ROBBO, a Skolkovo resident company that specializes in helping teach school-age kids robotics, has opened clubs in Nigeria and South Africa, the African continent’s two wealthiest nations.
ROBBO has already had significant success in Japan and Finland, but Africa represents a new major ground for expansion, with Nigeria and South Africa having a combined GDP of $700 billion and Lagos, Cape Town and Johannesburg being home to 26 million people. For now, the clubs are in online format, but the company plans on opening offline clubs in Lagos and Johannesburg next year. In Nigeria, the company is offering private schools lessons on organizing programming, robotics and 3D-printing classes. Sixty schoolkids are part of the Cape Town and Johannesburg clubs and ROBBO plans on opening an offline club in Johannesburg in a year’s time.
ROBBO company is a leading Russian developer of children's robotics constructors. Photo: Sk.ru
ROBBO's South African partner discovered it through the internet and decided to open the business for his wife. The Nigerian franchisee learned about ROBBO clubs through a Russian colleague in Japan, the two having studied together at a business school in the United States. Because of the level of interest from African entrepreneurs, ROBBO decided to launch an advertising campaign and the response highlighted the huge potential in the African market. As a result of this, ROBBO is now having talks with a number of entrepreneurs from other African countries with regards to opening individual clubs in large cities as well as developing the network on exclusive terms.
ROBBO’s team sees Africa as a very promising market for robotics schools. Pavel Frolov, the company founder, pointed to how much market development differs among countries. “For example, South Africa is quite progressive and both domestic as well as international EdTech-companies are active there. It’s from there that we have the most requests for franchising. Nigeria’s market is in its infancy and only the first few projects are popping up. Both countries’ governments see technical education, including robotics, as a priority area. That is a significant boost to the market’s growth,” said Mr. Frolov.
Pavel Krivozubov, the head of robotics and artificial intelligence at the Skolkovo Foundation IT cluster, also agreed that Africa is quickly becoming one of the most promising markets for Russian hi-tech companies. Indeed, there is a high demand in many African countries to develop and implement technologies, train IT specialists, and modernize educational programs. ROBBO’s solutions are designed to prepare engineer-innovators who can ensure their countries' technological development, according to Mr. Frolov.
ROBBOClub.ru’s robotics school network has been developing since 2015 and its first international club opened in Finland in 2018. In 2019, a Thai partner bought ten clubs for franchising, the first of which opened at the end of last year. In spring of 2020, the company launched its first clubs in Japan and also found a partner in Bucharest, Romania.
The chain now comprises over 130 clubs. Of these, 14 are the company’s own while the rest are franchised under partners.