When U.S. superstar Akon landed in Liberia a fortnight ago to launch the “Light to Learn Initiative” alongside Bridge Partnership Schools for Liberia, in his entourage were two gentlemen of whom not much has been said or heard of.
Nacshon and Arieh Mimran, born and bred in Senegal, are the founders of the NGO Tikkum Olam (TO). The brothers are the sons of Jean-Claude Mimran, founder of the Mimran Group, which has been an entrepreneurial force in Senegal’s agriculture sector for three generations.
TO is among the partners who have helped to make the #LightToLearn initiative in the country a reality.
Founded in 2012, TO is an open platform that cultivates and promotes kind business through supporting and nurturing entrepreneurs and companies. The platform aims to create authentic brands that are working to make a real difference in the world.
Despite being born with a silver spoon, the brothers knew that they wanted to make a difference, and they believe in education to help develop communities.
“Inequality in our world does not come from a lack of personal effort, it comes from a lack of opportunity in society,” said a lean back Arieh. “Similarly, quality education does not simply benefit a child’s personal growth; it provides opportunity to an entire community.” Perhaps their driving motto kick started the Light to Learn initiative.
In November 2014, Nacshon and Arieh hosted Akon on their family farm in Northern Senegal. The Senegalese singer and entrepreneur had recently launched Solektra, the company behind his “Akon Lighting Africa” project, with fellow West African entrepreneur Samba Bathily and activist Thione Niang. Akon had seen the potential of solar energy and spoken publicly about his hope of bringing electricity to millions of Africans, who, like his grandmother, lived without electricity. Less than a week after Akon visited the Mimran farm, Solektra delivered solar power equipment to a school supported by the Marie Louise Mimran Foundation.
Realizing their interests were aligning, they introduced Akon to the co-founder of Bridge International Academies (BIA), Dr. Shannon May who, alongside her husband Jay Kimmelman, founded the mission-driven organization to design and deliver cost-effective solutions that enable parents and governments to have high performing nursery and primary schools.
In May 2016, the dots were finally connected when Nachson and Arieh saw the opportunity to start a campaign around education and energy. They introduced the founders of Bridge International Academies to the founders of Solektra with the “Akon Lighting Africa” initiative. The idea was for Solektra to power the communities around Bridge schools in several African countries. The Light to Learn partnership was born and aimed to address the energy and education crises in Africa.
The Mimran brothers and TO joined Akon and Bridge Partnership Schools for Liberia on October 20 and 21 to launch the Light To Learn Initiative at the J.W. Pearson School on Carey Street in downtown Monrovia and the Zuluyee Public School in Nimba County. They paid a courtesy c