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Recruiting Intelligence

When Traditional Student Markets Weaken, Look to Africa: Part 2

Africa Markets

All eyes on China is not a winning international student recruitment strategy today. Not that it ever was. The stronger approach: diversifying the pool of countries your institution pulls from. We’ve been saying this for more than a decade. Institutional budget allocations have not always heeded the advice.

We get it. Student volume and confidence in achieving enrollment targets have driven academic CFOs and others who manage risk to take the more conservative path. Over the past decade+, our clients are typically those interested in pushing beyond the conservative global recruitment path. They are the institutions that recognize the value of building a broad range of relationships to feed their student enrollment.

This diversification, both domestic and international, provides for more long-term stability. That strategy is becoming far more attractive to many more institutions today. And that strategy takes time and investment to execute well, to build a reliable and diverse supply chain as it were.

Last week we wrote about the three key things to look for in markets ripe for international student recruitment: a growing youth population, rising incomes, and employment opportunities for returning graduates. And a growing list of countries in Africa is meeting the short(er) list for institutions seeking international students. It may be time you take a closer look at this region.

Here’s the link to Part 1 in this 2-part series (in case you missed it). Today we offer student recruitment insights for Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania.

And for more African student recruitment insights from our pre-Covid research (still highly relevant as you develop your recruitment plans), check out:

With a nod to last week’s post (with many useful links for the careful planner that we know you are), important to note that there is competition for these students from attractive and less expensive institutions in Russia (before the Ukrainian crisis), France, Germany, China, and some Middle Eastern countries.

In our discussion of 7 African nations, we cite a variety of useful sources to demonstrate how varied information sources will add to your country and cultural perspectives. Hopefully through this post and the next, you will find some new research sites to support your planning. (We love participating in that broader teaching mission as well).

Read on for tips on recruiting students from Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania

A review of key data points for our 7 countries:

Country Data* Source: WorldBank  **Source: WorldBank


Ethiopia Recruitment Insights:

Ethiopia has been home to a long-term civil conflict, leading to immense humanitarian, security, and infrastructure costs. A truce called in March 2022 is helping the country continue its progress towards economic recovery, with 6.3% growth in FY 2020/21.

Currently, 70% of the population works in agriculture which did not suffer significantly due to Covid (source: World Bank). The growth is, in part, due to several large-scale infrastructure projects in the works using foreign investment in various forms. Construction of a hydroelectric power dam, new highways, and an electric railway system are contributing to labor opportunities. Ethiopia has a shortage of medical doctors, especially in rural regions. They are also in need of qualified teachers at all levels of education.

With many international and private schools and a lack of post-secondary education options, Ethiopia is a fertile market for US higher education recruitment. However, the number of outbound students from Ethiopia is relatively small compared to other countries, with 2,166 students coming to the US in academic year 2020/2021. The highest participation rates are of men from higher-income families.

Among degree-seeking Ethiopian students, the US is the most popular destination country, accounting for 24.5% of international enrollments (source: WENR – useful country overview from 2018).

 Ethiopia Economic data:

  • Great perspective on the economy and rising industries: manufacturing, construction, communication and transport services, hotel and restaurant businesses, wholesale and retail trading. (US Dept of Commerce)
  • Great perspective on employment opportunities: Ethiojobs

South Africa

South Africa Recruitment Insights:

South Africa’s post-secondary institutions are among the most extensive in all of Africa. South Africa was the fourth most popular study abroad destination for students across Africa in 2014 and continues to be a strong draw (useful historical source of info from WENR). With in-country options, a relatively low number of students from South Africa currently study abroad. Among those who do travel, many of them come to the US, with 2,079 South African students coming to study in the US in 2020/2021 (source: IIE).

With a shortage of teachers, South Africa will need up to 30,000 additional teachers by 2025 WENR reports. There is also a shortage of doctors and medical professionals. Technical and vocational training is a focus within the country, but social sciences, business, and medicine are the primary interests of students. Because of the underrepresentation of Black South Africans in post-secondary institutions, consider promoting a mentorship program for these students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

 South Africa Economic data:

  • Great perspective on the economy and rising industries: banking and financial services, IT, transportation, mining, agriculture, and healthcare (US Dept of Commerce)
  • Great perspective on employment opportunities: PNet


Morocco Recruitment Insights:

Morocco has the highest study abroad rate of all the African nations. Strong ties with the US are demonstrated by the reciprocal transfer of students between the two countries. After Egypt, the US is the most popular study location for Moroccan students. It also boasts the higher rate of internet use among the 7 countries we discuss in this 2-part series.

1,294 Moroccan students studied in the US during the 2020-2021 academic year (source: Morocco World News). The Moroccan government has dedicated 26.3% of its general budget to education and is also offering financial support for students to study abroad.

There are several scholarships and exchange programs available through the US Embassy in Morocco including Fulbrights. With a high proportion of internet users in the country, Morocco has ample opportunity for digital marketing and recruitment.

The strongest and growing industries in Morocco are agriculture, tourism, telecoms, and textile. The International Trade Administration (US Dept of Commerce) reports that the Moroccan government has prioritized spending in the energy, IT, and health sectors, leading to a need for engineering professionals in R&D, energy, computing, civil, and biotech.

Morocco Economic data:

  • Great perspective on the economy and rising industries: banking and financial services, IT, transportation, mining, agriculture, and healthcare (US Dept of Commerce)
  • Great perspective on employment opportunities: Bayt


Tanzania Recruitment Insights:

The Tanzanian government is eager to develop its education sector. Tanzania achieved an important milestone in July 2020 when it officially moved from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country according to the World Bank’s analysis. However, it continues to experience constant political and economic changes which impact the educational system. Historically, a lack of finances and inequalities between urban and rural schools have reduced enrollment rates at all levels of education.

Tanzania has one of the lowest numbers of outbound students on our list, with 699 students studying in the US during the 2020-2021 school year (a significant decline from year’s past due to Covid). Tanzania also shows the lowest rate of internet use among the 7 countries we discuss in this 2-part series.

The International Trade Administration (US Department of Commerce) lists information and communication technology, infrastructure, and agribusiness as the industries with the biggest potential in Tanzania. Economic opportunities in these sectors call on a need for advanced degrees in engineering, business management, and computer sciences.

Due to a lack of technological infrastructure, Tanzania is a challenging market to break into with digital recruitment strategies. Recruiting partnership opportunities are valuable here. Note that Tanzania requires foreign institutions and agencies looking to recruit students to apply and register with the Tanzania Commission for Universities.

Tanzania Economic data:

  • Great perspective on the economy and rising industries: lists information and communication technology, infrastructure, and agribusiness. Strong industries also represented here include: mining, transportation, manufacturing, renewable energy, wholesale and retail trade, travel and tourism, real estate, and business services (US Dept of Commerce)
  • Great perspective on employment opportunities: Tanzajob

Closing Thoughts

A deeper dive into specific and targeted market research will set you up for a powerful recruiting strategy with clear benchmarks for entering a new market. You’ll want to read this post about new market entry planning as a next step. Gotta identify your most valuable student segments and the messaging that will resonate.

We specialize in creative international recruitment strategies and the innovative mindset required to help institutions execute a plan and enroll a diverse and engaged student body. Drop us a line. We would love to help you find and approach the new markets that make the most sense for your institution anywhere in the world.

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