Berlin (GER), August 2019 - As a controversial Russia-Africa summit opens in Sochi on the Black Sea on 24 October, a more modest but ultimately more significant conference will be taking place back in Africa in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire.
The conference, eLearning Africa, will bring together international education and technology specialists, government ministers, entrepreneurs, and investors to discuss opportunities for expanding Africa’s growing education sector. It is a subject that lies at the heart of the African Union’s plans for turning Africa into a "transformed continent" by 2063, and it will be discussed and debated during three days of intensive presentations, workshops, seminars, and ministerial meetings in the west African capital from 23 - 25 October.
Major international organisations, such as UNESCO, the European Commission, the World Bank, GIZ and the African Union feature prominently on the conference programme.
"What is set to happen in Côte d’Ivoire is possibly of much greater significance for the future of Africa than what is going on in Sochi," says Charles Senkondo, Secretary General of the Association of African Development Learning Centres in Tanzania. "It is education that will transform Africa, and new technology is spreading the benefits of education and training across Africa and into every sector. We are already seeing how traditional sectors, such as agriculture, are being transformed. The possibilities now are enormous."
eLearning Africa, which is an annual, pan-African conference dedicated to examining the potential for using new communications technology to spread educational opportunity, is now in its fourteenth year. Since the conference, which visits a different African capital each year, was first held in Addis Ababa in 2005, technology assisted learning has expanded massively and now plays a major role in the delivery of learning, training, research, and development in schools, colleges, universities, companies, and organisations across Africa. It has enabled millions of Africans to expand their horizons and take advantage of the countless possibilities new technology offers to the processes of studying and acquiring new skills and qualifications.
"Technology-assisted learning has been perhaps the single most important factor in Africa’s development over the last decade," says Senkondo. "It has fueled economic growth, and its importance cannot be underestimated. For skills, entrepreneurship, innovation, and the development of effective practices in many sectors, it has been invaluable. It has really helped to modernise Africa and to attract the world’s attention to the exciting opportunities in many African countries. This trend is set to continue. Africa is learning fast, and we must continue to build on our success. It is education that will transform Africa."
Conference founder Rebecca Stromeyer has little doubt about the significance of eLearning Africa. "When I first set up eLearning Africa, with the support of the Ethiopian Government and other far-sighted backers, I saw the potential for the combination of technology and education to transform Africa. Now, things have come so far that I am continually amazed at the speed with which new possibilities for real, lasting change are opening up. I’ve seen how eLearning has helped millions of women to access education, how it has improved agriculture, and how it has helped to fight disease and contributed to better health.
"I have absolutely no doubt that what has happened over the past decade has simply been the start of an astonishing transformation. What is coming next is going to be extraordinary, and it is very exciting. The African Union is right: by 2063 Africa will be a transformed continent and much of this transformation will happen because of the spread of education and training."
The theme of this year’s eLearning Africa conference is "learnability and employability", which the organisers describe as "the keys to the future" and "the key attributes Africans will need in tomorrow’s rapidly changing global economy". The conference will look at how young Africans can, learn, adapt, and grow in the rapidly changing, technology-driven environment of the future. It will focus, in particular, on how they can acquire the modern skills employers will require and how communications technology can help.
The conference programme includes pre-conference workshops on entrepreneurship skills, new technologies, the latest trends in eLearning, and the use of design-thinking methodologies. A special conference track will be devoted to the issue of "youth and digitalisation", and another will focus on how to empower teachers with continuous professional development and improved digital literacy.
And, for the first time, African food producers and farmers, many of whom are women, will have their own special track, which will look at how communications technology can contribute to improved yields and increased productivity in this important sector of the African economy.
Special sessions will cover a range of vital topics, including literacy, the development of entrepreneurship, university teaching, borderless education, and new digital learning resources for healthcare professionals.
The conference will also feature knowledge factories, in which conference participants will be able to engage in a range of practical activities and learn new strategies. There will be a Moodle Moot with Moodle founder Martin Dougiamas and, as always, there will be a lively discussion at the eLearning Africa Debate. This year, the motion for debate, which is likely to be highly controversial, is "This House believes governments are failing to provide young people with the skills they need to prepare for the future".