The remote learning boom: 3 South African Edtech start-ups to watch and draw inspiration from

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited. Photo: Supplied

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited. Photo: Supplied

Published Mar 13, 2022


THE NATIONAL lockdown that followed the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound effect on education.

Schools were forced to shut their doors, postpone exams, and adjust the normal school terms. Those who had the capacity and resources to move into the online learning space, did so – teachers conducted lessons via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, used Seesaw or their emails for the submission of projects and utilised messenger apps to stay connected with their students and parents.

The result, on a global scale as well as locally, is that a new contender entered the business realm and catalysed an industry boom that is changing the way South Africa sees education – Edtech. While digital technology has been finding its way into the contemporary classroom, as well as workplaces and universities over a number of years, the pandemic led to a monumental acceleration of this trend.

Remote learning, like remote working, is a booming sector and has opened up a world of opportunity for aspiring tech entrepreneurs. According to the latest statistics, there are over 290 Edtech start-ups in South Africa – and that list is still growing.

These are three of the pioneering Edtech start-ups that are leading the charge in South Africa to draw inspiration from.


In South Africa, the digital divide poses a very real threat to students who do not have unlimited access to the internet. This challenge makes it very difficult for these children to download study notes and past papers and to conduct research. Using WhatsApp, FoondaMate is changing this status quo, one instant message at a time.

Students can access a chatbot called Nelson via WhatsApp and ask questions relating to anything they may need help with. Through the chatbot, they’ll also be granted access to lessons, practice exercises, memos and worksheets.

Co-founders Tao Boyle and Dacod Magagula reported a 64 percent increase in sign-ups on a month-to-month basis from May to June 2021, putting their total sign-ups at almost 140 000 at the time. FoondaMate is expanding its reach through collaborations with financial institutions that can provide sponsored content on financial literacy and other important life skills.


Functioning as a digital directory that connects teachers with students who require academic support, Smartpozi is fulfilling its mission to break down barriers, encourage knowledge sharing and provide access to education for under served communities.

As a digital platform, Smartpozi allows students to learn from their “pozi” (home) by giving them access to a database of tutors and teachers who specialise in a host of subjects, from mathematics and English to Afrikaans and biology. The platform allows learners to search by school subject, language, grade and location, and they can review each teacher’s credentials before signing up to work with them.

Smartpozi is a product of Joburg-based Khula Africa Innovation Projects and was founded by Siyabulela and Lungile Bomvu. The platform currently offers several learning options, including face-to-face lessons as well as telephonic and online lessons.


Fondly referred to as South Africa’s first “unicorn,” the Go1 e-learning platform is aimed at individuals of working age who wish to develop themselves through education and training. Offering a range of solutions for small businesses, content creators, enterprises and government, the platform is currently one of the world’s larger corporate education content hubs for on-demand training and resources.

Recently, its founders, Melvyn Lubega and Andrew Barnes announced a R3 billion Series D investment, putting the company’s value at more than $1 billion and making it a serious contender in the global Edtech space.

Currently, around 3.5 million learners and 1 600 customer organisations around the world use the platform to educate and upskill themselves on a range of topics, including customer service, compliance, IT skills and leadership.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.

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