Four incoming Oxford University Saïd Business School MBA students are challenging themselves and driving social and environmental change through cutting-edge and innovative entrepreneurial projects. Their ideas and work haven’t passed unnoticed, earning special recognition by their new academic homes for the next year.
The Skoll Scholarship at Oxford recognizes those working in entrepreneurial projects with a social impact, who might benefit from acquiring financial and management skills for their initiatives. The scholarship covers all course fees for the MBA program, as well as partial living expenses.
At a time when Millenials and Gen Z are at the forefront in the fights against climate change and racial and systemic inequality, these social entrepreneurs have come up with unique solutions to address those problems in specific communities. They will join Oxford Saïd’s MBA Class of 2022 this fall.
TAKU MACHIRORI: OVERCOMING BARRIERS
From failing high school in Zimbabwe to founding a company that supports teacher training in Africa to receiving a full-ride scholarship, Taku Machirori has overcome many obstacles and notched many achievements.
“I did not have any teachers teaching me, and my exam grades were marked, not by exam graders, but by the military because the government couldn’t afford to pay to grade our exams, and… Also, because of hyperinflation, my parents’ savings were wiped out,” Machirori tells Poets&Quants.
Machirori was lucky enough to have family in the United States, Sonjia Parker and Gregory Redmond, who fostered him. He had the opportunity to graduate high school as a valedictorian in the United States and obtain his bachelor’s degree in Accounting at Morehouse College and create Emergination Africa in 2013.
“I managed to get into management consulting, and then now getting to Oxford, so I consider myself very lucky to have been able to progress in a channel that’s prosperous.”
Machirori knew he couldn’t watch Africa continue in decline with folded arms without doing anything. That’s how Emergination Africa came to life, a company that offers the curriculum and syllabus development, training for teachers to provide quality education for young African students.
Machirori told Poets&Quants Saïd is the missing piece Emergination Africa is missing.
“[The] missing piece is understanding more about social entrepreneurship, and I think [is] the best place for me to pick up those skills and tap into that community and network.”
As a leader, Machirori needs to develop himself first to expand the overall mission to equip children with enough skills to create job opportunities in Africa. He will continue to run the organization while acquiring new skills and building a network at Oxford. “For me to be the best leader for Emergination Africa, I also need to develop myself… learning new ways of looking at things.”
With that in mind, his journey at Oxford will benefit Emergination Africa and consequently, as he mentioned, supporting an economy that has reached 471,000,000,000% in inflation. “[What] Oxford offers, and they have so many use cases and so many entrepreneurs who’ve done it helps us get better at doing that… impact investing, impact leadership [and] so many different things.”
He seeks to enhance his financial skills, as it is needed to create viable investment assets for Emergination Africa. “A lot of schools are having difficulties in this area, so I’m interested in learning about it because we target government schools, and a lot of government schools are underfunded… they don’t have the technology, they don’t have the road infrastructure,” concludes Machirori.
ASHRAF MIZO: ‘THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING NEW’
Ashraf Mizo is an engineer and social entrepreneur who founded Nyla providing affordable prosthetics to amputees in developing countries.
Before Nyla, Mizo had launched another entrepreneurial project that consisted of a 3D printing hub when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Khartoum that had stopped operations but helped as a learning experience to run his current company.
“I wanted to create a company that would help turn students’ ideas, especially engineering students, into actual products… back when 3d printing was not known,” Mizo tells Poets&Quants.
Mizo says 3-D printing was relatively new to his peers in Sudan. “Especially at the time we were under US sanctions, people weren’t aware of the state of the art technologies that are available abroad.”
Ironically, this project will ultimately become the starting point for his company, Nyla, in response to the need for arm and hand prosthetics in developing countries like his own.
“Now we’re still using 3-D printing as our main manufacturing process for the prosthetics, and we see that we can leverage our experience with running ShapeMakers.”
During 2018 he worked as a prosthetics developer intern with the Brain Science Inspired Life Support Research Center in Tokyo, Japan, where they developed a full prosthetic hand system and mechanical wrist rotation.
The same year his team met Ali, a father from a village in West Sudan. Ali lost his hand due to a work-related incident and stopped working. Stories like Ali’s inspired the creation of Nyla, combining the tools Mizo acquired while in Japan. Three years later, Nyla provided Ali with a prosthetic arm that allowed him to reintegrate into the workforce and kept providing for his family.
With his journey in Oxford, he expects to inspire more Sudanese students to pursue their dreams, proudly represent their country and its people abroad. For Mizo, being represented in such a prestigious institution means that as years go by, more and more African students will recognize their value in academia and entrepreneurial spaces like Saïd.
“I felt that now they could see a glimpse of what I see fully here in Sudan, which is potential, and I felt that we needed to create sort of a group and a coalition to bring more people from Sudan to bring more inspiring individuals.”
The network opportunities at Said are one of the aspects that excites the young entrepreneur the most. While he recognizes the managerial and financial skills play a crucial role in the direction Nyla will take after his stay at Saïd, meeting other bright minds will spark the creativity needed for his company. “The coalitions, the partnerships that you can build the funding opportunities that you can tap into. And I feel like all of these components are going to fuse into one. Sort of a guideline that I could demand running my company in any other company in the future,” says Mizo.
As an electrical and electronic engineer, Mizo has no previous experience in finance. The MBA program will provide him the foundation to keep Nyla running. “[Saïd has] a finance lab… focusing on everything financial impacts… they focus on how to sort of leverage research and best practices to deliver social impact by using business as a force.” This financial foundation is something that he will immediately integrate into his company.
The young entrepreneur not only expects Nyla to expand but to grow as an individual. “Oxford is not the end of the journey, it’s the beginning of something new, something beautiful, and we should feel such, and you’re going to be different.”