On the 17th of February 2019, Strive Masiyiwa shared his mind-blowing vision on Rural Entrepreneurship Centres (RECs) #ReImaginingRural on his Facebook page . The concept will be about developing RECs at rural business centres across Africa. A REC being a solar-powered centre that houses small business ventures, internet cafes, clean water & sanitation. Solar generation will be done through mini-grids which shall be rolled out by his new company called Ugesi Energy (www.ugesienergy.com).

He highlighted that the vision will have its maiden implementation here in Zimbabwe & upon success, shall be spread out to the rest of the continent. He mentioned Rwanda, Burundi, Lesotho & Botswana as subsequent countries earmarked for RECs provided the local implementation pays off.

Currently, rural population in Zimbabwe is 68.9% of the total population so this is a huge initiative that will benefit many people.

Matabeleland Provinces Will Come First

He pointed out that the initiative will start off in the Matabeleland provinces – there’s a perfect reason for this. 10 mini-grids shall be installed there over the course of the next 6 months. He indicated that the responsible teams are already on the ground in Bulawayo to commence work within the next two weeks.

Why Matabeleland First?

Many of you probably know the HLF (Higher Life Foundation); it’s been quite actively involved in rural Zimbabwe for over 20 years. Therefore, they have empirical data on various metrics such as provincial poverty rates. This simply means the need for RECs is greatest in that region.

The Idea Behind The RECs

The idea is to develop a hub (in this case, a REC) that will lure various kinds of entrepreneurs & innovators. He said the long term goal will be to see shared economy businesses like KariGo & HelloTractor providing contract ploughing services to farmers. He pointed out that the initiative shall be open to everyone, especially young innovative people who will come up with businesses in the agritech & agrifood arenas. So the modus operandi is two-tier i.e. first by powering rural business hubs & then funding plus assisting entrepreneurs to set-up shop there.

Funding Opportunities

Owing to the realization that many lack funding for their business ideas, he has set aside a $100 million Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund. Loans of up to $10 000 will be made available through Steward Bank; interest rate shall be 5%. So he has challenged those eager to be part of this to apply for the loans. He also highlighted that if you dwell within 5km of a REC you’ll qualify to apply for a loan without the need for attaching any collateral. Their AI (Artificial Intelligence) platform called Kashagi shall be used to process submitted applications.

N.B He underscored the importance for those who shall get loans to pay back on-time. This shall set a good precedent for more people to get loans – timeous repayment obviously translates to more funds availability.

Think Waste Management

Waste management is a very large business domain. The global waste management market shall be worth almost US$500 billion by 2025 – it’s huge! Strive expressed his keenness to see waste management start-ups coming forward to set-up business ventures in the RECs. Lots of money to be made among other community benefits.

In fact he basically urged anyone with a robust and innovative business idea to get involved. From eye clinics to dental clinics and so on; he pledged to offer his total support.

Collaboration & Teamwork

He urged people to make known any #ReImagineRural initiatives that are currently in existence. This will help in exploring options and even scaling up like ventures that are currently underway. The other aspect he underscored was that we must promote this initiative as that will make it easy for him to help set-up anywhere. He also called upon any current successful businesses that fit into the REC framework to strike up partnerships with locals.

Transportation Support Framework

Following on the success of the Vaya taxi service, they are now busy working on rolling out the Vaya Tractor service. The goal is to recruit 10 000 tractors that will be used to provide ploughing for their 1 million Ecofarmer members. The Vaya Tractor shall be a key vehicle in helping farmers in the RECs. He also hinted on plans to introduce the Van delivery service (like KariGo) into the rural areas.

Nigel Chanakira Threw His Weight Behind The Initiative

Nigel indicated that he is more than ready to mentor rural entrepreneurs, managers & staff as his support for the initiative. Obviously, having financial literacy is critical for the rural folks and Nigel says he shall endeavour to assist with mentorship in that regard. He drew attention to his two platforms that people can use for financial planning. You can sign up using the links below:

RiskFlow (cashflow optimiser for individuals) – https://cfo4i.app.riskflow.net/?ref=nigel

RiskFlow (cashflow optimiser for businesses) – https://cfo4b.app.riskflow.net/?ref=nigel

Entrepreneurship Training Is Key

Strive said he has advised Steward Bank not to issue loans to anyone who hasn’t undergone entrepreneurship training. He also pointed out that they have set aside $10 million to be used in training services. Partners working with the bank & HLF shall be instrumental in executing those training programs.

The Need For A Compendium Of Rural Enterprises

Have gave allusion to what an Israeli startup called Startup Nation Central is currently doing. It is working on developing a website which maps and updates all rural enterprises in Israel. He called upon young people to take up the challenge of developing something like that here. He also pointed out that he will gladly support those who take up the challenge. Once such a platform is developed it will be very important to RECs.

I experienced goose bumps just going over & digesting this vision that Strive Masiyiwa has now laid bare to us – it’s a thought-provoking initiative. This initiative shall be an all-rounder that shall benefit communities by creating food security, employment, wealth & sustainable living conditions for rural folk. Get involved!