Home Voices Re-Imagine Rural – Part 5

Re-Imagine Rural – Part 5

by Strive Masiyiwa
9:18 am


One day rural housing will be a lucrative industry! WhyNot?

Shyira model village in Nyabihu district, one among many modernized rural settlements in Rwanda. Masiyiwa takes Rwanda as a good example to follow if you want to re-imagine rural

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”!

Above: A close look of Shyira Model village in Shyira sector. Below: two old women probably the age of Masiyiwa’s granny-then. They are beneficiaries of a unity in the model village  Rwanda provides all modern amenities in these rural settlements

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.

Horezo village, Muhanga district

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. . .