A league of its own: Nigeria

There is a steep difference between the top two, with Nigeria sending almost 90K students compared with Morocco’s 48.5K. And Nigeria is only just getting started; total tertiary enrolment in Nigeria is expected to more than double from 2.3m in 2013 to 4.8m by 2024.

This reflects the fact that the country is not only one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, but is also set for a huge population boom. And there is clearly a consequential thirst for high quality knowledge; in urban areas, as of 2014, 43% of children attend private schools.

In Abuja, the capital, the number of private pupils has increased by 275% in recent years.

While 1.7m Nigerians apply for domestic university, only half a million get a place. The number of Nigerian universities is growing, but domestic universities can’t currently keep up with demand.  It’s also been reported that, as the country scrambles to put together more universities, the quality of education may suffer and thus students are further motivated to look beyond Nigeria.

As such, The British Council said Nigeria will offer the strongest annual average growth in outbound postgraduate mobility (+8.3%) over the next five years, compared with other markets including India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Two young men using laptops

Emerging markets: Ghana and Kenya

Unsurprisingly, then, Nigeria can dominate the conversation when it comes to international student recruitment in Africa. But as established, the continent is huge and home to plenty of other emerging markets that could prove beneficial.

Two such exciting locations are Kenya, in the east of Africa, and Ghana, in the west. While neither are huge markets yet, they both boast growing economies, a young population and an ever-increasing demand for high-quality higher education.

Ghana: One of the world’s fastest growing economies

Thanks to the discovery of offshore oil reserves, the economy in Ghana is thriving. The GDP almost doubled between 2016 (3.6%)  and 2017 (6.1%), and it’s predicted to continue growing according to The World Bank.

As the economy grows, the demand for higher education grows. Ghana’s gross enrolment ratio for higher education almost doubled from 8.6% in 2008 to 16.1% in 2016; while the government is trying to accommodate, it cannot currently meet the demand – much like Nigeria.

There is also the issue of graduate unemployment rates.

Reports have found that less than 10% of graduates find a job in the first year after university, and other research concluded that the unemployment rate is actually higher among the more educated.

As such, a recent study found around 4 in 10 Ghanaians have considered emigrating, with Europe and North America the most popular destinations.

Kenya: The ‘Silicon Valley of Africa’

The growing tech industry here has garnered Kenya the nickname the ‘Silicon Valley of Africa’ – and it’s also a hotspot for manufacturing, agriculture and financial services.

Like Ghana, it’s a young country and the British Council has estimated that the country’s college age population will be around 5.7 million by 2024. The resulting economy means there is big potential for student recruitment in Kenya.  

The subsequent higher education expansion has not been without hiccups. There have been various issues surrounding the quality and accreditation resulting in a large-scale government review which has meant tighter controls and the closure of several institutions. This, along with the middle-class boom, means more Kenyan students may choose to study overseas in the future.