Oxford’s Skoll Scholars addressing some of Africa’s most critical social problems

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A dedicated group of Skoll Scholars are currently working in Africa to combat some of the continent’s most critical social problems. From providing electricity to people living in poverty in rural Tanzania to bringing mobile banking to entrepreneurs and businesses across South Africa, Zambia and Malawi, Skoll Scholars are bringing innovative entrepreneurial solutions to African countries.

Africa is a global hub for entrepreneurship with impactful ventures leading social and economic progress throughout the continent. The individuals founding and developing African ventures bring energy, commitment and dedication to their work - attributes highly valued in MBA students at Saïd Business School. The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at Saïd Business School, partners with the Skoll Foundation to offer up to five Skoll Scholarships for the Oxford MBA programme each year. These fully funded scholarships offer proven entrepreneurs the opportunity to join the MBA programme and to progress their plans to pursue entrepreneurial, disruptive solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges.

‘Our alumni working in Africa have fulfilled our aspirations for what we hoped our graduates would achieve’ said Dr Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre. ‘They are deploying their talents to improve the condition of the communities in which they work and are opening up new market opportunities for other entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams, whether that be through providing capital to start-ups, ensuring safe and secure cashless payments, or delivering individuals affordable solar power’.

Established in 2004, the selection process for the Skoll Scholarship is challenging and rigorous. The Skoll Centre looks for individuals who can both demonstrate a strong track record in a venture that combines social and or environmental goals with financial sustainability and who wish to improve their knowledge of market-orientated practices to increase the effectiveness of their venture to achieve real world impact.

‘We are looking for unique individuals with the single-mindedness and persistence to pursue their goals and the resilience to face failure and rebuild. We seek those with unfailing determination to explore the environment for opportunities and resources and to take action’ said Dr Pamela Hartigan. ‘We know that there are many African nationals working to enhance the future of Africa through entrepreneurship and we encourage those individuals to apply for the Skoll Scholarship.’

The Skoll Centre provides a rich environment for entrepreneurs wishing to combine social goals and commercial viability, giving the Scholars access to insights from world-renowned entrepreneurs, thought-leaders and investors as well as leading-edge academic research which the students can utilise to amplify their impact. The Skoll Centre offers varied opportunities to engage with countless activities for those who are eager to start or grow their own social business ventures, or work in the growing ecosystem of organisations supporting such ventures.

The network of 48 Skoll scholars, now working all over the world, offers a rich source of experience, support and connections for the incoming scholars, to help them advance their social change pursuits.

Profiles of Skoll Scholars currently working in Africa:

1.    F. Xavier Helgesen, 2010-11
Xavier is the co-founder of Off.Grid:Electric, the world’s first massively scalable “solar energy as a service” company. Off.Grid:Electric applies the mobile phone industry's business model to energy. A small super-efficient solar system is installed in a customer's home, complete with appliances, and customers pre-pay for the service using mobile money. The company creates thousands of jobs in the countries where they operate, and supports tens of thousands of small businesses and local entrepreneurs. A veteran entrepreneur, Xavier founded two million dollar businesses in his 20’s. Better World Books is a profitable social venture with $65 Million in revenue selling books online to fund literacy. Xavier also founded Indaba Systems, a software and services company for online retailers with $1.5 Million in revenue. He’s been recognized as Best Social Entrepreneur by Businessweek in 2009, and winner of the Fast Company Social Capitalist award

2.    Mike Quinn, 2007-08
Since completing his Oxford MBA, Mike has become the Group CEO of Zoona, an African mobile money operator that helps businesses grow. Zoona was the first ever Zambian-based start-up to close an international venture capital round, and has grown to process tens of millions of dollars per month in payment value while expanding into new markets. In the future, Mike plans to lead Zoona to become a billion dollar pan-African business that empowers tens of thousands of emerging entrepreneurs to reach their full potential.

3.    Emma Cady, 2006-07
After graduating from Oxford, Emma was the first Director the Low Carbon Enterprise Fund (the LCEF), an impact fund supporting entrepreneurs in emerging markets whose products and services provide cost savings and low carbon alternatives to lower income consumers. In 2012, Emma moved to Kenya and founded Impact Capital Advisors(ICA) to work with impact clients looking to invest in Africa. While continuing to support the LCEF, ICA has helped clients such as the Calvert Foundation, SEED UNEP-UNDP, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor Enterprises (a Skoll Foundation awardee), the Aga Khan Foundation for Culture and Development and the Kenya Bankers’ Association set up funds, make investments, and improve delivery of sustainable finance products to local consumers. In 2013 Emma launched a social enterprise supporting slum-based daycare entrepreneurs, Tiny Tots Kenya, which in 2014 won a grant from Grand Challenges Canada to help further test its business intervention model and expand the preschool slum daycares it works with.

4.    Nora Petty, 2014-15
Nora is a current Skoll Scholar. Before joining the Oxford MBA programme in September 2014, Nora spent the past seven years committed to ending deaths caused by malaria, working with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and the Malaria Consortium. In order to reach underserved populations, she designed and led innovative public-private partnerships to reduce prices and increase availability of malaria diagnostic tests and medicines in private sector outlets. Through these programmes, millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa have been able to afford high-quality, life-saving treatments.

The Skoll Scholarship is one of many MBA scholarships available for students from Africa. Professor Peter Tufano, Dean of Saïd Business School, personally funds a scholarship for nationals from African countries. Full details of all scholarships on offer for the Oxford MBA programme are available here.

Saïd Business School engages with the next generation of leaders in Africa in various ways, including the Oxford Africa Conference, an elective module for EMBA and MBA students on ‘Doing Business in Africa’ and the Africa Oxford Business Network. African nationals make up 8% of the 2014-15 MBA students, with students from Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya and Togo adding to the international mix of the MBA class.

For further information or to connect with Skoll Scholars or Dr Pamela Hartigan, please contact the press office:

Kate Richards, PR Coordinator, Saïd Business School
Tel: +44 (0)1865 288879, Mob: +44 (0)7711000521
Email: kate(dot)richards(at)sbs(dot)ox(dot)ac(dot)uk

Jonaid Jilani, Press Officer, Saïd Business School
Tel: +44 (0)1865 614678
Email: jonaid(dot)jilani(at)sbs(dot)ox(dot)ac(dot)uk

Notes to Editors

1    About the Skoll Scholars

2    About the Skoll Centre

3    About Saïd Business School
Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford blends the best of new and old. We are a vibrant and innovative business school, but yet deeply embedded in an 800 year old world-class university. We create programmes and ideas that have global impact. We educate people for successful business careers, and as a community seek to tackle world-scale problems. We deliver cutting-edge programmes and ground-breaking research that transform individuals, organisations, business practice, and society. We seek to be a world-class business school community, embedded in a world-class University, tackling world-scale problems.

In the Financial Times European Business School ranking (Dec 2013) Saïd is ranked 12th. It is ranked 14th worldwide in the FT’s combined ranking of Executive Education programmes (May 2014) and 23rd in the world in the FT ranking of MBA programmes (Jan 2014). The MBA is ranked 5th in Businessweek’s full time MBA ranking outside the USA (Nov 2012) and is ranked 5th among the top non-US Business Schools by Forbes magazine (Sep 2013). The Executive MBA is ranked 21st worldwide in the FT’s ranking of EMBAs (Oct 2014). The Oxford MSc in Financial Economics is ranked 7th in the world in the FT ranking of Masters in Finance programmes (Jun 2014). In the UK university league tables it is ranked first of all UK universities for undergraduate business and management in The Guardian (Jun 2014) and has ranked first in ten of the last eleven years in The Times (Sept 2014). For more information, see http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/


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Josie Powell
University of Oxford
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Clare Fisher
University of Oxford
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