IFC sells stake in Bridge academies after Sh1.1bn investment


Bridge International Academies. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has sold its minority stake in Bridge International Academies (BIA) to a philanthropic investment firm after almost a decade as a shareholder.

The World Bank’s private-sector lending arm announced that it has exited investment in NewGlobe Schools, the parent company of BIA effective March 3, 2022, after making Investments including equity purchase in excess of $10million (Sh1.14 billion) in the company since 2013.

“IFC has exited its investment in NewGlobe Schools, Inc. (the parent company of Bridge International Academies), effective March 3, 2022,” said the IFC in an update dated March 9.

“Over the period of IFC’s investment, the company scaled up significantly and currently reaches approximately 750,000 students through primarily its technology licensing contracts with government partnership schools, supporting innovation in the primary education sector.”

IFC say the investment helped increase the number of schools under Bridge International, which targeted children from families earning less Sh200 per person per day.

It sold the undisclosed stake to an institution that has been associated with Bridge International for more than a decade.

“With IFC’s assistance, Bridge has made significant improvements in environmental, social, and governance management,” said the World Bank unit.

Education International (EI), a global federation of teachers' trade unions, has been leading efforts to have the IFC stop its support for Bridge, which mainly runs schools in the country’s low-income areas targeting families earning less than two dollars a day.

“We welcome this decision, which has been a core demand from teachers in Africa, and call on other Bridge International Academies investors to follow the IFC’s lead,” said EI general secretary David Edwards in a statement.

The World Bank is the largest funder of education in the developing world.

EI argues that investing in private for-profit operators, such as BIA, clearly contravenes the global commitment to inclusive and equitable quality free education for all consistent with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.

A 2017 report from the UK MPs acknowledged that “it is clear that Bridge is a contentious partner,” and says that particular inspectors in Uganda reported that children were being taught in “substandard facilities and unsanitary conditions”.

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that IFC has withdrawn its funding for Bridge International Academies (BIA). This has been corrected to say that IFC has sold its minority stake to another firm.