UNICAF, an online higher education platform in Africa has raised $28 million Series B financing to meet the growing demand for high-quality university education across the continent where fewer than 10% of potential students have access to higher education, making it the most underserved region in the world.
The $28m Series B was led by Goldman Sachs with participation from existing investors, including the UK Government’s development finance institution CDC Group, leading higher education fund University Ventures, and EDEX, the founder of the University of Nicosia.
“Expanding access to high-quality education and training is a critical first step in enabling students across Africa to compete in the global economy. Smartphone ubiquity and advancements in broadband mean the promise of higher education should be within reach for millions of students. Yet, universities cannot keep pace with the rapid growth of Africa’s student population,” said Dr. Nicos Nicolaou, founder and CEO of UNICAF.
According to research from the World Bank, Africa’s higher education institutions can still only meet a fraction of that demand; the ratio of African secondary students who enrol in higher education is half that of the world average.
UNICAF was founded in 2012 to serve this need with over 70 flexible online undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in fast-growing fields like education, business and public health. The unique learning model is delivered using UNICAF’s dynamic, mobile-friendly platform and blends online instruction with on-the-ground instructional centres and virtual coaching.
More than 16,000 students are currently enrolled through UNICAF in academic programmes that lead to accredited undergraduate and postgraduate degrees awarded from UK, US, European and African universities. The new funding will enable UNICAF to grow enrolment to over 100,000 students, expand the programme offering and open as many as five additional African campuses in the next five years. Programmes offered through UNICAF meet the highest university quality standards in teaching and learning which have been verified by external examiners and regulators in different countries.
UNICAF programmes are designed to produce graduates with the necessary skills, knowledge and personal attributes to gain employment and be successful in their occupation, benefiting themselves, their community and the economy of their country. More than 85% of UNICAF graduates are currently employed.
“UNICAF is deploying a tech-enabled solution tailored to African markets for easy and affordable access to quality higher education that is uniquely suited to address the widening university supply-demand gap and skills shortages across the continent,” said Jules Frebault, Executive Director at Goldman Sachs.