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Naspers sets sights on ‘exciting’ edutech sector in Africa, Asia

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Global Internet titan Naspers is eyeing Africa and Asia as prime targets for its burgeoning education technology business, with CEO Bob van Dijk saying the underlying fundamentals are compelling and will play a major role in driving the acceleration of solutions.

Naspers, which has been gunning for a bigger global market share in education technology, says it has a gripping business case, and potential for the sector is compounded by the way populations in Africa and Asia place a premium on education.

For Van Dijk, who provided an overview of the group’s progress yesterday, this potential excites him because Naspers is sitting at the intersection of the learning and digital world.

“It’s one the business lines that we have invested in that I am most excited about. If you look at where the world is going, I think there is huge part of the population in Africa and East Asia that need to be educated, and most of the young people are found between Africa and Asia,” said Van Dijk.

“If you look at the infrastructure in terms of education available in those markets, there aren’t enough traditional schools and higher education institutions to get people skilled up at the scale that is necessary, I think technology will absolutely be necessary to lift the next generation of youngsters into well-skilled, productive grown-ups.”

The news of Naspers’s foray into Africa and Asia comes at a time the global COVID-19-induced lockdown is forcing students to use technology to learn, and more companies are venturing into the academic cyber space, offering learning solutions.

The world has seen the education technology sector soar, with the World Economic Forum estimating the overall market for online education will reach $350 billion by 2025.

With lockdown periods continuing in various parts of the globe, Van Dijk believes Naspers will play a catalytic role in transforming the education sector through technology, while creating value for investors.

Naspers has made a series of education technology-focused investments in the past year, including a combined R1 billion in Brainly and Udemy.

Its full-year financial results for the 12 months ended 31 March 2020 showed Naspers increased its exposure to the educational technology business by investing a further R432 million and R760 million in Brainly and Udemy, respectively.

In November last year, Naspers invested R45 million in online learning platform, The Student Hub.

Prosus CEO Bob van Dijk.
Prosus CEO Bob van Dijk.

The Student Hub helps TVET colleges to overcome physical infrastructure constraints and improves students’ access to vocational education and training.

Brainly has grown into a shining star of the education technology portfolio, says Van Dijk.

He explained: “We developed a portfolio that’s spans a number of really exciting areas; for example, we invested in Brainly, which is a company that helps people in primary school get their questions answered. It has become a big platform and now has 400 million unique users per month. To give you an idea [of the size of the audience], that is 50% larger than Twitter.

“We have also invested in bringing higher education, bringing it to people in a cheaper way.”

In his virtual sessions with the media, Van Dijk said Naspers’s priority is to invest in and build a number of billion-dollar e-commerce businesses.

"Our strategy is focused on building global consumer Internet businesses in high-growth sectors and we’ve put our money where our mouth is."

For SA, Van Dijk said Naspers Foundry has invested approximately R200 million in four tech companies – SweepSouth, Aerobotics, Food Supply Network and The Student Hub.

Launched in 2019, Naspers Foundry is a R1.4 billion South Africa-focused start-up vehicle that helps talented and ambitious South African technology entrepreneurs develop and grow businesses that improve people’s daily lives.

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