Educating for Impact: New Pan-African University to Educate 100,000

Private equity firm Actis has developed an African education platform called Honoris United Universities, to create a continental network of higher education.

In the face of increased globalization and rapid population growth, the African continent has potential for swift and beneficial expansion, by taking advantage of natural wealth, human resources, and effective policy execution. In order to liberate itself from a pattern of oppressive and dominating globalization, Africa may stand to benefit the most from investment solely from the large wealth swelling beneath its surface: the training and education of emerging leaders.

In an effort to support the aspirations of a new generation, Actis, a UK-based investor in growth markets across Africa, has launched Honoris United Universities: the first pan-African private higher education network. This USD 275 million investment will be the first African private education network, bringing together leading education institutions from across the continent.

The goal of this move, says Actis, is to cater to rapidly growing education needs by helping Africa develop amidst regional and global challenges. Preparing students to succeed in a “changing world,” ideally leads to the building of societies and economies, and results in a new generation of nation builders and consequently a strengthened, united Africa.

“We believe our key values – collaborative intelligence, mobility, and agility – unite us in the purpose of securing a successful impact of our students, their families and their communities,” stated Luis Lopez, the newly appointed CEO of Honoris United Universities. He continued that the founders of the group are characterized by a strong belief that graduates with cross-border qualifications and work experience will be more competitive in today’s demanding labor markets.

Actis is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) backed Principles for Responsible Investment, an investor initiative developed by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and the UN Global Compact.

Actis has invested over USD 500 million in private education across the world, and began investing in Africa in December of 2014 after recognizing a rise in educational needs following population expansion and emergence of new economies. Actis’ investments often aim to deliver access to quality education and develop “the next generation of leaders capable of positively impacting tomorrow’s societies and economies,” and Honoris United Universities is a move to do just that.

In a press release, Actis stated “Honoris United Universities will harness the collaborative intelligence and the pioneering efforts of these institutions to educate Africa’s next generations of leaders and professionals.” Honoris United will enter an investment agreement with leading management and business schools across the continent to focus on providing accredited, accessible, and affordable education.

Rick Phillips, an acting Actis partner, stated that Honoris understands “not only what students are looking for in terms of quality and access, but what their prospective employers are looking for when they graduate. Businesses are looking for applicants with internationally accredited levels of education.” Given that employers in Africa have ambitions across the continent, they need candidates with global perspectives, who understand the diversity of both Africa and local markets.

By making agreements from Morocco to South Africa, Honoris United Universities marks the beginning of a pan-African education leadership. The system has invested in Morocco’s EMSI, the largest private institution in Morocco for engineering, and brings together private universities and colleges on 48 campuses, across nine countries and 30 cities in Africa. Alongside Morocco, the countries involved in the intercontinental network are: Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Hichem Omezzine, a Co-Leader in the Global Education Sector, said that Actis has knowledge in the education sector that will help Africans secure their quality of life by investing in education. “This has given us the credibility and experience to identify and to work with world class institutions to support their growth ambitions,” said Omezzine.

The Universities currently serve 27,000 students, but growth means there will be an estimated 100,000 students in the next three to five years. With it having become common for students to leave for Europe and the United States for education, this investment hopes to keep budding professionals in the area. With a goal of “collaborative intelligence, cultural agility, and mobile mindsets” in mind, young entrepreneurs, researchers, and inventors can create a base of development geared towards the future.