6 min read

How Digify Africa reaches 32,000 online learners with a WhatsApp chatbot

Digify Africa WhatsApp chatbot

Digify Africa is an award-winning youth-led digital education organization based in South Africa. Their goal is to educate young people in Africa and around the world about digitalization and social media. For this purpose, they have developed several WhatsApp chatbots that make digital education more accessible.

How can I do online banking on my phone? What's the best way to market my company on social media? Understanding and being able to navigate the digital world is already a critical life skill, and will only become more important in the future. But how can we teach these skills, especially to young people with less resources? That's exactly what Digify Africa wants to do — with WhatsApp chatbots! And the NGO is very successful. One of their chatbots has won the Supersonic New Gen Social Media & Digital Award for most innovative learning app.

Gavin Weale, CEO and founder of Digify Africa explains, how the organization works with WhatsApp chatbots in education, and why the messaging app is critical to the organization's success.

Watch How can you train and educate via WhatsApp? | Gavin Weale, Founder & CEO Digify Africa on YouTube.

Why is Digify Africa using a WhatsApp chatbot for education?

Digify Africa was founded in 2014, with a clear goal: to help young people in Africa to develop digital skills in order to gain employment and grow businesses in the digital economy. Gavin Weale, the CEO and founder of the organization, believes that it's crucial to make access to digital education across the continent as easy as possible. That's why Digify Africa, supported by different partnerships and organizations, provides free education.

Digify Africa Website
Digify Africa teaches young people digital skills. (Source: Digify Africa)

In the past decade, this education came through face-to-face boot camps, workshops, and trainings. In times of accelerated e-learning, focusing on face-to-face education to teach digital literacy might seem odd. However, the digitalization across Africa has been slower than in the rest of the world. Most learners only have access to internet on their phones, where it's not as easy to provide an immersive and sophisticated experience. In addition, mobile data is expensive in many African countries.

At the same time, it's clear for Digify Africa that e-learning allows them to reach more people, which is why they were looking for creative ways to reach learners on digital platforms. As internet access is limited and expensive, trying to direct learners to a new website or to download an app was an additional barrier. That's why Digify Africa focused on social media platforms to make it as easy as possible for anybody to participate in their programs. "We wanted to reach learners on platforms where they were already present", says Gavin Weale. That's why Digify Africa decided to use WhatsApp.

In South Africa, WhatsApp is one of the most used messenger apps. On average, 93.2% of South Africans use the green messenger app. So, users were already very familiar with the platform, and didn't require additional training, another plus for making education more accessible. Therefore, WhatsApp was the obvious choice for Digify Africa.

Quote Gavin Weale Digify Africa

How did Digify Africa set up the three chatbot projects?

The goal of the bots was to provide not just a part, but the entire educational training exclusively on WhatsApp. In order to enable e-learning on WhatsApp in an automated and scalable way, the team created three WhatsApp chatbots, Naledi, Kitso, and Lesedi, says Gavin Weale.

Quote Gavin Weale Digify Africa

The three chatbots have been built on the professional conversational messaging platform Sinch Engage. They each cater to targeted audiences and focus on specific content. For setting up the chatbots, Digify Africa worked with Meta (Facebook) and Sinch Engage partner Techsys, a fast-growing IT solutions and services company.

Reaching 32,000 online learners with WhatsApp

Read how the educational NGO Digify Africa uses a WhatsApp chatbot to educate professionals in South Africa.

The first chatbot, Naledi, was developed with the help of Meta, and the content was centered around digital marketing on Facebook. This helped Digify Africa to get their content out faster, and get traction for their e-learning bot. In order to be able to reach more specific interest groups, Digify Africa launched two other chatbots; Kitso for teachers and educators and Lesedi for improving digital literacy.

In addition to the learning content, the prerequisite for the creation of all three bots was an easy-to-use technical solution for creating the bot dialogs and a very good content database that always provides the bot with the latest information. Techsys provided the NGO with significant support in this regard.

Quote Gavin Weale Digify Africa

Naledi: The Facebook Digital Marketing Learning Chatbot

Especially during Covid, many young people had problems with communication and (further) education via digital platforms. Mostly this was due to lack of access to computers, laptops, and stable internet connections, but also because most of them did not have the knowledge they needed to navigate and use the digital space.

Digify Africa wanted to minimize the problem, and launched their first WhatsApp chatbot, Naledi.

The chatbot offers a variety of interactive quizzes and learning groups for further training on how to use Facebook for yourself and your business including continuous motivation. In addition, users can get help from expert moderators, and all this with manageable effort.

The bot also allows the use of personal stickers, voice messages and the creation of animated retrospectives. In addition, "Naledi" is always up-to-date with the new WhatsApp features such as buttons, keyword recognition and push notifications directly to the users' lock screen.

An important factor is having fun while learning with "Naledi"! A playful layer allows users to collect badges based on their performance, track their progress and compare themselves with others on the leaderboard. This gamification aspect ensures strong user engagement and motivation; a key factor in digital education and training.

Naledi WhatsApp chatbot Digify Africa 01
Digify Africa WhatsApp support chatbot

📲 Click here to chat with Naledi.

What are the results of the project?

The chatbot and the included learning opportunities are very popular and have exactly the effect Digify Africa wanted to achieve:

  • Hundreds of learners spend an average of one week with the chatbot.
  • Over 1,400 topics have been processed.
  • More than 100,000 messages have already been sent.

Kitso: The WhatsApp bot for teachers and parents

Kitso is a WhatsApp chatbot designed specifically for teachers and educators, but also for parents. It helps them understand online safety and online resilience, so they can pass on their knowledge to their children or students. This youth-focused program promotes online safety and seeks to give students, educators, and parents the tools they need to stay safe online.

Through a partnership with the Ministry of Basic Education, Kitso is providing thousands of educators across the country with the knowledge they need to train their students in the basics of Internet safety. Kitso has been Digify Africa's most successful WhatsApp chatbot to date, with more than ten million messages sent, and over 10,000 students completing the course.

📲 Simply test Kitso here.

Lesedi: WhatsApp chatbot for digital competence

The rising unemployment rates in Africa in recent years, especially among young adults, are often due to a lack of basic digital skills. This, in turn, frequently leads to young Africans not having access to as many educational opportunities.

The Chat For Impact acceleration program was created to help organizations use WhatsApp to address and prevent various social issues. When Digify Africa was selected as one of 10 global organizations to participate in the program, they knew that digital literacy was an issue they could address with one of their learning bots.

Lesedi chatbot digify africa 1

Lesedi first tests users’ digital literacy skills, and then provides multiple courses with different topics combining voice notes, text, and images – all to help them utilize the power of their mobile phone to improve their lives. Upon completion of all courses, users receive a certificate to add to their job application and resume.

Since the launch of Lesedi, over one million WhatsApp messages have already been sent and 10,000 topics have been consumed by over 13,000 registered learners in less than a month.

📲Check out Lesedi

Results and learnings

For the NGO, it was the first time implementing an all-digital learning experience on WhatsApp and using chatbots. However, the biggest challenge wasn't the technology, but coming up with good content, and delivering it in a way that's engaging on a small screen. But their work really paid off! In their first year of using the three chatbots, Digify Africa counts more than 32,000 registrations, almost four million sent messages and over 37,000 completed topics.

In the future, Digify Africa wants to gather more feedback from their users to see how they can deliver an even more successful and engaging learning experience.

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Image of Marinela Potor, editor-in-chief at Sinch Engage.
Written by: Marinela Potor