For Irfan Keshavjee, Sc’94, life in Kenya as a managing director, philanthropist, and family man is busy and satisfying.
In early 2007, his second child was born and his family moved into a larger home, fitting out the master bedroom with an 8 ft.-by-8 ft. bed so the four of them could lounge around comfortably together on a Sunday morning.
Shortly after, Irfan happened to drive past one of Nairobi’s many slums, and it struck him that hundreds of thousands of families live in homes no bigger than his new bed. In slum settlements like the ones in Nairobi, 50 people often share a single toilet, and violent crime and rape are widespread due to lack of security.
“I felt a combination of shame and annoyance, but also a determination to do something about it,” says Irfan. “I knew the answer lay in a social enterprise, because I had started up a successful social enterprise in 2000 called Honey Care Africa, which brought more than 10,000 smallholder farmers above the poverty line through beekeeping. It made gut-sense that a similar model could be used to address the housing issues in Kenya.”
In 2008, Irfan and his business partner established Karibu Homes. Karibu means “welcome” in Kiswahili — an ideal name for a social enterprise with the mission of bringing the dream of home ownership to very low income families.
“More than 90% of urban Kenyans cannot buy homes - for no other reason than that nobody is building them at the right price or enabling access to mortgages,” explains Irfan, who believes Karibu can revolutionize home-ownership prospects for thousands of Kenyans.
Irfan’s commitment to social enterprise projects like Karibu was recently recognized by the social enterprise investment body Acumen Fund, which awarded him an East Africa Fellowship for his initiative and dedication.
With talks now underway to acquire a final equity injection, Irfan hopes they can break ground in early 2012, building the first 1,000 Karibu homes with prices starting at US$10,000. These initial homes will be located in an area of Nairobi called Athi River, where large numbers of low-income families live in some of the city’s fastest growing slums.
“Once our first buyers move in, we hope to scale up and build 10,000 homes that will house over 50,000 people every year,” says Irfan. “The demand for housing in the region is so massive that this project could spread across East Africa, if not the continent.”
Irfan would appreciate hearing from fellow alumni who have experience in the affordable housing sector. Please contact him at email@example.com