial for expansion, and can only be achieved from experience.

As Promethean’s Hugo Dantas notes: “Partnerships such as the one we hold with Snapplify are hugely important for Promethean. They help us to better understand local markets and the dynamics surrounding edtech usage, so that we can tailor our products and services to make as big an impact as possible.”

Creating sustainable change in new markets is no easy feat and it takes those who understand the regional challenges of teachers and students to provide this insight. Delivering localised solutions for African markets is also that much easier when leveraging capabilities of local partners – whether it be local content that is curriculum-aligned, translation into local languages, payment gateways that support local currencies, or a local support team on the ground that is able to offer schools the technical support that they need to make blended and e-learning a success.

Collaboration between partners entering a new market and those that are already entrenched in that market enables the delivery of highly localised, relevant solutions.

Importantly, this is not about one partner coming in to usurp the traction of a local partner, but rather about building a meaningful and productive pathway for growth for both partners in that region, and creating a foundation upon which to grow into further markets together.

Driving collaboration through deep integration

At Snapplify, when we talk about partnership and collaboration, we are inherently talking about deep technical integration. Our experience has seen the most productive partnerships come from this deep integration between partners. Schools derive greater benefits from integrated offerings as these offer more expansive learning opportunities and reduce friction, which in turn lowers some of the barriers to access and learning.

As Tom Donnelly from D2L says, “D2L Brightspace and Snapplify’s seamless integration allows us to offer students an enhanced user journey that connects key digital content directly to the LMS platform, resulting in improved student learning outcomes.”

Our partners integrate Snapplify technology to help schools and their teachers, learners and parents to work smarter and achieve educational success. By using our technology to solve some of the problems we’ve already figured out, these partners can spend their energy working to solve problems that don’t have solutions yet – which fosters greater innovation in the education sector as a whole.

Other wider ecosystem partnerships play a role here, too. As a registered partner of the IMS Global Learning Consortium, and (currently) the only member in Africa, Snapplify is building integration technology that aligns with the global standard for learning tools.

Finding each other is hard

It’s clear that great things can be achieved when we put our heads together, but for both global corporates and African edtechs, identifying which companies to work with is not a simple thing.

Anyone serious about the potential for growth in this sector must know that it cannot be realised with a myopic approach. The African population is expected to double by 2050, meaning that edtech tools must be able to scale rapidly if they are to succeed, and strategic partnerships will become more and more important.

Businesses that work in isolation will fall behind. And so, we must be actively seeking these partnerships – not just to scale our own offerings, but to strengthen the ecosystem as a whole.

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