A Social Entrepreneur Dedicated to Making a Difference

Early childhood education in Africa has failed to make it to the top of the agenda for policymakers in most African countries. The lack of resources and funding leads to inadequate teacher training and educational opportunities. As a social entrepreneur, Elizabeth Masiyiwa wanted to address these challenges and make a difference. She co-founded Simba Education as a solution, a company that uses mobile technology to provide learning tools for teachers.

“We started Simba to change the first 1000 days for those who don’t have a same chance. Our solution is designed for the teacher to impact the lives of children.”

Empowering Teachers and Youth

THE CHALLENGE. Research shows that the first 1000 days are the most critical for child’s development, and yet globally, more than 10 million children ages 0-6 live in low-income areas that don’t have access to quality early childhood education (ECE). 60% of these children are in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the main challenges to overcome in providing ECE to children in low-income areas is the lack of skillful teacher training. On average, only about 2 to 6 percent of educational budgets in African countries are alloted to technical and vocational teacher skills development. For example, until recently only 12 percent of educators in South Africa received formal training. This lack of teacher training is more prevalent in rural and impoverished areas, and results in children from these areas attaining poorer results in standardised tests compared to their urban or more affluent peers. Overall, inadequate teacher training leads to greater inequality between urban and rural areas and prevents fair opportunities for Africans.

THE PROCESS. Masiyiwa’s volunteer work at a young age in rural and underprivileged areas was when she first had the realization that opportunities for Africans were not equally available. Her education in banking and social entrepreneurship, combined with her work at her parents’ venture, Higherlife Foundation, helped set her on a path to empower Africa’s youth. She came across the statistics about Africa’s educational sectors during her time as a recipient of the Hult Prize Challenge, a startup accelerator for young social entrepreneurs. Masiyiwa decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps, who had experience as social entrepreneurs in the education sector themselves, and knew that she was in a position to create a viable solution that would address the lack of teacher training across the continent. With a small team, she co-founded Simba Education, a company that leverages mobile technology to give teachers easy access to the tools they need to provide sufficient education for their students. Simba’s platform includes school management systems, student report tools, teaching instructions, lesson plans, and other educational supports. Utilizing a mobile platform makes Simba accessible, convenient, and easy to use. Simba even uses innovative technologies to reach low-connectivity areas.

Source: simbaeducation.com

During its initial launch in Zimbabwe in 2017, Simba reached over 600 children in just three days. The company continues to reach hundreds of children and provides numerous teachers with the tools they require to provide sufficient education for their students. Masiyiwa has continued her work as a social entrepreneur through Higherlife Foundation, as well, where she serves as a strategic advisor on talent and long-term investment. Among its many accomplishments, Higherlife Foundation has created scholarships for orphaned and vulnerable children between the ages of 5 and 18 years. In the past two decades, Higherlife Foundation has opened 30 learning hubs, secured a $6.4 million investment to sponsor 40 international scholarships, and has provided food, shelter and medical supplies to thousands. As for Simba, the company has committed to implementing six pilot sites, with four in Zimbabwe and two in South Africa. The team at Simba has also signed an agreement with three NGOs, who will adopt the Simba platform after it has been fully iterated.


Source: simbaeducation.com


Simba gives teachers with inadequate skills, the tools they need to deliver a quality, competitive education. The mission of the company is to increase access to quality early childhood education by leveraging the use of mobile technology. Simba’s platform is fully responsive and can be used with any device. The Simba system guides teachers throughout the school day and constantly collects feedback to record the progress of every student to ensure their cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development.

A Lineage of Entrepreneurship


Empowering Africa’s Youth through Education

Elizabeth Masiyiwa grew up with philanthropy and entrepreneurship as cornerstones in her family life; her father was the founder of the telecommunications group Econet Wireless and her mother was the founder of Higherlife Foundation. As a social entrepreneur herself, Masiyiwa has always wanted to use business as a tool for implementing positive change and development. She attended Hult International Business School and holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Banking and International Finance, as well as a Master’s Degree in Social Entrepreneurship.

She chose to study banking and finance, but the more she became exposed to the grave challenges faced by people back home in Zimbabwe, such as poor access to education, she decided she wanted to be a banker who could make a difference. She went on to study social entrepreneurship with the hope that business and entrepreneurship could address these challenges in a sustainable way.

“My becoming a social entrepreneur is part of my vision to help create the Africa we want to see. I want to ensure people are empowered by creating economic value, they have access to basic goods and services that are essentially a human right and that they are a part of the solution.”

In addition to co-founding Simba Education, Masiyiwa has worked on a number of projects and serves on several boards that are education focused. She serves on the Leadership Council for Harvard University’s Center for African Studies and on the board of Cassava Smartech, continues to work as an advisor at Higherlife Foundation, co-manages a social impact investment fund, and was an analyst for UNICEF’s Innovation Venture Fund. She was also part of the youth board of Afrika Tikkun, where she earned an award for creating the most impact during her tenure. Masiyiwa’s upcoming project is a leadership program for high school students, so that she can continue to invest in Africa’s youth.


Elizabeth Masiyiwa views Harambe as an opportunity for meeting like-minded African entrepreneurs:

“This network of Africans has the potential to achieve widespread growth: we face similar problems, we are driven by similar values, we are working towards similar goals, and we are all part of building something. I like the opportunity to be amongst some of the greatest mind in African business, politics and culture. To be part of the next generation of change makers.”
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