Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of world-renowned telecoms group, Econet Wireless has, along with his wife, announced a $100 million fund, specifically targeted at rural entrepreneurs/rural-focused enterprises in Zimbabwe over the next 5 years.
According to Masiyiwa, the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund (as it is dubbed) is sourced from he and his wife’s personal finances.
“This initiative does not reduce our commitment to other areas of our philanthropy efforts including education and the $60m sanitation and water initiative in Harare,” said Masiyiwa in an official statement.
Monies will be disbursed as loans through Steward Bank (a member of the Econet Group), following a number of criteria:
- 25% must be set aside for an area of Zimbabwe called Matabeleland
- Women must get minimum 50%
- Young people must be the focus
- Traditional businesses like stores and grinding mills will be excluded.
- We want to see a new generation of businesses, to fulfil my dream of #ReImagineRural.
- Min: $1000, Max $10,000.
- No collateral
- Maximum interest 5%
- Repayments will go into revolving fund
- All entrepreneurs must undergo training before loans
- No political lobbying for support
While challenging other African billionaires like himself to also “support mass entrepreneurship in Africa,” Masiyiwa said that his wife is working to “get this concept adopted by other philanthropists, so we can push into other African countries.”
There are however no details yet on how entrepreneurs can apply to take advantage of the fund.
Strive Masiyiwa is not the only African billionaire who has committed to supporting the continent’s entrepreneurs on a massive scale. In 2015, Nigerian billionaire and UBA chairman, Tony Elumelu announced his 100m TEEP fund, which runs a similar programme to Masiyiwa’s — albeit with interest-free grants — and is currently in its fifth iteration.