Driven by the desire to achieve excellence and meet local and community needs, GEMS Education Solutions operates as strategic partners, providing customized education solutions in both the private and public sector. Vikas Pota is Global Head of Corporate Affairs and Chief Executive Officer of Varkey GEMS Foundation.
Capital: Could you tell me about your company briefly, and why you are attending the World Economic Forum?
Vikas Pota: We are an educational company. We own, run and build high standard schools and build schools from kindergarten to high school with international standards. We are based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and the reason why we have come to the forum and this summit in particular is because we are interested in Africa. The issue that we think exists is that when you speak about economics, trade you see all this hype around Africa being at this stage of greatness. You read articles about Ethiopia being the third fastest growing economy and to make it sustainable people need to invest in education; this is a very simple message. That’s why we meet with ministers and business people. I’ve been to the workshops and I can say public-private partnership is the way forward. No longer can a state system build by themselves, that’s why partnership is required and that’s the message I try to give.
Capital: Are you interested specifically in Ethiopia and have you met officials from the government of Ethiopia?
Pota: To start with, what would have been good was to meet with your education minister. I did not get a chance to meet with him. I tried to set up a meeting with the Minister using the proper channel, which is through the Forum but nobody responded to our queries. However the point is, since this is my first visit to get a sense of how business is done with people from the international and business communities, actually also from Ethiopian companies. However I got the sense that Ethiopia is actually progressing. Thirty years ago I was singing “We are the world” and today you are one of the fastest growing economies in the world. So as a business we’re interested in growth and wherever the growth is going, we want to be part of it. As for Ethiopia, it has a lot of challenges like any other country in quality of education.
Capital: Which part of the Ethiopian society is your main target?
Pota: When people hear about private education they think of basic education, and in the West we think of about 20,000 dollars per annum for schools fees. That’s what people think of as private education, that’s not necessarily true. You can still have private education which is good quality at a much lower cost. In Dubai for example we have quite a lot of schools. Some are expensive while others are cheap in comparison. So it all depends on who is a customer and what you want to pay. If you can only afford a thousand dollars a year we’ve got schools for that, your children can enroll in that having the same facility as the other school, but you will still have a good school. For Ethiopia we’ll do market research first for the wants of the middle class. And that we’ll determine what kind of schools kids are put in. In this case we want to start with one school in Ethiopia and see where it goes. We’re also opening our first school in Africa in Kenya during September 2012.