Pelkins Mbacham Ajanoh was born in Limbe, Cameroon. When he was 13, he lost his father, and the resulting hardships of his mother single-handedly raising him and his siblings led her to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life for her children. Despite going through most of high school without his parents, Pelkins graduated with the top test score on the national advanced level test taken by students in Cameroon.
At 19, Pelkins immigrated to the US to join his mother in Texas and enrolled at Tarrant County College, where he earned an associate of science degree with highest distinction and was named a Guistwhite Scholar by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Focused on getting an education without taking on debt, Pelkins enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington. There he learned about need-blind admissions, a discovery that motivated him to transfer to MIT, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
At MIT, Pelkins became interested in the topic of creating economic opportunity in vulnerable communities through entrepreneurship, which led him to founding CassVita, an agribusiness in Cameroon that converts cassava, a rapidly deteriorating tropical tuber, into shelf-stable flour. CassVita empowers a farming community of over 300 farmers in Cameroon and its products are sold in over 30 supermarkets locally and internationally. In recognition for his work at MIT, Pelkins was awarded the Albert G. Hill Prize and the Suzanne Berger Award for Future Global Leaders.
Pelkins has gained professional experience working as a machine learning intern at Électricité de France in Paris, a self-driving car engineer at General Motors, where he patented a novel technology for calibrating radars for autonomous vehicles, and a program manager at Microsoft. He is interested in leveraging technological innovation to sustainably create economic opportunity globally.