‘There Is No Equation For Doing Business in Africa’ – Kolawole Olajide
Kolawole Olajide, the 26-year-old education innovator and entrepreneur is passionate about two things: increasing access to education for many across the African continent, and developing the right technology to make this possible. In the process, Nigerian-born Olajide has built one of the most exciting e-learning tools in Africa, Clock Academy.
The company produces online learning tools – both resources and content – for, what they believe are the learning environments of the future. They are also driving the use of data analytics to drive decisions in the learning environment.
“At Clock, we have developed the next generation education technology toolbox to help institutions deliver a holistic digital experience across all functions of the learning environment with a focus on using our platform to flip the classroom and take advantage of the power of our technology to better understand learner performance and construct remedial learning paths,” says Olajide.
Being online, Clock is helping to democratise access to knowledge.
“Clock’s mission is to organise the world’s information into small chunks of knowledge making it very practical for anyone to assimilate. A boundless knowledge repository that would be valuable to many people is currently sitting on the internet.
“We launched Clock Academy as an open learning system that allows anyone to synthesize the world’s information and to empower everyone to share their knowledge for the benefit of the rest of the world,” says Olajide.
Clock’s mission has struck a cord with others, they have successfully partnered with multinationals like Microsoft, their biggest project thus far is with the African Leadership University, which seeks to use his platform at their ten University campuses expected to open by 2025.
“We have also managed to convince some of the most important people in education on the continent to work with us”
The interest in education is not a first for Olajide who got his start as co-founder and lead engineer at Funda, an online programme that develops learning management systems.
Olajide talks to SME South Africa about what drives his passion for education and the ways technology can enhance the learning experience.
Q: What drives you to use technology to solve challenges in education, particularly your interest in using it to progress education on the continent?
I was once a victim of the current education system. While I was studying I always thought of different ways technology could enhance my learning experience. A huge percentage of my learning was outside the classroom and it made me think deeply about how we can redesign education to accommodate everybody. e.g as a systems engineer, I learnt a lot from collaborating with my peers globally but peer collaboration wasn’t a learning pillar in most institutions on the continent.
I was more interested in learning outcomes than final exam scores, I always wondered why the two were not connected in most learning systems to promote transparency in the learning process. These examples are part of the reasons I have chosen to develop education on the continent.
Q: What role do you see yourselves playing in Africa’s education system?
Our focus for the next 10 years is to become the technical muscle behind all forward thinking institutions on the continent. Depending on how that goes, we will make a decision around a global expansion.
Q: What has been your adoption rate since inception and what are your projections for the future?
So far so good. We have spent the last two years developing advanced learning technology in collaboration with some of our partners (African Leadership University and Instill Education). We are gradually starting to expand and deliver holistic digital solutions to learning institutions across the continent. We recently signed a technology partnership with Microsoft to help us scale up our innovation in a global context.
Q: What are the challenges you face and how have you been able to tackle them?
We face very unique challenges for a startup. A big question I ask myself is how fast should we grow? Should we work with every school or only work with new schools that provide a clean slate for innovation and are very open to change?
Should we take any project in education technology just because it is offering cash? For now we have chosen to work with a selected group of schools and institutions so that we can craft a unique learning experience with powerful technology and then gradually scale up as we progress.
Q: What have been your biggest accomplishments so far?
We have raised capital, successfully developed the first version of our first learning solution which is supporting the African Leadership University and signed a partnership with Microsoft. We have also managed to convince some of the most important people in education on the continent to work with us.
Q: With regards to funding, is this a self-funded social venture or do you rely on investors?
We relied on investors in the past, Clock was started with seed capital of over $250K USD.
Q: You have a remarkable list of advisors who are leaders in the education system. How will their experience and wealth of knowledge help you and your team realise the Clock dream in the future?
I have always known the solution for the education crisis will have to be created in collaboration with the shapers of education globally. Our advisors provide us with strategy, access to networks, and most importantly access to the right problems. This is very important for us to succeed.
Q: From your experience as a young person working to redefine the education system, what have been some of the valuable lessons you have learnt?
It has been a very interesting experience. It is very easy to be dragged in different directions. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is to remain focused on the bigger picture and everything will fall into place.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone seeking to work in a similar social enterprise such as yours?
There is no equation for doing business in Africa. Nobody knows it all. Play according to your strengths and choose your team wisely.