Jamie Martin, previously a consultant and policy adviser to the UK’s former Secretary of Education, is the man behind Africa’s first dedicated edtech incubator, Injini

Launched in partnership with the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative, the programme selects edtech start-ups from across the continent every six months and helps them scale up their businesses.

Martin says they decided to launch the incubator in Cape Town because of the city’s status as the tech and education hub of Africa. “You’ve got a few great universities concentrated right in the city, which gives you an easy supply of talent,” says Martin.

“Secondly, it’s easy to attract outside talent to Cape Town. It’s a beautiful city, a great place to live. Thirdly, it’s a real low cost base, compared to say Nairobi or Lagos, or London, New York and San Francisco. It’s much cheaper to operate here as a business. I think GetSmarter is a good example of how they’ve used that. Then another reason is you have a government that backs technology. Both the city government and the provincial government have shown a real willingness to engage in and invest in technology, it’s an important sector.”

Cape Town, Martin says, has also become an attractive destination for the world’s biggest education firms. “Pearson, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press have all chose to make Cape Town their home, and that just shows you that it is the education hub of the continent.”

Martin says he was personally attracted to Cape Town because of the vast opportunities. “I saw that it could be a perfect platform for experimenting with things that could work right across the continent. You’ve got a context where you are locally within a few hours’ drive of everything. You can go out to Gugs or Khayelitsha, a peri-urban setting that is reminiscent of what’s happening in Nairobi or on the outskirts of Lagos. You drive out further and you are in a rural, remote setting with data and electricity challenges, which is reminiscent of rural Africa. If you are building things for Bishops, you are building it for parents and pupils of a school that is on par with products being built for the best private and public schools in the UK or the US, so you can almost automatically test all of your markets within a few hours’ drive of the city, which I think is really attractive.

The Injini team believes that education will be the great engine of Africa’s future development. “We will therefore empower teachers, entrepreneurs and individual citizens to improve education through technology in order to realise the huge potential for richer economies and stronger societies across the continent.”

Companies that formed part of Injini’s inaugural 2017/18 cohort included:

Accelerated (Ethiopia): Tech-based model that provides continuous teacher mentoring and learning inputs for engaging classrooms.

Early Bird (South Africa): Early childhood development analytics app for parents and early childhood development teachers.

M-Shule (Kenya): An adaptive mobile learning platform which is accessible on feature-phones and delivers content via SMS.

Mtabe (Tanzania): An offline digital assistant and search engine which uses artificial intelligence to provide education access to students without internet or smartphones.

Syafunda (South Africa): Learning and data management platform which provides access to digital content (audio, video and ebooks) through a wireless digital library.

Uthini (South Africa): Language learning platform that works through human tutors and a chatbot assistant.

Yo’ Books (South Sudan): Reading platform and online book store that distributes books on low-cost devices.

Zelda (South Africa): A platform that aims to address the lack of support young students receive while trying to make career building decisions. Zelda links students with bursars, employers and potential opportunities.

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