AFRICA – Finnish development financier, Finnfund, is investing US$7m in Maarifa Education Group, a private tertiary education company operating in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“This is Finnfund’s first direct investment in the education sector. Increasing access to tertiary education offers the students market relevant skills, bridging the gap of young graduates and labour market demands”, says Finnfund’s Investment Manager Eero Pekkanen.

Finnfund invested in Maarifa Education together with Proparco, the French development finance institution, and IFU, the Danish development finance institution.

Maarifa Education offers high quality programmes in labour market relevant studies of medicine, business, IT, law, and social-sciences, complementing public universities which can educate only a third of all applicants.

Despite the doubling of tertiary education enrolment in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2000, enrolment in the region still averages at under 9% of the age cohort.

“The new capital from the European development finance institutions will enable Maarifa to continue enhancing the quality of academic programs and student services at its existing universities and to acquire additional universities in Africa”, says CEO of Maarifa Education Peter Kagunye.

“Maarifa’s vision is to be the premier pan-African tertiary education company that provides high quality, market-relevant education that equips students to succeed in today’s labour market.

“Maarifa is committed to increasing access to high quality education by offering scholarships and reaching students in underserved countries.” He added.

Maarifa currently owns and operates two universities: Cavendish University Uganda and Cavendish University Zambia.

Maarifa has transformed these universities by investing in employees, campus facilities, student services, and the quality of academic programs.

In addition, Maarifa has increased student enrolment and enhanced the efficiency of business and academic operations.

Finland’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Ville Skinnari welcomed the investment, saying; “Developing countries, especially in Africa, are faced with a serious learning crisis. Public and private forces can together provide solutions to it, to students of all ages.”

Meanwhile Maarifa Education has partnered with a Finnish EdTech company Claned and uses its distance-learning platform for teachers and students. Claned combines the theory of learning with a machine learning algorithm that starts to understand how a person learns.

The combination of Claned’s innovative platform and Maarifa’s academic model, will enable Maarifa’s universities to offer transformative academic programs and expand access to thousands of students in Africa.

Finnfund is a Finnish development financier and professional impact investor. Each year it invests 150–200 million euros in 20-30 projects, emphasising renewable energy, sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture and financial institutions.

Finnfund’s investments and commitments total about US$888m, half of them in Africa. The company has 83 employees.