Mark spent a year and a half living in a small village in North-Western Zambia as an Engineers Without Borders (Canada) volunteer. Now he has started a company called Rent-to-Own.

Mark saw a need to make various technologies and equipment accessible for people living in rural areas, specifically in the North-Western Province where he had personal connections. Not only is there no place for people to purchase equipment to help their businesses grow (and so most people don’t know about what’s available), but, even if there was such a shop, the equipment is often too expensive.

Rent-to-Own aims to fill this gap. Local agents identify potential clients and work with them to fill out a questionnaire that assesses how entrepreneurial they are and a business plan. Clients then put a 10% down-payment on a specific piece of equipment (Rent-to-Own’s newly developed catalogue, pictured above, features all of the equipment they retail). Rent-to-Own then purchases and transports the equipment, and every month the client pays a percentage of the total cost (which is the equipment price plus a small commission for the company) until he or she owns the product. The business plan prepares the client for this process, mapping out how purchasing such equipment will help the business grow and enable the client to eventually cover the whole cost in less than 12 months. There’s also a cash sales option if the client can afford it.

The company started in October 2009 and so far has six agents and 28 clients, four of whom have already paid for their equipment in full.

While many companies over here spend a lot of resources on research and development for their products, Rent-to-Own can focus on providing rural clients with solutions. They rely on their agents’ personal connections and trust, which certainly involves risk, but they can then access markets that no other company can. For a continent that is full of various technological solutions (many of which have been around for years) that rarely make it out of the cities, Rent-to-Own is exactly what the rural businessman needs.