Education Panels

Innovations for impact in education: improving quality in resource constrained communities

This panel highlights cutting-edge approaches to improving education quality in Sub-Saharan Africa from the perspective of NGOs, private sector actors, investors, and government partners. From privatizing primary schools to re-designing systems of higher education, this panel explores how new models and technology-based solutions can be utilized to transform the delivery of education across the continent.


Phil Michaels, Co-founder and CEO of Tembo Education

Phil Michaels has an MBA and currently sits on the HIVE Leadership Board at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He is the co-founder and CEO of Tembo Education and was recently published in Forbes magazine among the top 30 Social Entrepreneurs Under the age of 30. His social enterprise, Tembo, educates 0-6 year old children around the world, via text messages. Tembo uses a high-quality curriculum to train and certify home educators to teach parents via text messages. The parents then educate their children in their own homes. For educating their children and answering the quiz correctly, the parent is rewarded with free airtime (minutes and texts) and monetary incentives. Out of 22,000 teams, Tembo was one of six finalists in Bill Clinton's $1 million Hult Prize. They were the only finalist from the USA and defeated all eight Ivy League universities. 
Recently, the owner of the Boston Red Sox presented Tembo with the Social Impact Award. Tembo believes education is the most powerful weapon to change the world and they will do so by making a quality early-childhood education more accessible and
affordable to millions of children worldwide.

Dr. Neva,  Founder of NEVA Alliance Training Co.

Dr. Neva Helena Alexander prefers to be called Dr. Neva. It is a name that she adopted in Saudi Arabia where it is customary in their culture to be called by one's first name. Beyond academia, she has a global entrepreneurial spirit. Dr. Neva is the Founder of NEVA Alliance Training Co. which offers training and development services on Corporate Governance, Leadership, Business Development and Culture & Diversity. Her area of expertise is leadership and is particularly a professional in gender and cross-cultural issues as it relates to leadership. She has vastly traveled the globe to several countries namely England, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Malaysia, China, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Canada, Antigua, Cayman, Bahamas, Barbados, St. Lucia both for professional purposes and her interest in learning and understanding other cultures. This kind of exposure fully compliments her expertise in understanding different cultures and thus being a great asset in managing cross-cultural diversity. Dr. Neva has taught leadership to females in Saudi Arabia where she worked as a faculty and Associate Chair for the College of Arts and Science Female Campus at Prince Mohammad University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Also, she is an Adjunct Assistant Professor for City of New York University SPS Program. She received her doctorate in education leadership from Argosy University, a Master of Arts in Social Science from Long Island University, and a Bachelor of Arts from John Jay College of Criminal Justice where she majored in legal studies.  Dr. Neva has organized networking events and created public relations exposure for businesses and professionals who have been unable to utilize the many marketing internet opportunities within their local communities, nationally and internationally. In addition to being an educator in the classroom, she trains and coaches people from every walk of life and profession. She has published educational research and is the author of Females’ Guide to Understanding Leadership and #Risingleaders

Meghan Mahoney, Rwanda Expansion, Educate


Meghan Mahoney is the Evaluation Director at Educate!. Educate! works to transform education in Africa to teach youth the skills to solve poverty. Educate! directly implements our model in schools and partners with governments for education reforms, reaching more than 14,000 students intensively across 500 schools in Uganda and Rwanda, and more than 240,000 students more broadly. Its model was proven to have massive impact in a randomized controlled trial with graduates earning double the income of a control group and seeing a 64% increase in business creation. Educate!’s vision is to reach one million students annually across 10 countries in Africa by 2024. Educate! has received many awards: including the 2015 WISE award, recognition as one of 14 global case studies on scaling education by the Brookings Institution, and fellowships from Echoing Green, Ashoka, and the Mulago Foundation. The organization has been funded by Global Innovation Fund, MasterCard Foundation, Barclays, Big Bang Philanthropy and many others. As Evaluation Director, Meghan sets Educate!’s strategic direction for evaluation, oversees all evaluation data collection, analysis, and communication of results, and manages evaluation projects for the organization. Prior to joining Educate!, Meghan was a Policy Manger at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT, where she oversaw J-PAL's Labor Markets and Youth sector and its work on cost-effectiveness analysis. he also worked to design and implement the evaluation of a pilot microcredit and sustainable agriculture program in Nicaragua, and as an international trade policy analyst. Meghan holds an M.A. in Development Economics and Program Evaluation from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a B.A. in Economics and International Relations from American University .

Chinezi Chijioke, Founder and the CEO, Nova Pioneer Education Group

Chinezi Chijioke is a Founder and the CEO of Nova Pioneer Education Group, a network of accessible 21st century private schools across Africa.  The mission of Nova Pioneer is to develop generations of innovators and leaders who will shape the Africa Century. Today Nova-Pioneer operates 6 schools in South Africa and Kenya, with a goal of operating 100 great schools over the next decade. Chinezi started his career as a secondary school mathematics teacher and founder of youth leadership programmes.  Immediately prior to starting Nova-Pioneer, Chinezi worked with McKinsey & Company where he led the firm’s African education practice, and co-authored of the firm’s 2010 report on How the World’s Best School Systems Keep Getting Better. He currently serves on the Global Advisory Council of Teach For All.   A Nigerian, Chinezi lives in South Africa. Chinezi holds a Bachelor of Arts with honours from Harvard University, and a Masters of Business Administration and Masters of Education from Stanford University.

Dai Ellis, Co-Founder, Kepler and Nova Pioneer

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Dai Ellis is an education entrepreneur building ventures that prepare youth in Africa for success in 21st century careers. Most recently, Dai co-founded Nova Pioneer to build the first pan-African network of primary and secondary schools that provide a world-class education at a cost that is affordable to working families. Dai is also a co-founder of Kepler and Spire. Kepler is reimagining higher education with a disruptive bachelor’s degree offering that produces dramatically better employment outcomes for students at low cost. Meanwhile, Spire is a corporate training venture that helps some of the fastest-growing companies in Africa expand and thrive by turbocharging the growth of their junior staff. Both Kepler and Spire use a delivery model that combines world-class online content, high-quality in-person coaching, and extensive on-the-job practice. 

Dai previously served as CEO of Excel Academy Charter Schools, where he was responsible for building a network of high-performing urban schools in Boston. Dai has also worked at McKinsey and later spent five years leading the Clinton Foundation’s work on improving the marketplace for drugs, vaccines, and other essential health products in the developing world. Dai is a graduate of Yale Law School.

Alex Smith, Bridge International Academies

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Alex leads the Early Childhood Education team at Bridge International Academies, the largest chain of private schools in Africa. Bridge disrupts the educational status quo by ensuring that every child has access to a high quality education. The first Bridge International Academy opened in 2009. 7 years later, Bridge reaches over 100,000 pupils each day at over 500 schools across Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Liberia, and India. Since joining Bridge in 2013, Alex has driven dramatic increases in literacy and numeracy gains for Bridge’s youngest pupils through a comprehensive redesign of the educational program. Before joining Bridge, Alex worked for Denver Public Schools and Teach For America. Alex taught elementary school for 5 years in Houston, Texas where he was a founding teacher at KIPP’s first elementary school in the country. He got his start in education as a volunteer, tutoring students and providing interpretation for Spanish-speaking parents at parent-teacher conferences. Alex holds a Doctorate in Education Leadership from Harvard University, a Masters in Bilingual and ESL Education from the University of Saint Thomas, and a Bachelors in English and Spanish – summa cum laude – from the University of Utah. He currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts with his wife, two children, and a puppy.