Opening Doors to Education—Innovation and Inclusive Growth at the Forefront of Historic Open edX Conference in South Africa

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Opening Doors to Education—Innovation and Inclusive Growth at the Forefront of Historic Open edX Conference in South Africa
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Opening Doors to Education—Innovation and Inclusive Growth at the Forefront of Historic Open edX Conference in South Africa
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10 July 2024

The significance of innovation and inclusive growth in enhancing access to quality education was a central theme at the Open edX Conference, a premier global gathering of Open edX platform enthusiasts and education technology leaders.

For the first time ever, Africa proudly hosted this prestigious event, organised by the leading US-based non-profit Axim Collaborative, from July 2nd to July 5th at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape. Leading EdTech company Construct Education, in partnership with Wesgro, was instrumental in coordinating the event.

The Open edX platform, a free-to-use, open-source learning management system, enables the creation and delivery of online courses and learning experiences. Such technology is seen as essential for expanding access to education and skills development, reaching more learners effectively. An accessible edtech ecosystem can level the playing field, providing equal access to education and professional development opportunities regardless of social status or geographical constraints.

Hatim Eltayeb, CEO of the African Leadership Academy, addressed the conference, noting the major hurdles in accessing quality education, which contribute to high youth unemployment rates in excess of 60% in some African countries. Eltayeb stressed the need for educational leadership that nurtures responsibility and belonging among young learners.

Professor Jonathan Jansen, a distinguished professor of education at Stellenbosch University and president of the Academy of Science of South Africa, called attention to the urgent need to bridge the gap between privileged and disadvantaged communities to improve educational outcomes. To address this, Jansen advocated for regulatory reforms, strategic alliances, improved teacher training, advanced broadband infrastructure, and efforts to reduce data costs and increase funding.

On the final day of the conference, Wesgro facilitated the Founder’s Lounge session, featuring prominent EdTech founders and innovation champions. The panel included Naadiya Moosajee, co-founder and CIO of Womhub; Kagisho Masae, co-founder and CEO of Matric Live; Meg Knight, Chief Operations Officer at Construct Education; Hannes Geldenhuys, Founder of Hubble Studios; and Tsepo Ngwenyama, Partnerships and Ecosystem Head at Injini. These industry leaders shared their insights and real-life experiences in starting up, providing rich and valuable guidance to the audience.

Provincial Minister of Education, David Maynier, welcomed the productive discussions at the conference. The Minister stated: “We are interested in how EdTech can expand access to education and improve learning outcomes so that our children can have a better future. The possibilities seem to be endless, and we anticipate seeing some fantastic innovation at this conference. And so, we look forward to hearing about the ways in which we can work together to deliver quality education for all our children here in the Western Cape.”

Wesgro CEO, Wrenelle Stander, highlights the agency's efforts to boost private sector participation and the adoption of innovative solutions to improve access to quality education and skills development. She notes that the Western Cape, with its strong tech ecosystem, is rapidly becoming a global hub for online education, attracting major industry players. "Through our Edu Invest catalytic project, powered by Wesgro and supported by the Western Cape Education Department, we are focused on attracting investment into the education sector. Driving partnerships with the private sector is essential to realising this objective, and conferences like Open edX provide a unique opportunity to showcase the enormous potential of our beautiful province," Stander says.

The Cape Town and Western Cape Convention Bureau, powered by Wesgro, offered bid support for the event, helping bring this important conference to the province. This further solidifies the region’s status as a premier business events destination. The event also celebrated the region’s heritage, featuring South Africa’s national flower, the Protea, as a core decorative element in the dining area. The cuisine served was authentic South African, adding to the cultural experience.

The Open edX Conference 2024 not only had a direct financial impact on the local economy but is also expected to drive long-term economic growth in related sectors such as transportation, information technology, marketing services, and investment. Furthermore, it will elevate the knowledge economy and promote global networking.