James da Costa

One Young World Profile profiles

James da Costa

University of Warwick, University of Hong Kong

I am passionate about

I am most passionate and engaged about the intersection between business, technology and impact. In particular, I am passionate about connecting the 3.5 billion people who are still offline in the world today. I believe this will be a catalyst to solve some of the world's largest problems such as equal access to education and economic empowerment.

Drawing my roots from Kenya, India and UK, then moving to China, has enabled me to see first-hand the disparity between those who are connected to the internet and those who are not. I want to spend my life thinking about tackling some of the world's most pressing issues using social enterprise, which I believe is the most efficient solution to take on these problems, where NGOs and Governments cannot.

In line with connectivity, I am a strong proponent of equal opportunity in all forms, not least because I believe diverse teams create better solutions. I am often inspired by meeting similar young people to myself with huge levels of motivation but a lack of opportunity, yet they are still innovating to make a better life; unlocking the human potential of this youth is a great challenge facing the world. Innovation is not always high tech and doesn’t always happen in resource rich environments – some of the best innovations are the opposite, achieved through accessible design and unique distribution. I think resource rich countries can learn from this to focus on designing in a more accessible way and apply technology for good, from blockchain and digital identity or solar to provide power to unlit families.


I help to create positive change by aiming to bring positivity to those around me every day and encouraging youth to use entrepreneurship for good.

As a Regional Director at Hult Prize Foundation, I have helped catalyse thousands of students to change the world through entrepreneurship. Each year with the United Nations, Hult Prize releases a global challenge which 150,000 students all over the world respond to. This summer, I co-designed the content for the world's largest start-up accelerator - in terms of cohort size, investment dollars and land (it’s in a castle), with the aim to invest 1 million USD in one start up.

Prior to joining McKinsey, I co-founded a tech social enterprise, Mandala Group, building mobile applications for low-income and rural communities to solve social issues. For example, teleStory enables illiterate mothers to read to their children around Mumbai through a call-in audio book system and MCOCO provides a marketplace for farmers to sell their coconuts in rural Kenya. I have previously spoken about Tech for Good at Houses of Parliament, Osaka City Hall, WISE NYC, TEDx and Startup Grind.

At McKinsey, I have led various environmental, entrepreneurship and global experience initiatives. This includes advising governments on tax efficiency to improve public and social service provisions in their countries.

Finally, as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, I am part of a global community creating dialogue, action and change on a local level. With the Shapers, I have been able to connect tech innovations and learnings China to tech hubs in different African countries.