Three things you need to know about digital marketing for students in Africa

Home to some of the world’s fastest expanding economies, Africa is quietly emerging as a real growth story. In the last 30 years, the number of middle class Africans has tripled and by 2050, the continent is set to grow to 2.5 billion people.

And consider this: just 40 years ago secondary school enrolment in Africa was around 3%. Today, it’s 29%. Imagine what that means for the region’s demand for higher education in the years to come? This phenomenal rise is truly making Africa a gold mine for higher education institutions looking for international students, especially because most of Africa’s population today are English speaking and below 30 years old. There is no better time to start appealing to this market!

What You Need to Know

Here are the trends you need to keep a close eye on, in order to plan for precise and targeted digital marketing efforts in African nations.

#1 – Popular: Private Universities, Short Courses & Online Programs

Higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa has expanded rapidly in the last decades. The annual growth rate of higher enrolment in Sub-Saharan is 4.3%, much higher than the global average 2.8%. Bachelor students increased from less than 400,000 in 1970 to 7.2 million in 2013. So what happened was the demand far outstripped the supply of higher education. Public universities only increased from 100 to 500 from 1990 to 2014 in the region. This led to an increase of private universities. In that same time, the number of private institutions grew from 30 to 1,000. In Côte d’Ivoire alone, private universities make up 80% of the higher education industry market. The development of infocomm technology in the region is also making short courses and online education an ideal solution in the future. More than 25% of the African population have access to the internet, and as of June 2016 there were 147 million of them actively use Facebook.

#2 – Highest Mobile Penetration Rates in the World

While the rate of internet use is the lowest in the world, it is also the fastest growing one. But where and how they use the internet is the fascinating thing. Africans rely heavily on mobile phones because it is often the only device available to connect to the internet. In South Africa alone, mobile is responsible for ¾ of all web traffic! This means that your student recruitment campaigns in Africa must not overlook being mobile responsive, and any content must be designed and crafted for mobile platforms.

#3 – YouTube & Whatsapp Are Catching Up to Facebook

Being mobile responsive also brings us to the next point. Having presence on social media is as crucial as ever – especially in English, French and Arabic, the 3 most popular languages in Africa. Facebook is still your #1 friend, but other channels are also catching up. YouTube, for example, might not be a social media network in itself but it is one of the most heavily used sites. In Middle East and North African (MENA) states alone, there are 300 million playbacks a day! WhatsApp has also emerged as the most popular chat app, with Facebook Messenger coming in a close second. Its prevalence is so strong that local companies and retailers have started to utilize the app to engage customers – whether to promote themselves or efficiently execute things like returns or managing failed deliveries.

What This Means for You

It’s pretty clear with these figures that there is no better time than now to reach out motivated students in Africa, especially in the sub-Saharan regions. The good news is, African students are already using platforms that we are all already familiar with and while there’s still a lot that will vary from country to country, it is absolutely worth your time to build a structured marketing approach for the continent.

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