An A+ Approach to Higher Education in South Africa

IFC’s investments in ADvTECH will offer better access to education for at least 30,000 South African students © Rosebank College

When Cleopatra Jones graduated from Rosebank College, a higher education institution in South Africa, she landed a coveted internship with the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Rosebank College encourages internships as a path to post-graduation employment, but Jones had a problem: like 98 percent of the College’s other students, she came from a disadvantaged background (most are of African ancestry), and she did not have enough money to cover the bus fare to and from her internship.

After graduating, Jones became a production assistant
on a popular TV show © Rosebank College

Since Rosebank College takes an active role in students’ job placement, it already had a plan in place for obstacles like this. The bus fare was paid by the Graduate Empowerment Program, an initiative devoted to helping its students find fulfilling, long-term employment. That’s just one of dozens of ways that Rosebank College is committed to addressing the most challenging aspects of South Africa’s higher-education system—challenges that reflect the legacy of apartheid and discourage nearly 80 percent of college-age South Africans from pursuing higher education.

Rosebank College is a subsidiary of IFC client ADvTECH, a publicly listed education company based in South Africa. IFC recently increased its support for ADvTECH, acquiring a 2.5 percent equity stake. IFC’s investment of 190 million rand (approximately $13 million) in newly issued shares supported the company’s expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. After the initial investment, IFC acquired a further 1.6 percent of ADvTECH’s stock in the market, raising our combined investment to 320 million rand (approximately $22 million) and our total holdings to around 4 percent of the company.

IFC’s investments will offer better access to education for at least 30,000 additional South African students—at Rosebank College and many other ADvTECH institutions—who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to pursue quality education or vocational training. It will also provide new learning options for students leaving high school.


A Market-Oriented Approach to Higher Education

South Africa has emerged as an engine of growth for Africa in the past few years. Yet just 22 percent of college-age South Africans pursue higher education, which is essential for sustained economic development. In addition, major racial disparities persist:  only 16 percent of college-age black South Africans continue their tertiary education, compared with 55 percent of white South Africans.

Rosebank College is committed to addressing the challenges to enrollment and racial disparity. Its five campuses provide undergraduate, bachelor, and post-graduate degrees, diplomas, and certificates to nearly 15,000 full-time students, 98 percent of whom are of African descent or from a disadvantaged background. The programs focus on fulfilling the needs of South Africa’s job market, targeting the IT, management, and commercial sectors.

Post-graduation employment is emphasized and supported throughout ADvTECH institutions of higher learning because 40 percent of South African adults under 35 are unemployed.  Rosebank College, for example, places 70 percent of its students in jobs within six months of graduating.

ADvTECH aims to build on the success of its job-centered approach to education by expanding into new markets in sub-Saharan Africa, starting with Botswana, Ghana, and Kenya. IFC is co-financing this expansion plan, which is in line with our overall mission to bring affordable, high-quality private education to underserved markets.


Empowering Graduates to Find Employment

The ADvTECH Graduate Empowerment Program at Rosebank College, which helped Cleopatra Jones win her internship, is an especially good example of ADvTECH’s practice of contributing meaningfully towards the sustainable development of human capacity in South Africa through the provision of education, training, skills development, and career placement services. The Program maintain close contacts with students and corporations throughout the country, connecting students with prospective employers. Program administrators personally evaluate and match graduates with companies like Apple, South African Airways, Vodacom, Bidvest, or the other 700-plus businesses on their books.

The Program also houses an informal funding project called My Brother’s Keeper, through which alumni and college staff offer financial help to students, providing money to cover their transport, food, and rent until they get their first paycheck.

That’s how Cleopatra Jones found bus fare for the internship with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and she proved herself to be a sound investment. After graduation, Jones won a spot there as production assistant on a popular television show—becoming yet another Rosebank College graduate well positioned to contribute her talent and skills to a new South Africa.

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Published in December 2016


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