South African private education giant expands into four African countries

Private education giant Educor is set to become the first South African institution to set up branch campuses outside the country as it expands its operations into four new African countries under its well-known Intec and Damelin brands.

The countries are Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana

Julian Kannigan, chief executive officer of Educor Africa, the new African arm of Educor, told University World News that the absence of a serious further education player in Africa – apart from public distance education providers such as the University of South Africa – would make Educor the first real continental player in further education and training.

The ZAR100 million (US$12.2 million) venture would comprise the establishment of new colleges, but Kannigan indicated that Educor Africa was “receptive” to overtures from credible and relevant organisations for potential collaborations.

He said the intention would be to use local experts and staff, but they would be trained during an introductory phase in West Africa by South African staff.

“Over time, we will set up training facilities within West African countries with qualified trainers and material that human resources require,” he said.

Educor’s other brands, which offer both face-to-face and distance education options, include Lyceum, Durban Correspondence College, City Varsity and Icesa.

The group already has a physical presence in Namibia and Botswana and distance learning colleges currently enrol students from various African countries. It has some 2,000 staff members and over 70,000 students in more than 30 sites in South Africa.

Kannigan said the planned expansion into Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana was motivated by the group’s belief that it could make a “significant contribution to the economic development and up-skilling of African communities”.

He said the African continent was “beckoning for the arrival of accredited private education” as it had a robust economy and required skills to complement rapid expansion.

Alluding to the inability of states in Africa and other parts of the world to meet the growing demand for higher education, Kannigan said private education “complements the public sector and provides resources to those students who have been denied access to public universities”.

He said countries like Nigeria actually encouraged private enterprise, specifically in education.

“Nigeria has a robust economy, which provides a large, aspirational market with an established IT infrastructure. English is the main language of tuition, and our engagements with relevant government bodies have proved that there is a demand for quality training in Nigeria.

“The other countries show similar needs and offer opportunities similar to Nigeria,” he said.

Educor Group Chief Commercial Officer Nolan Charles dismissed the notion that cross-border expansion would mean reduced growth at home. He said the group planned to expand each of its brands further within South Africa, and across the rest of the continent.

According to Charles, Educor achieved a turnover of over ZAR500 million (US$61 million) in 2011 and planned a revenue of ZAR1.2 billion in 2016.

“Educor’s growth has outperformed the South African GDP growth year on year. While the private education sector has shown excellent growth, Educor has outperformed its competitors,” he told University World News.

Kannigan defended the relatively onerous regulations that were first applied to private education providers in South Africa a decade ago, curtailing the rapid expansion of private providers after the 1994 democratic elections.

“The education regulations in South Africa, although onerous, are there to protect students, and prevent the inappropriate entry by ‘fly by night institutions’. Regulations allow credibility for accredited education providers,” he said.

According to Kannigan, Educor had done its homework with regard to regulatory requirements of individual countries and would ensure that its brands complied.

Charles said the group had successfully weathered South Africa’s tough regulatory climate by putting together a strong management team, developing strong quality assurance systems across all brands and ensuring that appropriately qualified staff underwent ongoing training. The company also kept abreast of current legislation.

Kannigan said Educor Africa would spend the first three years of the venture strengthening its foundation, and the financial resources would be used to ensure market penetration, assist in the improvement of local economies, set up infrastructure and attain brand recognition within local markets.