CIDA – education for young Africans

Posted on: September 26, 2008

When I was in South Africa last week, I made a visit that really gave me faith in fellow humans. It was to CIDA City Campus in central Johannesburg.


CIDA Campus is a private university set up by an NGO, Community and Industry Development Association (CDA), in 1999 to give bright young Africans who can’t afford to go to university the chance to study.


At present, it enrolls 350 to 400 students each year, with 90% from South Africa and the rest from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, etc. They all study for a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), although there are pathways within it such as ICT, management, communications, etc. The first graduates were in 2004.


There are many extraordinary features of CIDA that are different from the mainstream SA universities or almost any university in the world:


        Students pay a token amount of fees per month at R150 (c. £10) which covers their teaching, two meals a day and housing. For the first Foundation year, students only pay R350 (£24.10) for the whole year.

        Students do cleaning and maintenance tasks on Saturdays; they are also expected to ‘buddy’ someone in their home town or area to encourage them in their learning and to work with their home community.

        They all do practicums with the corporate supporters during their studies which helps their employment. The latest data shows that 84% of recent graduates are in employment, mainly with the supporters.

        Teaching was initially undertaken by committed volunteers and part-timers; Now CIDA is moving to a more professional level.

        It relies entirely on corporate funding and support from charitable trusts. Examples include the CIDA Campus building which was given to it by the SA financial institution Investec; Michael Dell of Dell Computers personally donated all computers, servers and IT networks; Richard Branson set up the eponymous School of Entrepreneurship and visits 3-4 times a year; Thomson Reuters helped set up a replica stock exchange trading room and sponsors a School of Investment; etc.

        CIDA has set up Foundations in the UK and US by which to seek funds; it has also set up Empowerment and Investment Funds in SA to support students and young entrepreneurs (similar to Prince’s Trust in the UK). There is also a newly-formed Alumni Fund.


Before visiting CIDA, I discussed it with University of Pretoria academics who spoke highly of the CIDA students whom they have met during inter-university academic competitions describing them as “very bright and very committed to their studies; they absolutely appreciate the life changing opportunity being given to them.”


And that was the impression I gained from two students that I met – Innocent from Harare, Zimbabwe and Nombulelo from NE South Africa. Both were very strong performers at secondary school but did not have the resources in family or finances to continue to university. Apparently only nine per cent of “block matriculants” (similar to UK A-Levels) go to university in SA and CIDA offers an opportunity denied to the great mass of them. Nombulelo said that she had been offered a place at Wits University in Johannesburg but could not afford to take it up. Both students spoke glowingly of the opportunity given to them, how they treasured it and enjoyed their studies. It was a stark contrast to many UK students who expect to attend university as a rite of passage.


Touring around the Campus building was equally as inspiring as the students’ attitudes. It is spacious, mostly well-equipped and a secure place for study in a city with crime problems. Students were courteous but noisy as a young people are everywhere.


This is an incredibly noble venture aimed at creating a cadre of well-educated young Africans who can change their own weak economies and polities through knowledge, leadership and entrepreneurship – and it is delivering results; CIDA is highly regarded by major international corporations and really makes a difference to the lives of Africans through our knowledge and experience in higher education and key disciplines.


1 Response to "CIDA – education for young Africans"

Mmy school,African Leadership Academy is also aiming at creating new yopung leadesr for Africa.Its good to see that there are other people out there doing the same thing!!Write to me,would love to hear more about it.

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