‘Transforming educational outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa’

Education Sub-Saharan Africa was founded in 2016 to join up, inform, inspire, focus and increase impact for everyone investing in education in sub-Saharan Africa. Swift progress has already enabled us to broaden our initial focus on Higher Education to Tertiary.



The context is challenging but rich in opportunity.

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Our Contribution

Our Contribution

  • “Driven by sole desire to improve educational outcomes” 


  • Being a proactive connector

    ESSA is engaged in thinking about education as a whole.  The relationships ESSA has developed across many different communities enable us to not only see useful connections but to make them. For example, ESSA has connected the Association of African Universities (AAU) and Ghana’s National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) with the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), one of the globally leading demographic institutions, and the MASTERCARD FOUNDATION to conduct pioneering work on the demographics of faculty.

  • Driving knowledge into action

    Knowledge only has real value when it drives action and informs impact. At ESSA we want those operating in the education space to have easy access and free knowledge to enhance investment and policy decisions.  We will do this through joining up and inspiring those we work with directly and indirectly and by highlighting what has proven to be effective to increase impact.

    ESSA cooperates with African researchers and the REAL Centre  (Research for Equitable Access and Learning) at University of Cambridge . Having learnt that there was no “one place to go” for research on Education in sub-Saharan Africa undertaken by Africa-based researchers the REAL Centre and ESSA are creating it. There are few opportunities for education researchers based in Africa to get together and collaborate. An excellent example of researchers who have established comprehensive exchange and ongoing cooperation is AREB - Atelier de Recherche sur l’éducation au Burkina Faso. ESSA has supported their conference: “L’éducation au Burkina Faso: progrès, défis actuels et perspectives” in November 2017.

  • Building the 'go to' Knowledge Hub for everything related to 'Education in sub-Saharan Africa'

    Where can you go to find the most useful and relevant research on education in sub-Saharan Africa to inform policy and practice?  Where can you discover what governments, NGO’s, corporates and others are doing in the space?  What are the key statistics?  Which are the most effective models for what you are thinking of doing?  At the moment there is no obvious place to discover these and other potentially useful information.  Knowledge is highly fragmented and can be hard to find but ESSA wants to change this.

    Step-by-step we want to create the ‘internet of education’ in sub-Saharan Africa making it a magnet for those wishing to share and publicise their work and experiences.  We have already made rapid progress in mapping the space ahead of launching our digital platform.   

    ESSA contributes to attaining the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and is in alignment with the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA).

  • Inspiring and leading capacity and capability transformations

    Demographics, changes in technology and ever-increasing expectations have dramatic implications for everyone involved in delivering high quality education which are both exciting and daunting.  In this way ESSA will contribute to the significant priority of building both capacity and capability.

    Building on effective existing programmes and creating new programmes requires significant effort and investment. ESSA will play a role in this through inspiring and connecting those who can provide highly effective solutions and resources with those who need them.


Our principles

In order to achieve maximum impact our approach is based on the following principles:
  • Partnership model

    Important work is being done by many to achieve the SDGs, with some major successes such as increased access to education. Unfortunately, this work is not always joined up. ESSA’s approach of proactively connecting those with the most relevant expertise, knowledge and relationships is already bringing value to the work of our partners. An example is our multi-faceted partnership with the Association of African Universities (AAU).

  • High engagement

    Our starting point has been to listen to learners, teachers, communities, governments, businesses, academics, NGOs, philanthropists and others in and outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Through focusing on the outcomes they want to achieve, supporting their work and adding to it we are already building strong communities of interest across these groups. From student and teacher workshops in deprived and rural schools as well as in Higher Education institutions to contributing at major strategic gatherings

  • Step by Step mentality

    We have built momentum and relationships quickly through an early emphasis on Higher Education and a focus on capacity and capability development. The range of partnerships built has been critical in assembling the funding, resources and credibility to create the conditions for sustainable impact.

    We have chosen Tertiary Education sector as a first step because successful Tertiary Education institutions are powerful drivers of local and national economic development.  As well as innovation hubs, they develop and train educators across the educational spectrum and are also gateways into the educational ecosystems of countries.

  • Africans at the heart of all we do

    ESSA is driven by partnerships with institutions on the African continent.  These partners include leading organisations such as the Association of African Universities (AAU), Ghana’s National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) and the Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA).

    Our growing Board will be majority African and we are continuing the process with the recent appointment of Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwemba, Ambassador of Botswana to Germany, joining Joel Kibazo as our first two African trustees.

    Since start-up we have worked with 33 African students from 15 African countries who have had the opportunity to take part in our paid internship programme.

    “ We love the idea that ESSA has been born out of teaching learners and training teachers in schools like ours. The idea that something so bold has been sparked and shaped by our views and those of the learners is inspiring. When the ESSA team says it puts Africans at the heart of all it does it really means it.” 

    Magdalene Mtwele - Mafiga Teacher School, Morogoro Tanzania

  • High impact, cost effective mindset

    Our supporters, partners and funders have enabled us to keep costs low through secondments, pro-bono contributions and in other ways. 



Every project or activity we undertake has clear goals and individual measures of success.

So far we have:

Our nascent Pilot Scholarship Impact Hub has already started to change the discourse on this key topic in order to fulfil SDG4 by asking some basic questions: 

  • "What are the characteristics of highly effective scholarship programmes?" from the perspective of funders, providers and scholars. 

  • "What would be a robust set of Key Performance Indicators by which to judge and chart progress of such programmes?"


  • "Is scholarship funding targeted at the areas of most strategic need?"  

This work is an important step towards increasing impact and return on investment in the scholarship space. 




ESSA is registered as a UK charity (Registration:1166958) and is regulated by the UK Charity Commission. Our Board of trustees is focussed on ensuring that ESSA has the right strategy, resources and governance to fulfil our objectives. 

ESSA adheres to and agrees with the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) 'Charity Ethical Principles'.