I believe that access to quality education can transform lives, and I work with a community of entrepreneurs to make that happen. I really enjoy helping others to fulfill their potential. One of the things that inspires me in working with school leaders across the continent is seeing the impact that they’re able to have against the odds. This idea of maximizing resources to give the best to students is what drives me.”
Jihad Hajjouji ’08 from Morocco leads a network of education entrepreneurs building high impact institutions across Africa through the Anzisha Education Accelerator. Drawing expertise from her earlier career as a Consultant with Dalberg Global Development Advisors, and learnings from Stanford University where she earned an MBA and Master’s Degree in Education, Jihad seeks to transform the education landscape in Africa by empowering the next generation of education leaders.
When she arrived in the United States from Morocco on an exchange program in her second year of high school, Jihad decided to take on a bold challenge. Instead of shying away from the discussions around 9/11 and Islam, she took the opportunity to commemorate the day by developing a program around the event to create a space for open conversations. It was a day filled with constructive dialogue and lots of home-cooked Moroccan food which moved and encouraged her peers and teachers. Not too long after, she heard about a new institution dedicated to developing the next generation of African leaders, and she applied, thus becoming one of the inaugural students at African Leadership Academy. Through her experience at ALA, Jihad fully embraced the value of entrepreneurship and leadership, and has never shied away from doing hard things.
Discovering Entrepreneurship at ALA
Two aspects of Jihad’s ALA experience truly shaped her identity today: the pan-African diversity at the institution, and the emphasis on entrepreneurship. The connections that Jihad fostered with other exceptional young leaders at ALA enabled her to develop what she describes as a healthy self-esteem. And upon graduation, she had the same support in connecting with a host family and eventually gaining access to professional opportunities. Throughout her ALA journey, she has always been inspired by and supported by the ALA family. Even today, whenever she travels around the continent for work or for personal reasons, she always feels the support of a wider community that she can rely on. Today, it is her ALA family and fellow alumni who continuously inspire her to do more.
The second defining aspect of her ALA experience was the emphasis of the curriculum on the concept of entrepreneurship, unlike her previous schooling experience in Morocco. Inspired and motivated by this new exposure to entrepreneurship, she felt compelled to share it with others in Morocco who were not able to study at ALA. Jihad identified a problem within her own country, designed and developed a solution in collaboration with her ALA peers, and implemented it in a sustainable manner.
National Entrepreneurial Camp
Immediately after graduating from ALA in 2010, Jihad and a few of her classmates took on the challenge of recreating aspects of the two year Diploma Program curriculum as a boot camp for students in Morocco. It was the first example of ALA alumni taking the ALA experience back into their countries, a move which has now been replicated by hundreds of other alumni. They named it the Rabat Entrepreneurial Challenge, hosted it in Morocco’s capital city and recruited about 20 participants for the one-week camp. Overwhelmed with positive feedback from participants and incredible support from parents, the Rabat Entrepreneurial Challenge continued into a second year and has since evolved into the National Entrepreneurial Camp.
Understanding Youth Unemployment
After graduating from ALA in 2010, Jihad attended a prestigious Liberal Arts college, Middlebury College in Vermont, USA. With the goal of returning to Africa to tackle the overwhelming issue of youth unemployment, Jihad double majored in International Politics and Economics. After graduating from Middlebury, she then went on to work as a consultant at Dalberg Global Development Advisors in Johannesburg, Dakar, and Abu Dhabi. During her time at Dalberg, she worked on projects ranging from strategy to private sector investments to youth unemployment. Having held a firm belief that the solution to youth employment was primarily better education, she discovered through her first project at Dalberg that youth unemployment is deeply interwoven with economic instability and a volatile job market. Building on this realization, Jihad decided to return to the USA to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration from Stanford Graduate School of Business coupled with a Master’s in Education from Stanford Graduate School of Education. The combination of her education and professional experiences led Jihad back to the continent, overseeing a number of initiatives geared towards improving the quality of education in Africa.
Jihad returned to ALA in 2018 as she saw the institution at a pivotal inflection point. After graduating over 1,000 young leaders, Jihad saw a collective commitment to supporting the impact of the ALA alumni network beyond just their education. As the Academy pivoted towards creating sector groups to align the work of alumni across classes and nationalities, Jihad stepped forward to lead the first of those new sector groups – ALforEducation, with initiatives including the Anzisha Education Accelerator, the annual ALforEducation Gathering, and education career placements for alumni. Jihad’s main focus is the Anzisha Education Accelerator which is a leadership development program designed to support education entrepreneurs who have successfully launched high-potential schools across Africa, and bring them closer to fulfilling their visions for their schools and education enterprises. The first entrepreneurs in the cohort are fellow ALA alumni, including Belinda Munemo from Zimbabwe, Ali Ramoul from Algeria and Ngor Majak Anyieth from South Sudan. Over a three-year period, Jihad and her team work with the selected education entrepreneurs to help them grow as education leaders, and by extension, help grow their education enterprises.
Vision for the Future
In the short term, Jihad continues to lead the Anzisha Education Accelerator, which has now welcomed its second cohort, but her long-term vision is to see these institutions grow to become model schools in their communities and their countries. Jihad has always seen herself as an enabler and she intends to continue playing a key role in the education sector, supporting leadership development, tackling youth unemployment and enabling the growth of others.