What does your social initiative do?
SpellAfrica initiative is a non profit (charitable) organization registered in New Zealand. Our core mission is to improve English Vocabulary in Africa using Short Message Service (SMS). Our strategy is to send an English word, the meaning of the word and usage of such words via SMS to millions of people across Africa.
What is your role? How is a typical day being you?
As the founder and CEO my role basically involves the day to day running of the organization. I do all the work for now, but trust me -I have got a strong team working with me. We have got over 100 student volunteers, but their duties are basically to research the dictionaries and sort out words that most people usually misspell – like the word “MISSPELL”. Some people think it has one “s”, so you see, that kind of words. Most of our volunteers are students from the English department but we also have a senior lecturer that is an English language professor.
How come that you took exactly this path that you have chosen? How has your journey been so far?
As a kid growing up in rural Africa I had a hard time where my parents could only offer me a little or even no education at all. I have always believed that education is the key to success, so with limited knowledge and resources I struggled to learn how to read. That was the beginning of my journey.
In late 2010 I set myself a goal: to study one word daily from the English dictionary. That I did day after day, but due to environmental situations I was unable to continue. Then the idea came to me to “marry the technology” to take my learning to the next step, and I started working on the idea to learn English via SMS.
It was kind of easy. I bought bulk SMS, which is an internet application that allows you to send SMS from the internet to mobile phones across the world. I took a day off to do a research in my dictionary, picked out some words and the meaning and usage of them. Then I went online and programmed it to deliver one English word to my mobile phone at 7am daily. It was so nice, as I didn’t have to worry about opening the dictionary every day. After a short while I really discovered that I was learning something new.
You know, we carry our mobile phones everywhere we go, so I could always read the message over and over again and therefore learn them by heart. It helped me a lot, so I said to myself: “my family and friends need to benefit from this as well”, so I added a few numbers to this service. After two weeks I went to them to find out what they thought about it, and fortunately all the feedback I got was positive.
This was the start of SpellAfrica. And to be honest, the journey has not been easy but I think a resilience spirit and focus is the key to success.
What’s your next step? What’s your dream/vision?
The next step for SpellAfrica is the scaling stage. After my training here in Stockholm I hope to have gained adequate business skills and competence that will, with no doubt, help me to manage my organization to the fullest extent.
My vision is to see the quality of English language improve in Africa, thereby making those external English examination bodies go out of business.
In 3 years I see SpellAfrica initiative in 3 different countries, increasing by one country a year. And in10 years I see SpellAfrica listed as one of Fortune Global top 500 organizations.
Being a social entrepreneur is most often not to follow the straight wide road. Can you tell us about any road less travelled that you’ve taken and how it turned out?
I really think that everyone can be anything. It doesn’t matter if you are white or black, rich or poor, from here or there. When I started SpellAfrica Initiative it was worth no more than $20, but I believed that it had a great potential and to make it grow I needed money. I kept focus despite great ordeals, but when it was time for me to register my organization in Nigeria I was faced with a registration fee of $1,500. That was a whole lot of money for me at that time, and truth to be told: it almost killed my dream. But after few weeks of deep frustration I was able to figure out a solution that worked -I found a way to register the company in New Zealand!
Then I knew that the solution to any problem lies in your brain. You just have to keep thinking.
What impact do you aim to make? What impacts have you seen so far?
I am aiming to promote English language in Africa. I do believe that SMS is a great tool that can be used to massively build up English vocabulary lessons for millions in Africa.
The impact so far has been impressive, but even though we have not launched the program yet we have gotten over 100 volunteers to make this become a reality.
Why does this, the impact you are trying to make with SpellAfrica Initiative, matter to you?
Put simply, I am a victim of poor basic education and I think that every child, or rather: every single person in Africa, deserves the right to have some form of education that is free and open. That is what SpellAfrica stands for.
Why are you participating in the SE Outreach Accelerator? What were/are your expectations? What are your needs? How has your experience been so far?
I signed up because I knew, of course, that I would benefit a lot. Initially my expectations were that when I would get to the SE Outreach program I would be able to secure funding for my organization.
But those few weeks that I have spent here so far have made me realize that there are more important things needed to be done before I start looking for funding. Many thanks to Jessika Kjellgren and her team for such a nice work!
Any good tips you want to share with the outer world?
Sure. We, as humans, may try to do all we can to make the world a better place for us, but the solution lies in the hands of the creator. (Jehovah)