#Re-ImagineRural (Part 5)

__One day rural housing will be a lucrative industry! #WhyNot?

When I returned to my grandmother’s village for the first time after nearly 20 years, I was amazed to find that nothing had changed! The thatched roof homestead was exactly the way it was when I was six years old. (You should know by now that I have a better memory than an elephant!)

My grandmother wanted me to give her electricity… given that I claimed I was an “electrical engineer”!

I was disturbed about the state of her homestead, even though my concern was not shared by any of my relatives. When I asked my grandmother what she really wanted, she was clear:

“I want a house with electricity, brick walls, cement floor, and I don’t like the grass!”

I owed so much to my grandmother, perhaps even my very life. When the War of Independence began, I was with her when the army swept through our village looking for guerrilla fighters. I was only six but she immediately sent me back to the city. In later years she was interned in “fenced villages” by Ian Smith’s army. She was a tough old lady and lived until she was 106 years old.

She knew her mind, and she knew me.

“I want a proper house,” she demanded.

“Okay. Let’s see what I can do.”

Now if I could have, I would have simply borrowed a little money to build her house, right? People laughed at me with scorn at the idea that I would borrow money to build a rural homestead.

But I’m a “Why not?” person…

I do not accept that things should remain the way they are, as though ordered by God!

Fast forward…

I asked an architect friend to design me a rural homestead for my grandmother. He thought it was a novel idea, and travelled there with me one afternoon. It was nothing elaborate. It was functional, and with all the rural elements.

It was my little project for years. I would buy cement and bricks bit by bit. Remember, I did not always have money.

In the years that I worked, I wondered why governments don’t provide tax incentives for people like me who wanted to invest in improving the rural areas. I wondered why entrepreneurs do not set up rural mortgage financing vehicles.

I imagined for her a rural homestead with running water and electricity. With the advent of solar energy, it is possible now!

What really excites me now is the possibility of #Re-Imagining our villages. Nowhere is it written that they cannot be improved. In Rwanda they are now Re-Imagining with model villages powered by solar. #WhyNot?

Our policy planners can also Re-Imagine and create incentives for those who work and live in cities and the diaspora to invest in rural areas! #WhyNot?

Don’t write to me about the challenges. I know them all. Let’s see what we can do nonetheless, because we must.

Let’s go.

To be continued. . .

by 15 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

15 thoughts on “#Re-ImagineRural (Part 5)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    When most of us think of rural areas, we do not think of rural housing as something which must be planned for, let alone something which requires actual investment. I have never met a policymaker who says “Let’s build proper housing for people in rural areas, with running water, electricity and toilets.”

    But #WhyNot?!

    • Jean-Philippe Aithnard

      Dear M. Masiyiwa
      Thank you for this information. I didn’t know the difference in energy between a urban large house and a rural house was so big !
      I also heard about the Solar Home System (SHS) which are individual systems that can provide enough energy for bulbs, fridge, TV etc..
      According to you, If the goal is to reach the maximum number of persons, which approach is the more efficient ? Mini grids or SHS ?
      Thanks again for the excellent information you are providing us

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    If you provided fiscal incentives for rural housing and other related projects, you would stimulate national economic growth.

    It’s economics Lol!

    Think of the cement, and other building materials.

    Our problem is we don’t “believe” that rural people are part of the modern economy and so we don’t design policies for rural economic development. We think they need simple things like clinics, a school and some dirt roads. Enterprise is a butcher’s shop, a supermarket, a beer hall and a grinding mill! It’s time to #Re-ImagineRural.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    The power consumed by a large house in the capital city (10 KW) is enough to provide electricity to 1,000 people who can use fridges, stoves, and running water. This can be done with a simple solar system with a battery storage unit.

    I have just set up a rural solar power company that is going to work in this area. I’m planning to build mini-grid systems in 20 countries within 3 years.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    Did you notice that I said rural housing will be an “industry”? Think about it for a moment: Modernization of rural housing to provide houses — built with bricks and cement, with full solar power (not those little solar lights, but enough to provide fridges and stoves), running water and toilets — would stimulate manufacturing. It is one of the easiest ways to stimulate manufacturing industries in building materials.

    Now someone will say, “We don’t have the money” and I will say back… “We will never have money until we do it!”

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    One day rural communities will demand the same consideration we give to urban communities when it comes to housing, sanitation, clean water and electricity.

    We will need to train a new generation of planners, architects, and engineers who are specialists in providing modern living in rural settings.

    We will need a new generation of entrepreneurs who see opportunities in rural areas to apply innovations to the rural challenges. They will set up enterprises that go beyond the traditional businesses found in rural areas.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Qwequ writes,

    Dr. Strive, your works shall follow you. I visited a village in Upper West Region of Ghana, many civil servants refuse postings to these areas and the few that are there are ernestly seeking transfer out. However, I thought. .how about decent accommodation for rural folks? It could create a chain reaction of new businesses like transport, clothing, entertainment, health post etc. But then again I ask #WHY NOT? Will sure send news of my exploits soon.

    My reply,
    It is all in the mindset. We need to open the rural areas of our countries to entrepreneurship. It will improve livelihoods, and create jobs.
    It all starts with a vision, a dream:
    I have a dream of a rural housing revolution across Africa. I have a dream to ReImagineRural in Africa for the 21st Century!
    Now that I have fired up your entrepreneurial imagination go and do it for me!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I bumped into a young African architect sometime ago, and when he had told me what he did, I asked him:
    “So how many rural houses have you ever designed?”
    He was confused by my question, and stumbled a response.
    Then I added:
    “Can you design a rural home using local materials, with modern conveniences like electricity, running water, and a flushing toilet for $1000?

    —That is my challenge to you.”

    It does not matter what professional skill you have, the challenge is the same.
    Remember the flushing toilet was invented by a plumber over 150 years ago.
    You don’t need a PhD for most of the challenges our rural communities face every day!

    I’m waiting for the graduates from our universities to rise up to the challenge of #ReImagineRural!

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ajiferuke writes,

    I am an Architect looking into the use of burnt bricks for rural house development.
    It will be good to see your cost estimate when you are through.

    My reply,

    I would like to see African architects, and engineers active in the design of rural homes for the 21st century.
    These must in turn stimulate local industries for building materials, and construction. They must be sustainable and avoid environmental degradation.
    Look at things like water harvesting techniques, low cost sanitation systems, and ofcourse off grid solar systems that can power modern conveniences like fridges and stoves.
    These homes must address things like mosquitos to cut down malaria.
    It’s an exciting time for African Architects.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Fast Follower governments can learn from one another!

    Here is a simple way for a government to create 10,000 -100,000 jobs over the next three years!

    Train 10,000 young people to go around the countryside digitizing Rural land ownership. Give everyone Digital leasehold for the land they occupy, even if it was given by a chief.
    Digitizing Rural property like they did in Rwanda. Such data is critical to integrating them into the formal economy.
    It is a powerful investment tool.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Austin writes,

    God bless you chief!

    We have built a community of people all over the world who joins us in a prayer a day for Leah. Here is the link for anyone who is interested to post a prayer for LEAH:http://fb.com/groups/PrayForLeah

    We even attracted David Goatley attention and he did a beautiful portrait for LEAH Sharibu.

    His subjects have included Princes, a Peer, a Prime Minister, provincial Premiers, five Lt. Governors, a Bishop and leaders in Business, Academia, the Arts and the Law as well as many families. His work is included in 2 Royal Collections as well as the collections of governments, museums, corporations, intuitions and in hundreds of private homes.

    David is also a noted muralist and paints the people and places he encounters on his travels for exhibition and sale when his busy schedule of commissions allows.

    My reply,
    This is beautiful!
    I have followed your efforts on this.
    You are a true blessing to the African continent.
    I read every one of your comments.

    I’m sorry we were not able to take you to Ghana because of the VIP protocols placed on me, which meant we had to clear everyone with the Ghanaian authorities in advance. These things can be very complicated at times. There will be another opportunity on a happier occasion.

  11. lilian

    this is the most interesting and insipiring topics im reading and doind a real study on sir
    i’m a government ambassador for affordable housing agenda 4 in Kenya but for one full year it has seemed quite un doable due to complicated legislation
    i’m looking for a simple formulae where i can mobilise investors in rural housing initiative but first and foremost develop entrepreneurship skills for rural inhabitants


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