In this post, Farai Munjoma shares his inspiring journey of enterprise from selling chickens to founding an innovative platform that provides free educational resources to millions of children. Farai Munjoma is the current Mastercard Enterprise Officer at Edinburgh Innovations. This post belongs to Teaching Matters’ Learning & Teaching Enhancement theme: Embedding enterprise in the curriculum↗️.
My story begins in a small farming town in Zimbabwe. The notion of escaping the confines of my hometown to explore the world and connect with people from all walks of life seemed like a dream far beyond my reach. Growing up during the country’s hyperinflationary period of 2005 to 2008 exposed my generation to an unparalleled experience. Zimbabwe, once hailed as the “breadbasket of Africa,” faced a dramatic economic collapse due to a combination of poor political decisions and ill-advised economic practices. The downturn affected everyone, including my family. Both my parents, father, an accountant and my mother, a teacher, had to turn to subsistence farming and chicken rearing for sustenance.
At age 12, my mother gave me the vexatious task of selling chickens at a local market to help raise funds for my tuition fees. This introduced me to a new set of skills that I had not been learning in class: communicating with customers, cultivating relationships, and building trust. Due to the economic turmoil, unemployment was rampant and I found myself selling chickens side by side with university graduates. I thought to myself, what is the point of an education if one is unable to find a job? Perhaps if they had received some entrepreneurial training, they would be able to do more than survivalist entrepreneurship. Was it only the economy or also the education system that had failed them?
An encounter with enterprise education
When I joined the Junior Achievement program (synonymous with Young Enterprise Scotland↗️) in secondary school, we formed teams and ran small businesses on campus. I was recruited as a Sales Manager for the miniature company (Verity Holdings) in eighth grade and by twelfth grade I had risen to the ranks of Chief Executive Officer. Through this program, I had my first encounter with Microsoft PowerPoint, pitching and customer discovery. All the things I was doing ad hoc during my days at the chicken market now had a name, value proposition, customer validation, customer retention, etc. This fascinated me.
In my final year of high school, we were affected by the exodus of teachers to neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana in search of better livelihoods. We desperately needed to pass our exams so that we could progress to university. At the time, internet and mobile phone access were rapidly increasing in the country and this was an opportunity to take advantage of. What if we could create a platform where examination coursework and support from the best teachers who had left the country could be accessed online for free by every child in the country? This idea birthed the Shasha Network↗️, an online learning platform for secondary school students in Zimbabwe. Shasha means Champion in the native language of Shona.
Shasha was awarded the JA Barclays Company of the Year award in 2014. In 2015, a mentor of mine nominated me for the Anzisha Prize and I was selected as one of the top twelve young entrepreneurs in Africa by the Mastercard Foundation and African Leadership Academy. I took my first flight to Johannesburg, South Africa and competed for a $25,000 prize. Though I was unable to win, I instead received a scholarship to study at the academy. The exposure I received set me on a trajectory that would forever change my perspective and attitudes towards solving challenges in education. In 2016, I joined the African Leadership University (Mauritius), where I studied Entrepreneurial Leadership as one of my courses. This provided me with a broad range of interpersonal skills which helped me excel in my internships. Fortunately, I was offered a role in a Kenyan Edtech company called Eneza serving 6 million young people through SMS learning in East Africa. In 2016, I traveled to Copenhagen for the UNLEASH innovation lab, where I joined 1000 innovators from across the globe to participate in co-creating solutions for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) (see feature photo).
Imagining new possibilities
Pursuing a career in entrepreneurship was never an option growing up. I chose to do my masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at The University of Edinburgh Business School. I received a fully funded scholarship under the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program↗️, a scholarship that identifies high-potential young people in Africa and sponsors their education. While pursuing my studies, I engaged with Edinburgh Innovations↗️, which guides and supported me in turning my global vision for Shasha into reality. This support came in the form of workshops, 1-2-1 advisor support, and community.
To date, Shasha Network has launched a long-term campaign to reach three million young people in Africa by 2030. Our efforts have also been recognised as we’ve been featured on BBC People Fixing the world, invited to speak at the Harvard Business School, and won the ILG and ScottishEdge awards. Shasha Network is now a UK based non-profit with a global footprint in Europe, USA and Africa.
Community: the gift of enterprise education
My journey would be impossible without the unwavering support of the communities that have championed my dreams. Being part of The University of Edinburgh has provided me with the fertile ground needed for my ideas to flourish. Our strong community ties are testament to a shared vision to drive positive change across the world.
At the core of an enterprise education is its ability to inspire a positive mindset shift and a deep sense of responsible citizenship. It empowers the learner to tap into their natural and learned capabilities and leverage them as forces for good in society. From selling chickens to launching moonshots aimed at empowering millions, the journey continues, all thanks to the role enterprise education has played in my life.
Farai Munjoma is an education entrepreneur and Founder of Shasha Network, a non-profit empowering post-secondary African youth with soft skills, social capital, and personal development to achieve their fullest potential. He has lived and worked in 7 countries across Africa and now based in the United Kingdom. Farai has a background in Business Management from the African Leadership University (Mauritius) and a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the University of Edinburgh. He is the current Mastercard Enterprise Officer at Edinburgh Innovations.