ALA Alumni Emerge as Prize Winners at Oxford Africa Conference

The Living Machine‘s co-creator Jesse Forrester ’17 and Zambian entrepreneur Mainza Moono ’08 won first and third place respectively in the 2021 Innovation Fair of the Oxford Africa Conference for their work addressing critical challenges on the African continent.

Jesse’s company Mazi is a Kenyan Mobility as a Service (MaaS) company leveraging clean energy to re-imagine mobility by implementing motorbikes. Mainza’s company, Sanaa Space, is the largest affordable online art marketplace in Kenya that seeks to ease access to art for all.

The Oxford Africa Conference Innovation Fair took place on the 28th and 29th of May 2021 with a cohort of 11 highly innovative companies, based across five African countries. Participants were selected from over 150 applications.

The virtual event brought together African entrepreneurs with small and medium businesses that are addressing some of the most critical issues in key sectors of African economies and societies which include creative, healthcare, and sustainability sectors.

Mazi, founded by Jesse, won first prize taking home $5,000 while Sanaa founded by Mainza won the third-place prize taking home $1,000. At ALA, Jesse designed and implemented the Living Machine which recycles approximately 300,000 liters of grey water annually that will be re-used in an aquaponic system growing fish, providing water for crops for various agricultural student enterprises on campus, and supplying the sprinkler system around the campus. Today, The Living Machine exists as an integral part of ALA’s campus infrastructure and a monument to doing hard things.

When Jesse returned to Kenya post-graduation, he once again immersed himself in the entrepreneurship space with the vision of creating a positive impact on transportation on the continent . Jesse founded his newest venture with the mission to serve e-mobility operators with reliable and affordable on-demand energy. “We have launched a fleet of ten motorbikes in Nairobi. We are planning on having 100-200 motorbikes by the end of this year and next year having 1,000 bikes on the road and 5,000 motorbikes on the streets after that. We want to create clean, shared and affordable transportation on the continent.” 

Jesse was thrilled to win the innovation prize and have his work internationally recognised alongside another ALA alumni. “It felt great to validate my ideas and have a reputable institution validate my ideas. Mainza called me after the prizes were announced and we congratulated each other.” Mazi does not manufacture the motorbikes or batteries, they recognize their value as providing batteries as a service and as a swapping station arena. In the long run, Jesse and Mazi’s vision is to drive the transformation to a smart, efficient, clean, and shared transportation in the developing world. 

Learn more about the innovative entrepreneurship ventures Mazi and Sanaa Space.


Read more to see how ALA alumni are making a tangible impact on the continent and around the world through our Redefine Expectations series.