atingi, the digital learning platform of The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has exceeded expectations in its first year. Within twelve months, atingi has reached almost a million people in Africa and already enabled 100,000 of them to access vocational education and self-development courses for free.
atingi means “to achieve” in Esperanto, and the platform strives to improve the employability of young people through modern digital learning opportunities. With a large network of strategic cooperation partners – from politics and business to science and civil society – educational content which meets the needs of African audiences is made available, free of charge, via the atingi platform.
Although atingi is developed for people in all German Development Cooperation partner countries, the current focus is specifically on facilitating African economic growth. BMZ has chosen four pilot countries for a more intensive engagement, recognizing that each is in a very different stage of digital transformation – and is therefore suited as a test case to identify opportunities for pan-African scaling. The close cooperation with the pilot countries Togo, Niger, Rwanda and Benin, enables atingi’s learning proposition to be dynamically evaluated, adapted and targeted to local needs.
Africa is recognized as a potential global workforce hub for the rest of the world because of its high youth population. In fact, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than a quarter of the world’s population of under 25s, and 15% of the world’s working population. To date, the lack of access to high quality education for its working-age citizens has been a critical inhibitor of African countries ability to compete effectively in the international labour market. There is an urgent need, therefore, for the continent to expand its pool of highly-skilled employees through the development of relevant, vocational skill sets.
This is where the role of digital transformation becomes significant. Digital technologies open up new avenues for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. In this context, online learning and orientation opportunities are essential to enabling people in Africa to keep pace with the digital transformation beyond their borders. This not only ensures they are well qualified for the jobs of the future, it can also ensure a more integrated knowledge economy that moves Africa, and its citizens, closer to realizing their economic and personal potential.
Furthermore, it can often be challenging for local educational institutions to reach people in rural and sparsely populated areas in Africa’s emerging markets. The reality is that there is a high demand for learning opportunities and vocational skills, but there are often geographic and infrastructure barriers, which can be addressed through online learning offers. atingi enables users to access high-quality, locally-relevant, digital learning materials anytime and anywhere. Recognizing the barrier of internet connectivity, atingi also offers low-tech and offline solutions.
The atingi development cooperation framework builds on existing local and global partnerships. Alongside the four pilot countries, a growing network of strategic cooperation partners has emerged for the development and distribution of the learning content. Renowned international partners such as Smart Africa (an alliance of 30 African digital ministries), UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Siemens Foundation are the cornerstones of the successful scaling of atingi. And that is precisely the long-term goal of the project: to scale the platform in all partner countries of the German Development Cooperation globally.
atingi project leader, Jan-Gerrit Groeneveld, is encouraged by the development and first stage results of the atingi initiative. He notes: “eLearning is ideal for the digital transfer of knowledge and improvement of the living conditions for many people in African countries. The Corona pandemic once again incontrovertibly demonstrated to us how important it is to digitalise education, thereby facilitating access for all”.
He added that atingi has succeeded in enabling people on the ground to receive education and training via the latest technology; both ensuring people access skills development easily and that digital transformation in Africa is advanced substantially too. “Early user acceptance of the learning platform has exceeded initial expectations, which strengthens our belief that investing in digital education infrastructure on the African continent is the right way for us to contribute to unlocking the enormous local economic potential.”
Young people, women and people in rural regions are the target beneficiaries of the atingi platform. The courses offered cover a wide range of topics, such as vocational orientation, health, entrepreneurship and agriculture – all of which are aimed at increasing employability and skills. These modules are expanded and developed in a targeted manner with the help of local, strategic cooperation partners. Successful learners who complete the courses receive free digital certificates to provide evidence of the skills acquired that can be added to their CVs. In addition to English and French, some learning content is now also available in other languages, such as Spanish, Arabic and some local African languages.