HARARE – Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi, say they are putting up $100 million of their own money to fund rural entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe.
The fund, to be distributed over five years, will be managed by Econet subsidiary, Steward Bank.
Masiyiwa, who made the announcement on Facebook, said the fund will be biased towards women and the Matabeleland provinces.
The loan scheme, which he has dubbed Re-Imagine Rural, “will support projects from rural entrepreneurs or those entrepreneurs willing to focus on rural areas,” Masiyiwa said.
“We have also challenged our friends in the philanthropy community to join us to expand it across Africa. The fund which is our own personal money will be disbursed as loans through Steward Bank, a member of the Econet group),” Masiyiwa said.
“Steward Bank will set up a special team to manage the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund. 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 25 percent of the $100 million will go towards the traditionally marginalised Matabeleland region, while women must get a minimum 50 percent.
The fund will target young people. “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,” Masiyiwa said.
The minimum disbursement will be $1,000 with $10,000 being the maximum. Beneficiaries do not require collateral, but the loan will accrue an interest of a maximum 5 percent with repayments going into a revolving fund, he said.
“All entrepreneurs must undergo training before loans. We will not entertain any political lobbying for support,” he added.