Madison College has entered into a partnership, via a licensing agreement, with Madison-based startup YAM Education, Inc. that will bring entrepreneurship and small business courses to Africa – and potentially more classes in the future.
YAM founder Ousman Kabré, a Madison College alum originally from the West African nation of Burkina Faso, said entrepreneurship is the right place to start.
“When it comes to Africa, most of the time, we’re thinking about going to work for the government,” he told Blueprint365 in an interview. “But in reality, we need to think about how we can create jobs for other people, and entrepreneurship makes perfect sense. For you to be an entrepreneur, you also need to be skilled.”
In the agreement, Madison College will license the curriculum of six courses – Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Small Business Development, Marketing Principles, Customer Contact Skills and Operations Management – to YAM. YAM will then deliver the courses on its proprietary platform, which has been designed to operate on low bandwidth internet.
“If I take you back to Africa, you will have more people using their phones than computers,” Kabré said. “Being able to use the platform on their phones and study offline is going to be really important for them. Because we don’t have a lot of computers at the end of the day, and the internet is really still expensive (in Africa).”
Those classes are valuable in themselves, but could be the beginning of a degree from Madison College.
“If they want to, they can apply to enroll at Madison College, and then those six courses would count towards their degree,” said Bryan Woodhouse, Vice President of Industry & Regional Affairs at Madison College. “There’s an Entrepreneurship Certificate and a Business Plan Certificate. So again, if they take all six classes, enroll at Madison College, they’ll be immediately eligible to receive those certificates.”
Woodhouse said students could earn a degree from Madison College through online courses, and could also relocate to Madison as Kabré did.
“It’s about doing good in the world. We have this opportunity. We have the curriculum built. There’s really no reason that we couldn’t share it and make it more accessible, especially with a partner like Ousmane. So part of it is just just a goodwill effort,” Woodhouse said. “But we’re always interested in attracting more international students to Madison College. So if we can give them a leg up by doing these courses through YAM, and they want to continue with us, we’ll work with them to make that possible.”
“This is realizing the ultimate potential of education, and it’s an important step,” Madison College President Jack Daniels said in a statement announcing the partnership. “The pandemic showed us how portable education can be. Why shouldn’t others—especially those who live where access to education is more limited—benefit from the knowledge that comes from our courses?”
Tip of the iceberg
Kabré graduated from Madison College in 2013 and went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from UW-Madison, then join accounting giant Ernst and Young. He said he’s always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and saw a need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If I take you to Aftica, In a freshman year, you may be sitting in a gigantic classroom with about 3,000 people,” he said. “So when COVID-19 came in, it was a big challenge to actually study. So we thought about, how can we really partner with community colleges, to bring that knowledge back into Africa, and allow people to actually study in the comfort of their home? COVID-19 really sparked the idea around this.”
YAM comes from a word in Mossi – one of the regional languages of Burkina Faso – which means “intelligence.”
Woodhouse said the college and YAM have been working on the partnership since early 2022. The Madison College technical staff have examined the YAM platform and determined it’s secure and stable, and is now in the final stages of delivering the curriculum to YAM to load onto the platform, where Kabré said 1,700 students are already enrolled.
“Right now, we are focusing on Madison College and making sure that our first year goes (well) … but we do have other community colleges in the pipeline,” Kabré said.
He also said YAM already has a partnership in place with Wisconsin English Second Language Institute to help French-speaking students from Burkina Faso to learn English so they can get the most out of the Madison College curriculum.
Woodhouse said the partnership is “a little bit of a pilot,” but he hopes it grows.
“Let’s work out some bugs, see where any hurdles present themselves,” he said. “Then we’ll take a look and, assuming success, we can move into business management or other other areas of curriculum. It’s an agreement that we hope to expand upon … it’s the tip of the iceberg, in a way.”