Region/Countries: Africa and the Middle East, South Africa Industry: Other Date: April 2018

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: As a world leader in the higher education sector, Wisconsin can contribute to South Africa's desire to expand the reach of higher education and implement innovative technologies.

South Africa has a vibrant higher education sector, with 25 state-funded post-secondary institutions classified as universities, universities of technology, comprehensive universities or institutes of higher education. Higher education and training, or tertiary education, includes education for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, certificates and diplomas, up to the level of the doctoral degree. South African universities offer a combination of academic and vocational diplomas and degrees, while the country’s universities of technology focus on vocationally oriented education. Many of South Africa's universities are world-class academic institutions, at the forefront of research in certain spheres.

Education in South Africa is governed by two national departments: the Department of Basic Education, which is responsible for primary and secondary institutions of learning, and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which is responsible for post-secondary education and vocational training. Each of South Africa’s nine provinces also has its own education department that is responsible for implementing the policies of the national department and dealing with local issues. Although subsidized by the state and governed in accordance with the Higher Education Act, South African universities remain autonomous, reporting to their own councils rather than to the government.

South Africa began restructuring its higher education system in 2003 to widen access to post-secondary education and reset the priorities of the old apartheid-based system. Smaller universities and Technikons (polytechnics) were incorporated into larger institutions to form the comprehensive universities that exist today. Since 2009, the DHET has also been responsible for further education and training, which covers training provided from grades 10 to 12, including career-oriented education and training offered in technical colleges, community colleges and private colleges.

The affordability of higher education in South Africa is a challenge: state funding for higher education has been declining in real terms, while the levels of public spending on universities sit at around 0.8 percent of GDP, which is low by global standards. A national proposal for a new state funding model moving toward a goal of eventually making higher education free across the country was released in 2017.

The notion of online learning is far from new to South Africa. The University of South Africa (Unisa), one of the world’s largest distance learning institutions, has been at the forefront of distance learning in higher education. E-learning in Africa has made great strides, and with the growth of the internet and increase in the number of people who have access to smartphones, it is reasonable to expect further significant growth in e-learning. The African e-learning market is experiencing massive growth, spurred by public-private partnerships. According to a recent report by Ambient Insights, it is this type of partnership that is fast-tracking education improvement from primary school to university, potentially leveling the playing field for millions of students worldwide. Africa's e-learning market has reportedly doubled from 2011 to 2016, attaining a size of $513 million. This market is dominated by South Africa, followed by Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia.

South Africa is the most dynamic e-learning market in Africa, and research has shown that learning will become increasingly integrated with work in the future. Working environments are changing, and there is therefore a constant need to rapidly train and retrain people in new technologies, products and services. E-learning is one of the best ways to do this, as it provides a way of optimizing traditional face-to-face time and is more application- and action-based than the traditional lecture. Employees are empowered by specific, customized solutions that satisfy their needs and ultimately increase their performance, thereby enabling them to improve their capabilities in the workplace. It is for this reason that organizations need to embrace e-learning as an essential tool for attracting and retaining top talent.