Nigerian ed-tech startup uLesson has raised $3.1m in a seed funding round ahead of its market launch next year.
The funding, led by venture capitalists TLcom Capital, will be used to bring the app-based home tutor to the West African market in February 2020, uLesson’s CEO said.
Founded earlier this year in the central Nigerian city of Jos, uLesson will roll out its library of pre-recorded lesson content tailored for the West African curriculum in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia, uLesson’s CEO Sim Shagaya told African Business by phone from Nigeria.
“We’ve spent a year building up this library of content with gifted academics, animators and studio talent.
“The funding is primarily for two things: to go to market with the library, and the second purpose is to begin to develop the East African curriculum.”
The app, developed by the minds behind Jumia’s Nigerian e-commerce rival Konga, is revolutionising education by slashing the cost of a high-quality home tutor by a factor of ten, its developers say.
Secondary school children, teachers and parents can subscribe to the app for around $5 a month, or make a yearly one-off payment of $70 a year, which is affordable for low-income countries subsisting on $3-4 a day, Shagaya explains.
“That is revolutionary, because a traditional tutor in Africa will set you back about $70 a month,” he said.
The app is equipped with an SD memory card, so students can study offline, and connect to the web to update or sync the programme with the latest curricula.
Competitors in the market offering differentiated services include Nigeria’s Tuteria and Eneza Education.
“If you look at other internet-based education technology businesses, their business model is around placing tutors with clients. There are challenges to that because there is only a limited pool of good quality tutors, so its harder to scale a model like that,” argues Shagaya.
As part of the seed funding deal, struck last week, TLcom’s Ido Sum and Omobola Johnson will assume positions on the board and acquire a stake and advisory role in the business, Shagaya said.
Commenting on the partnership, Sum said that the company fit with the investors’ ethos – “an entrepreneur-led startup building affordable, mass-market mobile first solution tackling one of Africa’s largest challenges.”
West Africa’s booming population is putting a strain on schools as well as households in the region. Nigerian schools are oversubscribed with teacher to student ratios reaching 1:70 in some parts of the country. This compares to an average 1:10 in the United States.
A lack of quality teachers, tutors and educational infrastructure on the continent represents a ticking “youth bomb” for the region’s unprecedented demographic growth, Shagaya warns.
The global edtech market is projected to hit $341bn by 2025, with a key driver being Africa’s burgeoning smartphone adoption and bulging youth population, where 40% of Africans are under the age of 15.