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Who we are

Created in 2016, ESSA is a UK registered charity advocating and actively working for more systematic cooperation and investment in the Tertiary Education space. Our aim is to join up inform, inspire and increase impact for everyone investing in education in sub-Saharan Africa. ESSA’s work is framed by SDG 4 and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA).

With a billion more people on the continent within a generation, quality Tertiary Education will be a main driver of socio-economic transformation, if young people can find or create work, and if their education allows them to do so. ESSA supports educational institutions to be more aware of the needs of employers and engages with business to work systematically about their contribution to bridge the gap towards education.

With African and non-African partners, ESSA co-designs and implements initiatives directed to tackling fundamental challenges in the tertiary sector. Our partners include governments, educational institutions and businesses within Africa and outside. We benefit from the support of world-class philanthropic institutions like the Robert Bosch Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation, the Jacobs Foundation and the Schaufler Foundation.

ESSA’s work is based on the conviction that:

  • systematic cooperation can make a real difference

  • focus needs to be on transferring and scaling what has proven to work

  • capacity and capability building are essential

  • existing knowledge needs to be made usable and brought to action to increase real options for impact

ESSA’s early emphasis has been on four areas:

  • the collation and curation of robust educational data to support policy and practice

  • the collation, curation and access to educational research by Africans

  • pipelines for the recruitment of faculty

  • impactful scholarships for socio-economic change

Building upon this, ESSA will now concentrate on the “nexus between education and work” in three initial partner-countries on the African continent which are in the course of being decided.


Labour-markets in African countries remain largely informal; underemployment coexists with significant numbers of positions in the formal employment sector for which local talent often cannot be found. ESSA will cooperate with business and with educational institutions to support increased exchange and cooperation between these sectors. Our focus will be on quality internships, career and study advice as well as on entrepreneurship, in industry-sectors which are most relevant for the creation of jobs such as technology or agriculture.

Our early track record, initial positioning and robust resourcing-model allows ESSA to now enter into its next development phase and to build, in the coming three years, the foundation for a global alliance to support Tertiary Education for decent work in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Transformed educational outcomes for better access to work and a decent life in sub-Saharan Africa.


To collate and bring together the best of what governments, the education communities, research, donors, the private sector and civil society have to offer to improve Tertiary Education in sub-Saharan Africa in order to better fit the needs of the labour markets. It is to contribute bringing this practical knowledge to action and to capitalize on it, leveraging resources and expertise and to support the capacity and capability building which is needed to make this a reality.