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Why Do so Many African Students Study Abroad?

Many young people from the continent seek educational opportunities overseas.
September 21, 2022
5 mins read

The number of African students migrating abroad for tertiary education is incredibly high. A decade ago, 380,376 African students (6% of all African students) attended a foreign institution, according to Institution World News. By 2020, around 5% of the 8.1 million African students have moved abroad, and trustworthy sources project that this figure will increase tenfold by 2027.

What drives this population to cross the border despite the high price tags associated with such developments? Here, this article will look at the primary motivators that drive people to pursue higher education abroad.

The Rapidly Changing Demographics

Africa’s student population is rapidly expanding, mirroring the continent’s apparent demographic boom. According to ICEF Monitor,  a market information source for the global education sector, Africa has one of the fastest student population growth rates.

More specifically, Sub-Saharan Africa’s college-aged population is expanding faster than in any other region of the world. In the last five years, the number of students who moved to the United States increased by 29.5%, overshadowing the region’s previous low student enrollment.

The increased student mobility is a result of the growing college-aged population. This expansion is one of the primary drivers of student migration to postsecondary institutions abroad.

Is it affordable to study abroad?

Despite the increase of outbound students, the issue of affordability remains, given the pervasive economic insecurity.

One idea holds that students from Sub-Saharan Africa can live abroad on less than $20,000 per year. In foreign countries, spending less money makes living easier, yet achieving such an income is easier said than done.

Furthermore, most students have relocated to take advantage of possibilities that are suitable to their student lifestyle. These are increasingly becoming available with the advancement and easier access to online opportunities. Many students make ends meet by working as content writers, sports forecasters, and other online jobs. Such options are available through online sites such as

Education Quality, Actual and Perceived

Many African students cannot afford a high-quality education, according to several theories. When compared to the overall college-age population, those who can afford to study abroad or who are fortunate enough to earn a scholarship are still in the minority. As a result, there is still a difference in educational attainment in Sub-Saharan African nations.

The long-held belief that degrees and certifications obtained overseas are superior to those obtained locally persists in many African settings. Many college-age students are drawn to colleges in other nations, particularly the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, China and Australia.

Students are pursuing this path now more than ever to acquire an advantage over other candidates in the competitive employment market. They attend foreign institutions because they believe that studying abroad will offer them an advantage over those who study domestically with comparable qualifications.

This view is fueled by the region’s overabundance of universities. With the increase in the number of universities in the region, there is a perceived reduction in educational quality. Students are mobilized in search of higher-quality education as a result of this mindset.

The belief is, in some ways, a product of facts. Poor educational policies are well known in some African nations. Due to underfunding, local public institutions are occasionally in a financial bind. Poor educational quality brought on by a lack of resources forces pupils to go outside of Africa for alternatives. Nigeria serves as a prime example. Many Nigerians look for opportunities abroad since local universities are underfunded. Unexpectedly, more than 40% of them rely on scholarships funded by oil sales.

National and Global Political and Economic Trends

The urge to pursue higher education abroad is mostly influenced by personal preference and familial influence. However, decisions can be significantly influenced by regional, global and national political and economic issues.

Conflicts and political worries in general lead to pressures that increase the number of students who leave the country. Political stability is an inescapable need for education, so students must look for alternative learning environments in peaceful nations.

A crucial component is economic stability. Unfortunately, the poor economic conditions in many African nations contribute to the high rates of unemployment among recent graduates. It is vital to pursue more promising work options by studying abroad because there is a risk of becoming a victim of the nation’s rampant unemployment. Professional prospects are frequently cited as one of the main reasons why students choose to study abroad.

It is a positive trend that so many African students are going abroad for their education, especially in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and other highly regarded educational locations. The rising tendency is the result of a number of factors, including changes in the political and economic climate, demographic upheavals, and the perception of educational quality inequality. This trend is expected to persist as more college-age students enroll in African universities, especially in the Sub-Saharan region.

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