Kibo is Providing Affordable STEM Degrees to Africans

February 24, 2023

Higher education in Africa is highly underdeveloped compared to the rest of the world. Currently, most African countries have a limited supply of universities that cannot meet student enrollment ratios. In 2020, Africa had over 1,800 universities, with approximately 9 million students enrolled, implying that the institutions lack the infrastructure required to meet the rising educational demand of the growing young population. Furthermore, it is no secret that the African educational system is plagued by several inefficiencies, such as incessant strikes, resulting in students staying longer in school, losing valuable years, or even foregoing career opportunities.

Africans currently account for 16% of the world’s population; by 2050, the continent will be home to a third of the world’s young people, indicating the possibility of a significant earthly influence. Africa is the only region where the youth bulge is expected to grow in the foreseeable future, presenting a massive opportunity to equip the burgeoning young population with the knowledge and skills necessary to transform the continent to prosperity. However, academic institutions, particularly departments tasked with cultivating technical talent, are severely capacity-constrained and poorly equipped. Most school assessments are heavily based on theoretical models that do not translate to practical applications when building products, so there is a continuous mismatch between what students are taught and the relevant skills needed to succeed in the global market. As a result, it is not uncommon for five-year university graduates to be unemployed or to work in positions alien to their academic backgrounds.

African startups raised over $4 billion in 2021, representing a nearly 20x increase since 2015; however, the ecosystem continues to struggle with a shortage of technical talent. Software, engineering, product, and data roles are becoming increasingly important to businesses as technology advances. Furthermore, the war for technical talent is becoming more intense by the day, as competition is global, with foreign companies expressing a growing interest in African tech talent.

The number of global university students is estimated to reach 380 million by 2030, and more granularly, the Online Degree and Micro-Credential Market is set to reach $117 billion by 2025. Kibo is serving an unequivocally booming virtual learning market that is set to increase in the next decade. This is particularly true in the computer science field, which has been the first successful mover in virtual learning.

The Future: Kibo

Kibo is an online school providing affordable STEM degrees to Africans. The startup is redefining the continent’s landscape for technical talents by combining the ability to offer quality STEM degree programs with the credibility of a 3-year accredited university degree – positioning itself excellently to cater for those excluded by traditional universities with the global science and tech skills.

"Keno and I are both products of education immigration; we were raised in Nigeria and were able to immigrate for better schooling. That won't be an option for most people who need it, though, and we need to dramatically expand the supply of quality higher education available to young Africans. Online learning is going to be key to that! The same trends driving global, remote work will power remote education, and location will no longer be a barrier to world-class educational opportunities"

Ope Bukola, CEO Kibo.

Digitising content alone is insufficient, as many students drop out of self-paced online classes. Kibo’s program is cohort-based, with fixed timelines that drive accountability. Learners meet daily with peer squads, work on team projects, and meet weekly for live problem-solving sessions. While direct instruction is asynchronous, these peer-led live experiences foster deeper learning and accountability – helping retain students.

Their project-based curriculum provides a strong foundation in computer science, training in applied skills, e.g. web development, data science, and builds essential communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, students complete one mandatory term of practical experience (internships) each year, with Kibo aiming to facilitate the hiring process through an established network of partner companies. The curriculum has been vetted by hiring managers at Shopify, Google, and Mozilla.

Kibo’s approach to providing African talent with relevant skills and courses that meet the market demands of 21st-century employers is unique. Starting with Computer Science, the company’s solution expands the supply of quality education available in Africa by offering moderated online degree programs in high-demand STEM fields at an affordable price for middle-income earners. Through its accreditation by Woolf, a collegiate university based in the United Kingdom, an immersive degree from Kibo school provides learners with the technical and soft skills that make them globally competitive upon graduation. As a Woolf member, students enrolled at Kibo will earn European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits, which are transferable across the globe.

“Kibo has all the ingredients making up the future of learning in Africa: Innovative, skills-focused curriculum, Embedded work experience that connects learners to in-demand jobs, and a price point that is a fraction of the same education delivered physically or abroad”

Julia Moffett, Managing Partner of the Future of Learning Fund.

Specifically, STEM degrees at Kibo provide learners with a plethora of career options, ranging from software engineering and product management to data science and academia. Presently, the company is partnered with several organisations like GitStart and Gebeya to offer internships and part-time work to its students, as experiential learning is at the heart of Kibo.

The Team

“Kibo is led by an extremely well-equipped team who bring diverse experiences from global institutions – such as Google Classroom, Andela, and the African Leadership University – to the African edtech landscape. ‘Talent’ is one of four key areas that Future Africa assesses when analysing prospective investments, with the Kibo Founding Team leaving no doubt that it is uniquely positioned to tackle this challenge”

Luke Mostert, Head of Investments at Future Africa.

Ope Bukola (Founder & CEO) has over 10 years of experience leading and developing edtech products globally. She has served in various educational capacities, including as the product lead at Google Classroom to scale the #1 software tool for K-12 schools in the USA. Ope is an edupreneur who holds a degree from New York University. She was joined by Keno and Robb to build Kibo school last year.

Keno Omu is a co-founder & Chief Academic Officer at Kibo, with over 5 years of experience working as an academia and education expert in reputable organisations globally. Keno served as the former Dean of Faculty & Academic Affairs at the African Leadership University and as a Global learning and development manager at Andela. On the other hand, Robb Cobb is Kibo's co-founder and Head of Curriculum. He has over 6 years of experience developing curriculum tools for edtech companies such as Make School (a leading computer science program in the United States) and Flatiron School (Hybrid Coding Bootcamp).

Looking Ahead

Africa has the world’s youngest population, with 70% of Sub-Saharan Africans under the age of 30. With such a large youth population, there is an opportunity to increase the number of skilled talents on the continent by equipping young people with relevant science and tech skills required to transform the continent to prosperity. Kibo will play an important role here in unleashing young African talents through its quality STEM degrees, unique value offerings and the team’s strong understanding of the African terrain.

A year ago, Kibo launched the “Try Kibo program” to help young people kickstart their tech journey by teaching fundamental classes in python programming, communication, and web development. So far, the startup has supported over 550 students across 18 African cities! By commencing the application window for its full-time computer science degree, the startup aims to unleash vast career opportunities for young people on the continent.

In the future, Kibo intends to become the place for young technologists in Africa by introducing more STEM programs and scaling beyond its current cities of Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana. The startup also wants to create a more intelligent system that automates most of the school's administrative tasks, such as pairing students for collaborative learning.

At Future Africa, we are excited to be a part of Kibo’s journey to redefine the continent’s landscape for technical talents.  We welcome Kibo’s team to the Future Africa community.