Social Entrepreneur Irfan Keshavjee Wins Prestigious Ashoka Fellowship

April 4, 2013

NAIROBI, KENYA Irfan Keshavjee, has been selected by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public as a member of its global fellowship of leading social entrepreneurs.

Irfan, through his organization Karibu Homes, aims to bring home ownership to low-income families; even though many individuals within this population group are formally employed, the cost of owning a home remains high above what they can afford. With an initial pilot project of 1,000 homes, he is developing a scalable model to build high quality, affordable and secure housing complexes in areas where urbanization and slums are mushrooming – like growing industrial areas that are witnessing “the genesis of a slum”. They want to catch the problem before it happens, and give people the opportunity to settle somewhere more permanent.

Irfan’s idea has huge potential in a country where the population is rapidly urbanizing as people migrate to towns and cities in search of employment and other economic opportunities. An increasing urban population correlates with the growth of slums: at present 60 percent of Nairobi’s four million people live in slums. With the current rate of urbanization at 4.2 percent, it is estimated that 70 percent of Kenya’s population will live in urban areas by 2050 and the number of people living in slums will have doubled. In addition to increasing size and density, slums lack infrastructure and basic services such as sanitation, electricity and water. An estimated 94 percent of all slum dwellers do not have access to toilets or fresh water; the child mortality rate is 150 out of every 1,000 (15 percent, compared to 0.6 percent for Nairobi as a whole). Thus, there is a rapidly growing segment of the urban population that continues to live in degrading living conditions without much access to affordable housing. This group’s discontent can pose a risk to society at large, as was demonstrated during the 2007 post-election violence that broke out in Nairobi’s slums and eventually engulfed the whole nation leaving hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced from their homes.

Irfan says that, “the problem in Kenya is the first step out of the slums – we’re lowering the first rung of the ladder for people to get out.” Through Karibu Homes, He found a solution that was both affordable and scalable in order to effectively address the housing challenge facing employed but low-income Kenyans.

“Like the best social entrepreneurs globally, Irfan has a huge vision, is aligned with a massive global trend, and has built up the skills, networks, and momentum to see the Karibu Homes model become the new best practice. We believe that this idea, in Irfan`s hands, will transform the housing field and spread throughout East Africa,” said Simon Stumpf, Ashoka’s Representative for East Africa.

Irfan Keshavjee joins 59 other Fellows from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda elected since 2001 and more than 3,000 Ashoka Fellows globally.

About Ashoka: - Ashoka is the world's leading network of social entrepreneurs – extraordinary changemakers who find new solutions to social problems; like Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the microfinance sector. Founded by Bill Drayton in 1980, Ashoka supports social entrepreneurs with stipends, professional support, and/or access to its large network of global peers. Ashoka has to date elected and supported more than 3,000 social entrepreneurs in 70 countries.

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