Zimbabwean philanthropists’ $100 million impact investment to improve rural communities

Co-founders of the Higherlife Foundation, Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa have announced their commitment to boost rural African economies with a $100 million impact investment over the next five years.

The Masiyiwa’s have been involved in philanthropy and social impact for over 20 years, providing support to vulnerable people across the continent. They founded and set up the Higherlife Foundation in 1996 to improve the resilience and growth of individuals and communities through a mix of programmes in education, health, entrepreneurship, rural transformation, and women’s empowerment. With a vision to raise 2 million leaders by 2020, the Co-founders recently announced their commitment to further boost rural economies with a $100 million impact investment over the next five years.  

The investment, called the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund, will focus on funding projects that will stimulate economic activity in rural communities – an area often ignored by development programmes. “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” Strive Masiyiwa noted in an interview. Funded by the Higherlife Foundation, the Challenge Fund will be administered by Steward Bank and grant loans of up to $10,000 at low interest rates to entrepreneurs who are either located in or focused on rural communities. Through a USAID guarantee facility and technical partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Foundation had previously disbursed $3 million for rural finance projects. The Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund is a welcome expansion of this ongoing programme.

In addition to the Challenge Fund, the Masiyiwa’s are currently rolling out what they call Rural Entrepreneurship Centers in local communities. These solar-powered centers will be equipped to provide electricity, internet, clean water and sanitation to help create an enabling environment for small scale entrepreneurs.  Over the next five years, the Masiyiwa’s believe that these new rural investments will enhance livelihoods and income opportunities for all Africans.

Since 1996, the Higherlife Foundation has funded programmes and projects that have transformed the lives of millions across Zimbabwe, Burundi, Lesotho, South Africa and Kenya. The Foundation has provided education scholarships to over 20,000 students, registered over 1 million students on its Ruzivo Smart Learning platform (an online interactive digital learning platform targeted at primary and secondary school students), and indirectly supported over 250,000 (two hundred and fifty thousand) Africans. 600,000 (six hundred thousand) students are currently accessing quality education through Ruzivo Learning each month.

With the understanding that the skills, knowledge, and innovative ability of human capital plays a major role in driving economic growth, it is imperative for smart and timely investments in projects such as the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund to accelerate Africa’s transformational efforts at eradicating poverty, enhancing livelihoods and boosting shared prosperity.





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