Nigeria’s Simi Nwogugu, CEO of JA Africa, has been named as a Top 10 finalist for the Africa Education Medal 2023. Founded last year by T4 Education and HP in collaboration with Microsoft, the Africa Education Medal is Africa’s most prestigious education accolade.
The Africa Education Medal was established to recognise the tireless work of those who are transforming education across the continent – to celebrate the stories of those who have lit the spark of change so others will be inspired to take up the torch. It is given to an outstanding individual who has demonstrated impact, leadership, and advocacy in the field of education.
Simi Nwogugu is CEO of JA Africa, part of the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated JA Worldwide, one of the world’s largest youth-serving NGOs that prepares young people for the future of work. She was first introduced to JA while working at Goldman Sachs in New York City. Impressed by the organisation, she quit her lucrative job at the age of 24 to bring JA to Nigeria, where it now reaches more than 1 million people, before going on to head up JA’s operations across the continent.
The vital importance of Nwogugu’s work is highlighted by the fact that 60% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa and about 37% of its workforce are under the age of 25. By 2025, Africa will be home to 25% of the world’s youth population. Through the delivery of hands-on, blended learning in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship, her organisation empowers young people to grow their entrepreneurial ideas, hone their work skills, manage their earnings and secure better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.
For 25 years, Nwogugu has been leading JA’s efforts in various capacities as it embarked on a mission to help young people to generate and effectively manage wealth and create jobs for their communities. Her passion for strategy and innovation led to the development of many impactful programmes that are ensuring young Nigerians have the skillsets and mindset to succeed.
She is a passionate advocate for girls’ education and one of her unique initiatives includes the Leadership, Empowerment Achievement & Development (LEAD) Camp for Girls, which has impacted 1,000 young girls and inspires and empowers them to become high-achieving women leaders in society. Another initiative she has championed is the Venture in Management Programme (ViMP), which is designed to empower young people in the different facets of managing a business, making crucial business decisions and developing skills for general management. She also built digital and out-of-school youth programmes that enabled her organisation to reach underserved populations in the North of Nigeria, even during the Boko Haram crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to becoming JA Africa CEO in 2020, she led JA Nigeria to impact the lives of over 1 million Nigerians in 5,000 schools. Among the many JA alumni who have gone on to become job creators and social entrepreneurs is Iyin Aboyeji, the founder of two unicorns: Andela and Flutterwave.
Nwogugu also serves as president of the governing board of the Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria (HBSAN). She is a member of the Advisory Council of the African Capital Alliance Foundation, and of the Global Advisory Committee for Teach For All.
Mayank Dhingra, Senior Education Business Leader, Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa, at HP said: “My warmest congratulations to Simi Nwogugu on being named a Top 10 finalist for the Africa Education Medal 2023. Her tireless work to improve education stands as an inspiration to us all and I hope many others will follow in her footsteps to become leaders in the field.
“HP has a bold goal to accelerate digital equity for 150 million people globally by 2030. Only by joining forces and aligning with NGOs, government, educators and businesses can we truly improve the education environment. The Africa Education Medal brings together all those who are changing the face of African education, whose vital work deserves to be celebrated.”
Vikas Pota, Founder and CEO of T4 Education, said, “Africa’s teachers and school leaders, and its leaders of governments, NGOs and businesses, all play a crucial part in unlocking the continent’s potential through quality education. African education stands at a crossroads in the wake of the pandemic, but if leaders from across the continent in every field can work together then they can build the lasting change needed.
“I congratulate Simi Nwogugu on her achievements in skilling up Africa’s young people and I hope her success serves as a rallying cry for changemakers to come forward and make a difference.”
The Top 10 finalists for the Africa Education Medal are:
1. Mary Ashun, Principal of Ghana International School, Ghana
2. Mohammed Elmeski, Senior Education Adviser, Office of the Head of the Government, Morocco
3. Laura Kakon, Chief Growth & Strategy Officer of Honoris, South Africa
4. Grace Malthape, CEO of SmartStart Early Learning, South Africa
5. Mary Metcalfe, former policymaker and CEO of Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes (PILO), South Africa
6. Martha Muhrezi, Executive Director of FAWE, Uganda
7. Sarah Ruto, Former Chief Administrative Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Education and CEO of PAL Networks, Kenya
8. Jean Claude Nkulikiyimfura, Executive Director of Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, Rwanda
9.Simi Nwogugu, CEO of JA Africa, Nigeria
10. Snehar Shah, CEO of Moringa School, Kenya
Nominations for the Africa Education Medal opened in February 2023 for individuals working to improve pre-kindergarten, K-12, vocational and university education who are either educators, school administrators, civil society leaders, public servants, government officials, political leaders, technologists, or innovators.
The winner of the Africa Education Medal will be announced in July. Finalists will be assessed by a Jury comprising prominent individuals based on rigorous criteria.