E-Learning as a Catalyst for Human Capital Development in Africa

A side event to the 7th Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals


The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and partners will host a virtual side event to the 7th Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals taking place in New York on 5 and 6 May 2022.


Titled "The Role of E-Learning as a Catalyst for Human Capital Development in Support of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa", the side event will look among others at Africa's readiness to adopt and accelerate e-learning, and provide perspectives on e-learning from South Africa and Rwanda.



To Join Zoom Meeting     5 May 2022  at 06:00 New York time (12:00 midday South African time).

About the Forum:


 Programme Director: Ms Mmampei Chaba (DSI)


Provisional – all details still to be confirmed






Opening and background


Mr. Thierry Amoussougbo, Head – KM and E-Learning, IDEP,  Economic Commission for Africa


Presentation of the AERAP Africa-EU Paper on a Research and Skills Agenda

Declan Kirrane Coordinator: AERAP


Perspectives from Rwanda

Dr Ignace Gatare, Principal University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology.


Perspectives from South Africa

Prof. J.A.K. Olivier UNESCO Chair on Multimodal Learning and OER


Reflections from the private sector

Mr Yussouf Ntwali Co-Founder & CEO Bag Innovation


Invitation to Partners and offers of support


Professor Hubert Gijzen: Regional Director and Representative of UNESCO, Regional Office for Eastern Africa,


Closing and next steps

Ms Mmampei Chaba






E-learning – opportunities and challenges


E-learning is loosely associated with using information and communication technologies, either as a stand-alone or to complement traditional classrooms, to enable access to online learning and teaching resources. It relies on hardware and software and the Internet, among others, and is not to be confused with traditional online distance learning.


E-learning has been applauded for its flexibility, its cost-effectiveness in relation to travelling costs, and its ability to enhance the efficacy of knowledge and qualifications, compensate for limited academic staff, and allow students to pace themselves.


However, the fact that it deprives both teachers and students of vital personal interactions has been one of the biggest criticisms of e-learning. E-learning takes away the benefit of having issues clarified and explanations given where necessary. Further, a lot still needs to be done to regulate assessments and avoid behaviour such as cheating. It must be acknowledged that not all fields or disciplines can readily employ e-learning techniques in education. Finally, congestion of e-learning platforms may pose their own set of challenges.


E-learning in the context of COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic forced many education institutions to close following national shutdowns in the education sector, which UNESCO estimated to have affected approximately 73,8% of learners enrolled in 2020. Clearly, this resulted in the complete disruption of learning ecosystems across the world.


At the same time, there was a sudden shift from classroom learning to virtual platforms that was unprecedented. The pandemic not only triggered the switch to e-learning, but had the effect of solidifying and accelerating e-learning as a viable teaching methodology for the future. Given the accelerated adoption of digital learning platforms by learners and teachers alike, it is predicted that there will be continued usage of these platforms post-pandemic.


Africa was not exempt from the disruption of schooling caused by the pandemic. A study conducted by eLearning Africa in 2020 showed widespread school closures across the continent. Furthermore, lack of access to technology was highlighted as a big barrier for learning, with rural students most affected, particularly due to lack of availability and affordability of connectivity.


Regarding teachers, the study showed that they did not receive financial support for teaching and learning tools, and were not adequately prepared to adapt to the new teaching environment. While the study acknowledges that the current crisis will lead to a far more widespread use of technology in education in the future, it cautions that this could lead to significant challenges for the most marginalised, and could even increase inequality.


The Continental Education Strategy for Africa


Africa has long aspired to transform itself by ensuring that it is a master of its own destiny and can extricate itself from the ills it faces. In its quest to transition to this ideal future, underpinned by a new African citizen who will be an effective change agent for the continent's sustainable development, the African Union Commission developed a comprehensive 10-year continental education strategy.


The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) aims to provide the continent with efficient human resources adapted to African core values and capable of achieving the vision and ambitions of the African Union. As part of its implementation, the strategy aims to reorient Africa's education and training systems to meet the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to nurture African core values and promote sustainable development at national, sub-regional and continental levels.


Among its 12 strategic objectives, CESA seeks (i) to build, rehabilitate and preserve education infrastructure, develop policies that ensure a healthy and conducive learning environment in all sub-sectors, and expand access to quality education for all; (ii) to harness the capacity of ICT to improve access, quality and management of education and training systems, including access to data; and (iii) to set up a coalition of stakeholders to facilitate and support activities resulting from the implementation of the strategy.


Objectives and themes of the side event


The side event will discuss the role of e-learning as a catalyst for human capital development in support of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa, particularly the three strategic objectives highlighted above. The event will seek to contribute to these objectives by harnessing the capacity of ICT, helping to build the necessary infrastructure for e-learning, and bringing together a coalition of stakeholders to support and champion e-learning.


The objectives of the event are to share perspectives from different stakeholders with a view to –

  • establishing a working group that can fully conceptualise a pilot to roll out e‑learning in schools in Africa;
  • exploring how e-learning can support skills for the future;
  • leveraging support from partners and elaborating on the roles of different partners and what support they can provide to the project;
  • developing funding and finance models and options, including a stronger role for development finance, for example from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to support education and e-learning across Africa;
  • ensuring that data protection regulations globally support access to data and do not limit access to and exchange of data for learning and other purposes in Africa;
  • ensuring an ongoing process to inform evidence-based policymaking for education in Africa;
  • taking inspiration from Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all;
  • exploring how education in Africa can be informed by the broad policy priorities of the Green Deal and the Digital Agenda;
  • supporting in particular education for women and girls in Africa.


The side event will focus on the following thematic areas:

  • Is Africa ready to adopt and accelerate e-learning?
  • A reflection on global trends in e-learning.
  • Re-imagining skills of the future within the context of e-learning.
  • Perspectives from South Africa.
  • Perspectives from Rwanda.




It is envisaged that South Africa will be supported in the side event by Rwanda, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Department of Higher Education in South Africa, and the Africa-Europe Science and Innovation Summit (AERAP).




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