Africa 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

In 2016, CDC led UNICAF’s Series A round and has invested a total of $8.2 million in the company.

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

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.

Environmental and social aspects

CDC works with UNICAF to deliver environmental and social improvements, including supporting robust health and safety practices, as well as safeguarding.

Key facts


Since 2012, we’ve only invested in Africa and South Asia. Investments outside these regions are from our pre-2012 portfolio.


We have seven priority sectors. However, we continue to invest outside these sectors, largely in the most challenging regions, as new investment supporting any sector helps to underpin the private sector, and create jobs and livelihoods for people.

Investment type

We provide capital in three broad ways: direct equity, debt, and intermediated equity (principally through investment funds).

Direct Equity
Start date

For direct investments, this is the date British International Investment committed capital to the business or project.

For funds, this is the date that British International Investment committed capital to the fund.

For underlying fund investments, this is the date that the fund invested capital into the business.e

May 2016

For direct investments, this is the total amount that British International Investment has committed to the business or project (it may be a combination of equity and debt).

For funds, this is the total amount that British International Investment has committed to the fund.


This is the investee company’s place of incorporation; or a fund’s jurisdiction.


We are now British International Investment