Pearson backs 13 start-ups in Africa as they demonstrate they can impact educational outcomes for low-income learners

'Edupreneurs’ programme moves into next phase as selected African businesses serving low-income communities participate in workshops in South Africa

London, UK -  6 October 2014 - Today, Pearson (, the world’s leading learning company, with its partner organisations Village Capital and the Omidyar Network, announces that it has selected 13 of the most promising education start-ups in Africa to begin the next stage of the ‘Edupreneurs’ programme in South Africa. Two peer-selected start-ups will be offered up to USD$75,000 in seed funding at the end of the programme.

Through a combination of mentorship, in-person workshops and distance learning, the selected start-ups will complete Village Capital’s globally recognised entrepreneur curriculum, which has been adapted by Pearson to address the specific challenges of successfully scaling a low-income education venture. At the end of the course, two start-ups will be selected via peer review to share USD$150,000 to scale their businesses and make a positive impact on the future of learning for Africa’s low-income learners.

Katelyn Donnelly, managing director of the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, said:  “We are excited by the enthusiastic response from entrepreneurs across Africa. We look forward to working and learning with these promising ventures, on a diverse range of opportunities. We hope to lead by example and help other investors support innovative education start-ups in the early, crucial stages of growth.”

Ross Baird, executive director of Village Capital, added: "We are thrilled about this partnership with the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, which builds on the successes of last year's programme in India. Village Capital has now run more than thirty programmes all around the world, and we have found that outstanding strategic partners like PALF bring expertise, insights, and networks that enhance the work of our entrepreneurs tremendously. Together with Pearson, and all of our investors and mentors, we are especially excited about the education sector across Africa, of which these 13 enterprises represent the very best."

The start-ups were selected through a rigorous review process, with submissions from 120 applicants spanning a wide variety of education models across Africa. With sponsorship and support from the Omidyar Network, Edupreneurs will welcome an international cohort for the first time, with six sub-Saharan African countries represented in this 2014 group. “At Omidyar Network, we are committed to creating a world of opportunity and positive returns. Access to quality and affordable education raises prospects of a better life for an individual, their family and entire communities”, said Vineet Bewtra, Director Investments, Omidyar Network. He continues, “Edupreneurs is a unique programme that focuses on entrepreneurial excellence and we are privileged to support Village Capital and Pearson in this initiative.”

The programme kicks off on 16 October, 2014 in Cape Town, where workshops will be co-hosted by the Center for Education Innovations (SA), run by the  Bertha Centre For Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town. Francois Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre, said: “Edupreneurs cannot exist in a vacuum. They need to engage learners and the wider education system of civil society, government, and the private sector to succeed. CEI and the Bertha Centre are happy to open up doors, our networks, and our minds to connect inspiring entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed.”

Edupreneurs will run until January 2015, when the top two ranking companies, as chosen by their peers, will be announced and offered investment.

Riaan Jonck, president of Pearson South Africa, commented: “We are delighted by the overwhelming response to the Pearson Edupreneurs programme by entrepreneurs locally and across the African continent. Enterprise Development is core to our transformation strategy, and I'm confident that this programme will enable the growth of the education ecosystem with young, innovative organisations. Pearson seeks to make a meaningful difference by supporting emerging entrepreneurs who have the skill and passion to improve access to quality education in African communities. I would like to congratulate the 13 organisations that have made it to the shortlist, and look forward to working with them over the next few months."


About Pearson

Pearson is the world's leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning. For more information, visit

The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund makes minority equity investments in for-profit

companies to meet a burgeoning demand for affordable education services in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The fund was launched in July 2012 with $15 million of initial Pearson capital. The purpose of the fund is to improve access to quality education for the poorest families in the world, investing in private companies committed to innovative approaches and improving learning outcomes.

For more information on the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund, please visit, and for information about Edupreneurs visit

About Village Capital

Village Capital supports early-stage entrepreneurs working to solve the world’s biggest problems. Its unique peer-selected model creates cohorts of high-potential entrepreneurs, who adopt a “problem-based approach” within one of five sectors: financial inclusion, health, education, energy, or agriculture. In developing the potential of the most talented entrepreneurs in each sector, Village Capital uses the power of its networks to multiply its impact to do good, as seen in how its flagship program currently supports over 400 ventures in 30 programs across 7 countries. Ultimately, Village Capital aims to change the world for the better by democratizing entrepreneurship, empowering entrepreneurs to find profitable solutions sustainably addressing big problems.

For more information, please visit

About Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $730 million to for-profit companies and non-profit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Consumer Internet & Mobile, Education, Financial Inclusion, Government Transparency, and Property Rights.

For more information, please visit

About The Center for Education Innovations

The Center for Education Innovation (CEI) is an initiative of the Results for Development Institute (R4D), based in Washington, DC and funded by the Department for International Development (DFID). The CEI has five global hubs: in East Africa, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Southern African CEI hub which is located at the UCT/GSB Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. CEI works to create impact—expanded access to quality, affordable education for the poor—by providing information, analysis, and connections for program managers, funders, researchers, and policymakers who work to enable the scale-up, replication and improvement of promising innovations in education.


Emilie Colker
Director, Strategic Communications
+44 (0)207 010 2329

Notes to editors

The 13 selected start-ups are:

  • Bambisa - Cape, Town, South Africa - Bambisa is a multi-platform mobile application for teachers and parents across all education sectors.  It combines WhatsApp, Google Calendar, Kalahari and PayPal in one app for parents.  Bambisa offers a free broadcast and two way communication and payment platform tailored for the teacher-parent conversation, real time calendaring so that teachers can add events, parents can view an agenda and get reminders, as well as content delivery providing high school content in a ‘chat’ style through the app.
  •, Cape Town, South Africa - provides adaptive learning software that delivers digital learning content and assessments that adapt to a student’s strengths and weaknesses. By leveraging big data and rating algorithms, provides feedback on each student and on the course.
  • Funda Online, Cape Town, South Africa - Funda Online’s cloud-based software-as-a-service platform allows its partners to educate and engage students globally. Its courses are targeted at equipping youth who are neither in employment nor education with new skills to either find employment or develop their entrepreneurship skills.
  • FunDza Literacy Trust, Cape Town, South Africa - FunDza is an organisation dedicated to improving the literacy levels of South African youth by growing a culture of reading and writing. They use technological solutions to scale their impact.
  • HapaWeb (HapaSIS), Kumasi, Ghana - HapaWeb is an IT company offering web and mobile applications such as bulk SMS, website design, school management system, and Google Apps for business. HapaSIS is a web-based school management software enabling over 15,000 parents to access student reports online and via SMS through an open-source freemium model specifically for African Senior High Schools and free to download.
  • Kidogo, Nairobi, Kenya - Mothers living in urban slums do not have access to safe, age-appropriate and trained early childhood education centers. Kidogo plans to fill this gap with an innovative hub & spoke model to deliver high quality ECD programs with trained caregivers and locally relevant education. Following a micro-franchise model, Kidogo also empowers local women to become entrepreneurs.
  • Leap Academy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Leap Academy provides affordable, high quality basic education for children and adults in per-urban Ethiopia through owning schools and building partnerships with other private and public schools to leverage existing infrastructure.
  • Lekki Peninsula Affordable Schools, Lagos, Nigeria - Lekki Peninsula Schools is a low-cost private school chain in Nigeria with an all-inclusive fee structure and flexible payment system designed for low-income families.
  • Open Futures Foundation, Newcastle, South Africa - Open Futures provides skills, education and training to high school learners and out-of-school-youth, in efforts to empower and enable them to start their own business, qualify & register for tertiary education or find secure employment.
  • Shule Direct, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - Shule Direct creates local digital educational content. They are building an anytime, anywhere learning platform to enable access to localized content from available devices. Content from the best local teachers and open resources are organized according to the local curriculum in a cloud-based educational content repository.
  • Syafunda, Johannesburg, South Africa - Syafunda is an organization with a network of over 900 schools across South Africa that provides innovative learning solutions through mobile technology. They develop products to simplify the learning process and sharing of information in a fun, simple and interactive way.
  •, Lagos, Nigeria - is an online learning platform designed to make education accessible by engaging Africans with online courses, meetups, tutorials and virtual live classes.
  • Ubongo, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - Ubongo is a Tanzanian social enterprise that creates interactive edutainment for learners in Africa, delivered to them via the technologies they already have. They’re bringing African families a transformational, fun new way to learn through educational media accessible through basic mobile phones and mobile web.