Elizabeth Masiyiwa: Bringing Early Childhood Education to Urban Slums

“We are laying the foundation of an entire ecosystem for the next generation of Africans” – CEO Simba Education

Elizabeth Masiyiwa, holds a Master of Social Entrepreneurship and a Bachelor of Science in Banking and International Finance. She is an UNESCO fellow and the founder and CEO of Simba Education, a tech based, social enterprise that aims to build a sustainable and scalable solution to the challenge of early childhood education in urban slums.

This 24 years old Zimbabwean, comes from a family of entrepreneurs and philanthropist, her father Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and executive chairman of the telecommunications group Econet Wireless, her mother Tsitsi Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive chairperson of Higherlife Foundation, an organization focused on education, healthcare, and technology.

What ignited the spark in you to work with children from developing areas?

I come from a privileged family. My parents are privileged in the sense that their own parents were so determinate to give them a better life, that they were able to do that. My dad got a scholarship to do his University education and he had a kind of life that started when someone gave him an opportunity, and he did so much with it. Sometimes I observe and think: what if nobody had given him that chance? I feel I am in the position to give many others a chance to have a better life and that’s what motivates me to get involve with children’s education.

When my parent when through political tensions at the initial stages of their business, they were very isolated from society, but my mom still wanted to give me birthday parties, so she would invite orphans and they would come to the city and eat with us at the park, I grew up seeing them as my equals. Then I realized they didn’t have the same opportunities that I had, and I wanted to do something to give them and other children a better opportunity.

How did Simba came to life? where did the key driving force came from?

When we read the Hult prize case study, my team and I discovered that 95% of a child’s brain development happens within the first one thousand days of their life. I begun volunteering in slums in South Africa since I was old enough to go, and I knew mothers in slum do not give their children any stimulation whatsoever, so I suddenly had the sense of urgency thinking all those kids around me are not getting the proper development they need in their first one thousand days. If they receive the correct stimulation during their early years, they could be better prepared to start school. That was our initial aim, to come up with a solution that can reach as many people as possible in a short amount of time.

Photo courtesy of Simba Education

What would describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship and what role do social entrepreneurs play in the world?

I think Entrepreneurs allow competitiveness and creativity to keep moving. I think that the more people you have trying to come up with the next best thing, the more the world is likely to advance and innovate, and that’s how I think entrepreneurs contribute the most.

Social entrepreneurs had found a way to create value for themselves and others. They create employment opportunities, an environment where a lot of people have the opportunity to achieve their own dream, their ambition or go wherever they want to go. I also think new entrepreneurs get rid of the old traditional bureaucratic systems that sometimes slowsdown the growth and development of economies.

How are you changing the world with your company?

I feel we are responsible for raising the next generation of children in slums in southern Africa. Our system is going to influence the way children will be educated, and ultimately the way they are going to live.

This children could be our next leaders and we need them because we are not just lacking jobs in Africa, we also don’t have teachers, we don’t have enough research facilities, we are lacking opportunities for African leadership in businesses, science, medicine, engineering (etc.). Wherever you see big corporations, they are hiring people from overseas. I feel they could be the next politicians, teachers or the next generation of African scientists. I feel that by providing education to this children we are laying the foundation of an entire ecosystem for the next generation of Africans.

“To succeed as a young entrepreneur you need creativity, passion, boldness, pragmatism and a lot of patience.”- Elizabeth Masiyiwa

Photo courtesy of Simba Education

To learn More about Simba Education please visit: http://www.simbaeducation.co