HP in collaboration with Microsoft and T4 Education, on Thursday announced the winner of the Africa Education Medal 2023the continent’s most prestigious education sector accolade. Simi Nwogugu is the CEO of JA Africa, a youth-serving NGO in Nigeria.
The Africa Education Medal was founded last year to recognise the tireless work of who are transforming African education.
UNESCO data shows that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion in the world. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of 6 and 11 are out of school, with girls particularly disadvantaged.
However, tireless international efforts have seen Africa make great strides in boosting enrolment in the decades leading up to the pandemic. By celebrating the stories of those working every day to expand upon these vital gains, the Africa Education Medal aims to inspire others to follow in their footsteps and bring lasting change in African education.
Simini Nwogugu is based in Nigeria and heads up JA Africa, an NGO that is 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.
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, create jobs for their communities, as well as apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace and skills that will secure their financial future.
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.
Nwogugu said, “I am so honoured to receive this accolade, but it is not just about me. This award is for all the fantastic staff at JA Africa, and for all the inspirational young people they have worked with, helping pave the way to a brighter future for our continent’s young. I want to thank T4 Education, HP and Microsoft for giving these people hope that together we can make a difference.”
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 readiness skills, manage their earnings and secure better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Mayank Dhingra, HP Senior Education Business Leader for Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa, congratulated Simi on the fantastic achievement of winning the Africa Education Medal 2023. “Her work at JA Africa is empowering the continent’s next generation to face the future with confidence. She is an inspiration to all of us at HP, where we have 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”, he added.
Vikas Pota, Founder and CEO of T4 Education, commended Simi for dedicating her life’s work to upskilling Africa’s young people, equipping them with the tools to not only survive but thrive in the world they are entering. He adds: “Congratulations on winning the Africa Education Medal 2023. Your success will serve as a rallying cry for changemakers to come forward and help Africa unlock its potential.”
Nwogugu was first introduced to JA while working at Goldman Sachs in New York City. Impressed by the organisation, she quit her lucrative job at age 24 to bring JA to Nigeria, where it now reaches more than 100,000 young people annually, before going on to head up JA’s operations across the continent.
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 inspired and empowered over 1,200 young girls 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 and social responsibility.
Graduates of the programme have gone on to become founders of Nigeria’s leading businesses as well as leaders of the most impactful non-profit organisations on the continent. She also built digital an 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.
Before 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 Alumni Association of Nigeria (HBSAN) and has been recognised by the school with numerous awards including the Bert King Award for Social Impact presented by the Harvard Business School African American Alumni Association.
She is currently a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Africa Leadership Initiative for West Africa (ALIWA) where she is pursuing her passion to empower and equip 10 million African girls to build thriving communities by 2050.
Simi Nwogugu was chosen from the Top 10 finalists for the Africa Education Medal:
- Mary Ashun, Principal of Ghana International School, Ghana
- Laura Kakon, Chief Growth & Strategy Officer of Honoris United Universities, Morocco
- Rogers Kamugisha, Country Director of Educate!, Rwanda
- Grace Matlhape, CEO of SmartStart, South Africa
- Mary Metcalfe, former policymaker and CEO of Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes (PILO), South Africa
- Martha Muhwezi, Executive Director of FAWE, Uganda
- Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura, Executive Director of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, Rwanda
- Simi Nwogugu, CEO of JA Africa, Nigeria
- Sara Ruto, Former Chief Administrative Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Education and former CEO of PAL Network, Kenya
- 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 was chosen by a Jury comprising prominent individuals based on rigorous criteria.