Meet the Entrepreneur: Wambura Kimunyu, Eneza Education
At FINCA Ventures, we look for entrepreneurs leveraging market-based solutions to create large-scale, lasting social impact. In this series, “Meet the Entrepreneur,” we’ll be taking you into the minds of the intrepid leaders at our portfolio companies who boldly venture into markets in need of positive disruption.
Over the last decade, the mobile industry has redefined the possibilities of socio-economic impact in sub-Saharan Africa. After MNOs and mobile technologies disrupted financial services, would education be next in line? We believe so. With the world’s youngest population, the region needs an education sector that will deliver the quality workforce that underpins real economic transformation. In this interview, we chatted with Wambura Kimunyu, CEO of Eneza Education, to see how this EdTech start-up is leveraging digital tools and mobile infrastructure to improve educational outcomes across the continent. Eneza Education is a social enterprise based in Kenya that develops hardware-agnostic digital educational curriculums that work on basic feature phones, smartphones and tablets for K-12 students and beyond.
What marketplace gap is Eneza Education solving for, and how is it doing it in a way that is new, better or different?
Wambura: Eneza Education develops curriculum-based digital learning modules designed to be accessible to most households in Africa in two ways. First, educational content is available via basic mobile phones. So, no matter where you are, if you have a standard feature phone, you can access our content. Second, it is delivered at a price that users living at the bottom of the pyramid (“BOP”) can afford. Parents with means can afford supplementary resources to enhance their children’s education. Poorer parents — even though they, too, want the best for their children — often lack the resources to do this, creating inequity in educational access for learners from poorer economic backgrounds. Our goal is to meet the needs of these learners as they seek high-quality, affordable learning experiences and to do so in a sustainable way that centers them and gives them agency.
You were brought in to lead Eneza Education in 2019. How did this opportunity first come to you?
Wambura: The prospect of a role at Eneza Education popped onto my radar sometime in 2018. I had previously had the privilege of working with some influential startups within the African tech ecosystem and was looking for an opportunity to apply my experience toward solving a “hard problem” in the African context. Specifically, I wanted to move into areas of high impact, where tech solutions could be applied to socioeconomic and development challenges. I’d determined by then that I was most interested in the sectors of EdTech, HealthTech and AgriTech. So, it was serendipity at work when I encountered Eneza.
You’re an accomplished operator with a background in publishing, fintech and digital marketplaces across sub-Saharan Africa. How did these experiences prepare you to lead Eneza Education?
Wambura: One of the things that struck me when I first encountered the opportunity at Eneza was the way it so neatly brought together my academic background, professional experience and interests. I have a degree in education and began my career as a trainer. Soon thereafter, I worked in traditional publishing, later segueing into developing and delivering mobile content through premium rate services. This helped grow my understanding and appreciation of BOP and mass market audiences, not only in Kenya, but also across Africa. The threading together of my education, my professional experience and my interest at Eneza was a driving force behind my decision to take the helm here. It’s a sweet spot for what I can do, what I love to do, and where I can make an impact.
Why were you motivated to join Eneza Education and lead the team through its next growth phase?
Wambura: Eneza Education has a simple yet compelling proposition that is hard not to fall in love with. I was and remain very drawn to the founders’ vision to provide quality, affordable learning to underserved markets. Joining Eneza was not a difficult choice — it had all the elements I wanted in my next career assignment. Sure, I knew the role would present its fair share of challenges given Eneza is still in start-up mode, but I also knew that if I took it on and got it right, I would have the privilege of making a positive impact in the lives of those who otherwise have limited opportunities. Once this was clear, everything else fell into place.
What’s your vision for Eneza Education’s future, including your key priorities?
Wambura: The founders had already cast a big vision to become Africa’s largest classroom, reaching 50 million learners across the continent. I love it and I see no need to change it. My goal is to make this a reality. To do that, I am focused on three key priorities. First, building a team that will bring Eneza to the next level. The importance of human capital in achieving our ambitions cannot be overstated. Second, restructuring our platform for the next level of scale. This is where our technological expertise must really shine through, which in turn demands that we build the right team for the task. Third, getting the right product connected to the right customer at the right price. We believe we have a very compelling product for the BOP. It’s simple but it is effective. We’re not looking to be sexy; we’re focused on delivering a quality educational service that makes a positive impact in our users’ lives.
How do you define “impact” at Eneza Education and why is impact so important to you?
Wambura: Our measure of impact is simple: improvement in the academic performance of those who regularly use our platform. This goal is important because, if we can achieve it, our users can then gain access to better learning opportunities at higher levels of education — our primary school learners can gain access to better high schools, and our high school users can gain access to quality tertiary institutions. Better learning opportunities, in turn, have the potential to yield better life opportunities. This can lead not only to personal improvements of individuals — better jobs, increased self-confidence — but also to economic improvements of families and communities — higher wages, better standards of living.
On a personal level, impact means making a positive difference on my continent through significant and tangible improvements in the day-to-day lives of the underserved in a way that recognizes and respects their agency and delivers a quality service to them as valued and valuable customers. I believe the marriage of technology and education at Eneza has tremendous potential to make this happen. I’ve been fortunate to accomplish many milestones in my career, but I always wanted to apply my skills to moving the envelope on a macro social problem and I see this as my opportunity to do so.
What do you hope FINCA Ventures can bring to help Eneza Education achieve its goals?
Wambura: FINCA Ventures is not only a capital partner, but also a proactive and generous supporter. If I need strategic advice or help in a specific domain, such as data or market development, I know I can turn to their team. That makes FINCA Ventures an invaluable partner to have alongside us on the journey and we count ourselves lucky to have them.