British International Investment


AfricaCaribbeanEast AfricaNorth AfricaSouth AmericaSouthern AfricaWest AfricaConsumer - Education

UNICAF is Africa’s leading online and blended learning higher education provider.

The company provides international-standard post-graduate degree programs to working adults across Africa, but at a price-point that is up to 80 per cent less than the cost of those degrees in the UK or US.

Founded in 2012 by Dr Nicos Nicolaou, UNICAF partners with international universities, and offers its own locally accredited degrees. It has grown rapidly and now reaches approximately 15,000 students, growing at more than 50 per cent each year.

The company has a physical presence in nine African countries, including branch campuses in Malawi and Zambia.

This investment was made when British International Investment was named CDC Group.

Our investment

Description of the investment.

In 2016, CDC led UNICAF’s Series A round.

Other investees include University Ventures, an investment firm focused on the global higher education sector, and EDEX, a Cyprus -based higher education provider.

Our investment opens up new career opportunities for tens of thousands of UNICAF’s students, through the provision of flexible, online and blended-learning degree programs. It is also accelerating the development of on-the-ground learning centres across Africa.

Expected impact

Expected impact of investments made between 2012 and 2018. From 2019 onwards, we have published a fuller set of impact information, assessing each investment against six dimensions of impact.

For African economies to achieve their potential in the 21st century it is vital that workers gain access to high-quality skill development opportunities; this includes international-standard higher education.

To achieve levels of tertiary enrolment comparable to other fast-growing emerging markets, the continent will need to build hundreds of universities in the next decade. This is unlikely to be achieved with traditional approaches, but online learning provides an opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ traditional development paths.

UNICAF is a pioneer in this space and offers a cost-effective solution – 80 per cent more affordable – that can be combined with full-time work. This ensures that access to quality higher education is not limited by geographical location, tuition fees, or lack of academic resources.

The UNICAF business model operates in some of Africa's hardest countries to reach, including Zimbabwe, Somalia and Malawi. The organisation plans to expand into Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique.

Our investment is also helping UNICAF create over 1,000 new jobs by building a network of learning centres across African cities.

Reporting and Complaints Mechanism

The Reporting and Complaints Mechanism allows anyone outside BII to report alleged breaches of the business integrity or environmental and social provisions of BII’s Policy on Responsible Investing. This includes breaches made by BII, a BII investee, or a portfolio company of a fund in which BII has invested. The Reporting and Complaints Mechanism Rules are available here. Reports and complaints can be submitted by email to [email protected] or by mail. See more details on our Reporting and Complaints Mechanism here.

For any other general enquiries contact us at [email protected]

  • Key facts

    Last updated

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    March 2024
    Project number

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    The geographical region where the country is located. We currently invest in Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and the Caribbean. In 2023, BII’s investment mandate was extended allowing it to invest in regional funds linked to Ukraine, with the majority of activity expected to begin post-war. Investments outside these regions were made prior to 2012 under previous investment mandates.

    Africa, Caribbean, East Africa, North Africa, South America, Southern Africa, West Africa

    We prioritise those sectors that facilitate development and need our capital the most. Our priority sectors contribute towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals. They range from investing in the power infrastructure that will provide people with better access to electricity, to investing in financial institutions that direct capital to the individuals and businesses that need it the most.

    Consumer - Education

    We provide capital in the following ways: directly – through direct equity, direct debt, guarantees and other non-intermediated financial instruments; and indirectly – principally through investment funds.

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    Investment type :
    Start date :
    March 2018
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    The company or investment fund’s place of incorporation.


Related investments made by BII into this company:

Investment name Commitment Region Sector Start date Status
Investment 01 $11.66m Africa, Caribbean, East Africa, North Africa, South America, Southern Africa, West Africa Consumer - Education May 2016 Active
Investment 02 $479.25k Africa, Caribbean, East Africa, North Africa, South America, Southern Africa, West AfricaAfrica, Caribbean, East Africa, North Africa, South America, Southern Africa, West Africa Consumer - Education October 2017 Active

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