Zimbabwe’s richest man and wife launch $100m fund for rural entrepreneurs

Zimbabwe’s richest man and founder of Econet, Strive Masiyiwa together with his wife, Tsitsi Masiyiwa have set up a $100 million Challenge Fund to support rural businesses and other entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe.

“My wife and I have decided to set up a special fund of $100 million over five years for ReImagine Rural in Zimbabwe. We have also challenged our friends in the philanthropy community to join us to expand it across Africa.” Masiyiwa said in a statement.


Strive Masiyiwa and his wife Tsitsi Masiyiwa

According to the Zimbabwean billionaire, the fund, which will be disbursed as loans through Steward Bank, a member of the Econet Group, will be funded solely by the couple. He further stated that 1.25 percent of the fund will be set aside for Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland region, while a minimum of 50 percent will be set aside for women. However, traditional businesses like stores and grinding mills will not be eligible. The minimum loan will be $1,000 while the maximum will be $10,000. No collateral is required to access the loan which will be given at a maximum interest rate of 5 percent while the repayments will go into a revolving fund. Before accessing these loans, all entrepreneurs must undergo training and there will be no political lobbying for support.

“I want to use this initiative to challenge global donors to support mass entrepreneurship in Africa by putting my own money into what I believe. My wife is currently on a major drive to get this concept adopted by other philanthropists, so we can push into other African countries,” Masiyiwa said.

He also made it known that “the initiative does not reduce our commitment to other areas of our philanthropy efforts including education and the $60 million sanitation and water initiative in Harare.”

Together with his wife, they founded the Higherlife Foundation, which has supported the education of more than 250,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa since 1996. The foundation is present in more than 14 countries which includes Zimbabwe, Burundi, Lesotho, South Africa and Kenya.

What you should  know about Strive Masiyiwa

He is the chairman and and founder of Econet Group with operations and investments in 29 countries.

Masiyiwa currently serves on the board of Unilever, the transnational consumer goods company, as well as the global advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University.

In 2013, the United Nations and the World Bank appointed him to the advisory board of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

He is a trustee of the Asia Society; a member of the Committee on Conscience of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum; and was part of the Founders Circle of the Carbon War Room, an initiative created by Sir Richard Branson to promote market-based, low-carbon energy solutions to combat climate change.

Masiyiwa is the chairman of the board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which is working to improve food security and income levels for 30 million farming households by 2021.