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Success Story Sunday: Tackling the education gap and empowering a generation of confident young lear

Lulu Bisignani at accelerateHER

Around the world, 250 million children lack access to basic education; literacy rates staggeringly low in some countries. Young girls are two-thirds more likely to be excluded from access and opportunities for education. According to UNESCO’s Director General Audrey Azoulay, by teaching basic reading and writing skills to 171 million children we can eradicate 12 per cent of the world’s poverty.

Taking on this monumental challenge is Kukua, an education company on a mission to empower the next generation of African children with basic literacy and numeracy skills while instilling confidence in them to reach their full potential.

Social entrepreneur Lucrezia “Lulu” Bisignani founded Kukua in 2015 following her extensive research across countries such as Kenya, The Gambia and South Africa in partnership with educators and youth organizations. This research helped Bisignani to understand the literacy challenges faced in urban village and slums. She found that combining technology and gamified learning with localized narratives and relatable, larger-than-life characters was the solution.

Kukua has launched three mobile gaming apps featuring magical, hair-raising adventures with Super Sema, an African hero who is courageous and resourceful, and who harnesses her special powers for good. The products were designed by a team of literacy experts, designers, cognitive psychologists and educational specialists to combine entertainment with learning. Sema lives in Dunia, a bustling African urban village where DIY and STEAM powers meet high-tech Afro-futurism. Kukua’s full suite of animated content and mobile games — including Sema Run, Sema Trace and Sema Goal — allow children to explore basic reading, writing and mathematics through a world that reflects their own.

Recognized for her vision to bring more role models and education opportunities to young children around the world, Bisignani presented as a Rising Star/Disrupter at accelerateHER’s annual forum in 2018. She shared her journey and vision to harness new technologies and gamified learning to create a global education and entertainment brand with over 300 leaders in technology and media who attended.

Just 12 months after taking the stage at accelerateHER, the female-founded Kukua team raised USD 2.5 million in seed funding from Echo VC, the leading Africa-focused venture capital firm, alongside Founders Factory, firstminute Capital, and industry-leading angels including Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, the former Vice President of Mobile at Uber and Dropbox.

Currently operating in several Eastern African countries, Kukua plans to expand across the continent as the first African children’s franchise. Plans also include bringing Super Sema and her friends to television. With a growing African population expected to reach 2.5 billion people by 2050, Super Sema is set to be a superhero favourite for the next generation of African learners.

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