Partnering With Microsoft to Transform Education in Africa

Guest Post By Claire Ighodaro CBE
Independent Director, British Council 

As a British Council Trustee, I was proud to announce a new international education and training partnership with Microsoft this morning, at the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum 2011 in Washington DC.

The partnership with Microsoft is a perfect match, as it aligns with the British Council’s core mission: to build trust and create opportunities. We do 'soft power', to use Joseph Nye's phrase, and we do it on a vast scale, operating in 110 countries and 191 cities across the globe. In fact, we were recently described in the Huffington Post as 'probably the world's best cultural diplomacy agency.'

The first project in this new partnership will provide teachers and learners across Africa with the skills they need to live and work in a global economy. I have seen firsthand the British Council's education programmes in Africa, and the results of their investment are extraordinary. So I am delighted that the first project in the new British Council - Microsoft partnership will happen in Africa, where we have the experience and connections to work effectively with educators and leaders on the ground to really make a difference.

At the British Council, we work in three areas: English, Arts, and Education and Society. In terms of our reach and impact, we're the world's leading cultural relations organization. Last year our work engaged more than 30 million people worldwide, and we reached almost 600 million people through digital and broadcast media - approaching one in ten of the earth's people.

Those numbers are large, but here is an even bigger statistic: three billion people today are under 25. Our common future depends on releasing their potential. This is what is at the heart of our new partnership. We cannot predict what's ahead, but we know that tomorrow's world will be complex and fast-changing, and that there will be major challenges ahead.

According to the International Labor Organization, 160 million people worldwide are unemployed. That includes 64 million young people. And yet there is also a huge and growing shortage of people with the skills that the 21st century requires.  Global connectivity is rapidly transforming the world, as online and mobile technologies converge. By 2014, there will be 6.5 billion mobile subscribers. That's more than 90% of the world's entire population. This new world demands a whole new set of skills.

We need outstanding, energetic young people with the skills to navigate this complex landscape. Alongside competence with IT, they will need superb communication and teamwork skills to understand and work with people in their schools and communities. And just as importantly, they will need the skills to reach out and work with people on the other side of the world.

Where do we begin to address these issues? We believe the answer is through partnerships. We cannot do this alone. We must develop creative new alliances to address our common future, with states, businesses, educational organisations and individuals.

Our two organizations have complementary expertise in technology, education and cultural relations. Our joint expertise forms a solid foundation for a productive, sustainable alliance.

Technology is a tool that, when well used, can improve teaching and learning. But technology is just one piece of a larger solution, supported by progressive national education policies, professional development for educators, and innovations led by teachers on the ground.

This project is not just about wiring schools. It is about ensuring that young people in their communities are equipped with skills that will serve them throughout their lives: leadership, self-confidence, creativity, ambition, and a desire to connect and contribute to the wider world.

Claire Ighodaro CBE is a Board member, Non-executive Director and Audit Committee Chair of Lloyd’s of London, the UK’s Lending Standards Board and the British Council. She is also a Council Member of the Open University and a Past President of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Comments (7)

  1. msafrica says:

    Thank you for your interest, and apologies for the delay in response. Please e-mail with your queries about this programme, and we will connect you with the appropriate contact as soon as possible.

  2. Dyonis Ndungu says:

    I'm so excited to be part of this project in Africa because as you have rightly put it, this project will equip young people with skills for posterity. Moreover, through this partnership, British Council and Microsoft lead the way in developing a global network of collaborative leaders who will confidently navigate this new hyperconnected environment, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, videoconferencing, and a host of other technologies that have put connectivity on steroids enabling new forms of collaboration that we could only dream of a short while ago.

  3. Babatunde Abagun says:

    A laudable effort and indeed a prospectively successful partnership between the two professional giants.

    I'm a renowned Information technology professional in Nigeria, and hold Microsoft certifications such as MCITP,MCSA,MCTS,MCP.I was recently given a Microsoft community contributor award for my contributions in Microsoft online technical communities.

    I'm quite excited at the prospect of the digital hubs to be built across Africa to enhance quality of education, and indeed interested in being a part of it. Please i would like to know who i should contact or how to go about my quest of being a part of the digital Hub establishment and(or) training the teachers. Please you can send a mail to me on

  4. Alemay from DAPT Assesments & Part. Trainings company says:

    My name is Alemayehu and highly interested in this partnership initiative with Microsoft. I am from Ethiopia and working in DAPT -Assessment and Trainings firm as the executive Dircotor and coordinator of  a value based social enterprise program know as "Value-TIMES" [Technology transefer, Information Managment, Education Services]


    Hi am from Botswana working for ministry of education skills development teacher training development and would like to further my studies as a computer programmer and software developer. so i want to know whr do i start to apply?

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