[intro]Conventional wisdom used to dictate that we pay taxes and government comes up with solutions to just about every pressing social problem. But as the housing crisis mushroomed it called for innovative solutions. One partnership has employed forward thinking that includes an engaging TV series… now in its second season.[/intro]

In mid 2000 South African banking and development expert Soula Proxenos came up with a plan. She created a property fund that partnered with South African building developers to create affordable housing in the low income, gap housing sector.

As the country moved into its new democracy, focus was understandably placed on the huge shortage of housing for the poorest of the poor. But what about those who fell beyond this sector, and make up 30% of the population? They too want an opportunity to live a better life, in homes they can afford to own or rent, in well run urban apartment blocks or neat serviced suburbs.

With global investors, Proxenos’s $ 230-million South African Workforce Housing Fund has so far developed over 25 000 urban and suburban homes and apartments and is looking to expand the model into the rest of Africa.

Proud Fleurhof first time home owner and family

Proud Fleurhof first time home owner and family

“For us social impact investing is about creating housing stock for the low income market as well as healthy financial returns for our investors”, says Proxenos. “It’s a wide open, very attractive market for all concerned”.

Soula Proxenos, Managing Partner of International Housing Solutions, and her team say they can provide great returns to their investors and in the process change lives.

The TV series that tells this remarkable story is produced in partnership with the UNDP, the United Nations’ global development network. An organisation advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life

The series’ producers are Regency Foundation Networx (RFN), an international development agency facilitating partnerships between business, civil society, governments and the UN.

Designed to promote and encourage the adoption of the ‘inclusive business’ model as a component of corporate growth strategy in Africa, the TV series demonstrates how this approach can make a contribution towards the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

As former UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan recently remarked, “The MDGs are intended, first and foremost, to help people. But they can be good for business: first, because helping to build the infrastructure is an enormous business opportunity; and second, because, once it is built, business will find larger, eager markets in place”.

Inclusive business models are helping companies turn underserved populations into dynamic consumer markets and diverse new sources of supply. In the process, companies are developing product, service, and business model innovations that have the potential to tip the scales of competitive advantage in more established markets.

Inclusive business is providing clean water, electrical power, modern communications, health care, education, financial services, and income-generating opportunities to millions of people at levels of quality and affordability they have never experienced before.

‘IT’S AFRICA’S TIME’ Season 2, Celebrating Inclusive Partnerships Across Africa, is broadcast on the first Tuesday of every month at 9.30pm on CNBC Africa, DStv channel 410, with repeats on Wednesday at 7:30am and on Saturday at 10:30am.