Strive Masiyiwa through his Higher Life Foundation recentlyannounced that they will be be launching a new training fellowship for Junior and Senior Doctors employed at public healthcare institutions in Zimbabwe. Higher Life Foundation has to date supported the education of 250 000+ students in Zimbabwe, Burundi and Lesotho in it’s 23 years of existence. Last year Econet Zimbabwe donated US$ 10 million to aid in the fight against cholera with Masiyiwa pledging another $60 million to build resilience against the disease.
Early January 2018, we woke up to the news of the first Zimbabwean billionaire and to me it had taken too long to be announced as no one could have landed at that position none other than the great Strive Masiyiwa. His wealth was estimated to be sitting around $1.7 billion according to Forbes and the source of wealth is well known by many and I shall not waste your time trying to explain where he gets his money.
His current net worth is estimated at $2.3 billion raking him 8th among Africa’s billionaires.
Who is Strive?
Born in 1961, born in Zimbabwe in 1961. He was still a child when his family fled to Zambia as the colonial-era government began to crumble and the nation descended into civil war. Masiyiwa attended university and graduate school in the UK, returning to Zimbabwe as an entrepreneur with a background in telecoms engineering. With a now-legendary determination, he eventually won a telecom license that would form the basis for Econet, one of Africa’s most successful companies. Strive sits on the board of The Rockefeller Foundation and on the US Council on Foreign Relations Global Advisory Board. He has been named by Fortune Magazine as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.
As one of Africa’s most prolific philanthropists, Masiyiwa supports charities that are directly responsible for 40,000 orphans at any given time in the African countries where Econet has operations. He also sits on the African Progressive Panel, a group of 10 distinguished individuals advocating for the highest level of equitable and sustainable development in Africa. He has been actively offering mentorship programs to the African young generation of entrepreneurs and has been using Facebook mostly where he has a growing following of 2.5 followers which Facebook identified as the most engaged page of any business leaders.In the late 1990s in 1986 Strive quit his job after having been worked for the state owned company with only an equivalent of $75 to go to start his own company which was into Electricity. By that time he was around 26 years old, and in 1993, he decide to open a telecoms company Econet Wireless, which he endured those 5 years of legal battle.
Who is Econet ?
Today Econet has expanded to over 17 countries in renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality and think you have come across these names on the block Econet Wireless, Ecosure, Ecocash, Mascom, and the latest trending one is Sasai which seems to be taking Zimbabwe by storm through its free ZWL$10 free airtime. Think you can talk of Liquid telecoms and see how they have actually captured the internet service provision in Zimbabwe and some African countries. It has many ventures but one thing I can assure you is that Econet is that one big brand you can’t ignore.
Cassava Smartech came as a demerger splitting Econet’s listing into two separate listed companies on the 18th of December 2018, the value has gone up from $3,2bn to $7,6bn in less than three months. Cassava owns Ecocash, Sasai App and is also into International remmittances among many others. Cassava Smartech is a diversified smartech group, with a mandate to use digital solutions to drive socio-economic development, and to improve the overall quality of life for all Africans.
I have spent almost two weeks digging deep on the founder’s vision, beliefs, principles, drive and goals and I had to read his books, news, lectures, listen to his speeches, seminars and talk and I found out that this man is indeed GREAT!!!!
The entrepreneurial journey and life in general might be tough but you don’t have to quit. It is important to have friends and family who believe in you, because it is going to be lonely and tough. He said his wife wanted him to quit, but she later changed her mind. There is need to utilize tehnology, engaging and building a network of entreprenuers where you can strengthen, reinforce and build each other exchanging notes. Don’t be afraid to fail, because there are no jails for those who fail. He talks again of having given his best car to his engineer and he asked, “How many entreprenuers are willing to do the same to their employees?”.
Africa’s problem is not on entrepreneurship but how to stand and build more big companies and brands that compete on the global market because we have many SMEs in Africa so there is need to grow them eg on how to hire other people? Entrepreneurs train like soldiers, and they have to learn the principles.
He shared something on sport that I had never thought of where he said that sport is a business, and he went on to explain how they are making money. He talks of Kwese ESPN where they are covering sports on the continent and it being the biggest sport website on the continent with millions of followers and they have maximized on adverts that run on the background of the website. To the consumer it is just a website but to them it is a business. There are many entry points to sport and it is a multibillion dollar industry. Kwese has contested at the Indian Cricket League (IPL) 20-20 to get broadcasting rights. A lot to be done in the African continent on its sports, from packing into a commercial product and even for the consumers to be willing to pay as much for the African content as much as the foreign.He urges Africans to be proud of theirs continent.
Every entrepreneur should be a social entrepreneur as it should be not always be about profit but making change in our society but the challenge that we have is how we do it without rely on donor funding. He says, “Nothing beats sending a child to school” and talks of him working for money and wife come to pitch for philanthropy. This is undoubtedly one of the best couples in the world where they all have a common cause and it is interesting to note that he started with 2 orphans when his company was very small, and grew to over 40 000 as the company grows. He urges business to start on philanthropy as they start their businesses and grow with them as their businesses grow…
Opportunities for African Entrepreneurs
Opportunities are simply the needs so you need to Identify the needs then work on the solutions. What are the needs? Bill Gates saw the need of the software and worked on it, and today he is one of the richest maan in the world. Greatest opportunity is when you respond to a need, leverage on your skill and knowhow and stay on the course in that area.Each sector is as big as another.First Step to build a Business System?Technology is the heart of everything so you need to use it everywhere and there is also need to integrate technology in our agriculture to improve efficiency and profits. Mobile phone is a tool to help you build your business system. You need to find solutions because if it is not you who is doing it then who is going to do it.We need to be accountable for the economic liberation of this continent because it is with this generation. You need to build business systems first.
He started pitching when he was 26 and he talks of it being part of every entrepreneur’s life and urging everyone to be able to pitch their ideas. Pitching is the art of presenting your idea to your investor and this will stay with you for the rest of your life. Every week he is meeting an investor and he is pitching.
You will always need capital partners and the questions you should ask yourself is that, “What skills do you need to get real partners?”90% of the problems he has had in business had nothing to do without governments or regulators but business partners and also 905 of the success had to do with partners so at the end of the day it is just like a marriage. Get the right partner and you will enjoy your life.The most important thing is to let them do their job, giving them responsibility, systems and roles. He even says that he hasn’t signed a cheque for a long time as the company has systems and roles so there are people who can do it.You need to hire professionals, trust them and give them responsibility.
Competing With China
China is growing to be the number 1 economy and many states are probably threatened as they feel the impact on their businesses but Mr. Strive had profound words that surprised me when he was asked on how businesses could compete with China.Don’t be critical of China, learn, reach out, partner, and study themIt is important to reach out to understand the strengths of others as processes builds businesses. Build and invest in systems.
Agriculture in Africa
70% of the food production is done by women and the ageing and the youths are now too smart to farm, but millions of these young people are jobless. Agriculture is an industry that is underutilized so it needs to be modernized and put in place policies that encourage people to venture into it.They have helped create over 100 of seed companies producing 1/3 of the certified seeds and this has produced food enough to feed 15 million people.No national growth without agriculture
Policy & Regulations
Entrepreneurs must learn to lobby for change as it is part of business. You need to work to put up change as sometimes it’s just that the policy makers don’t understand so you need to lobby as it is part of the democratic process.
On building African brands that compete and meet global standards
Begin by understanding that as entrepreneurs you have a duty to act responsibly to ensure sustainability and safety. Policy makers need to be firm on sustainable products and the fight also includes entrepreneurs, consumers and civil society.We need tools to build awareness to ensure that no sub-standard product enters our market.
On what keeps him going
People he works with as mentors e.g in philanthropy that he turns to when in need of help. Find a cause now for example environment, climate and make it an integral part of you.
If you don’t create jobs we end up with Boko Haram and Al Shabab.
Advice to foreign students
He had no simple answer for them but only to say,
“The sooner you go home the better, and start companies there” Integrity
Integrity is the greatest capital and you need to make integrity your currency as it will buy you more than cash in the bank.
Timing and Choice
These are the most extremely factors in business but it is all about your preparation. You are part of thee smart generation but also in the global generation so you need to make up your mind and do one thing and do it well. You need to stay and dig deep and seeing far such that by the time it is in the newspaper, you should have known about it.The more you into it, the more you excel.
Eagle in the Storm series
He has one of his famous series and this is what he had to say about it. Warning about impending African storms eg Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and we are in a period of correction. He was warning entrepreneurs of the storms eg global and local but to always fight like a soldier remembering that some greatest companies emerged in storms.Don’t take flights because you have seen storm, but instead go and hunt just like an eagle.
Important Skills for the Youths
See something before it happens.Entrepreneurs are not born but trained, so you have to train yourself and after a while it becomes your thinking. How do they make money? Don’t worry about critics remembering that all statues had critics but no critic had a statue. Know the difference between stubborn and resilient.The greatest challenge, is how do we create jobs?You need skills training and practice on what you say especially on social media, being tolerant to one another. The most powerful words are those of love.
‘Your words are your brand’ On business and Rest of Life
They are two separate entities, remembering that you are not your business and your business is not you. The day you separate yourself from your business you will have a life,His kids didn’t know he was in business until they were teenagers.You have to get a Life.Go home and have fun with family, watch movies, hang out with friends etc.‘No matter what happens, you not taking it with you’ Words of Advice
3 most important skills in business is to
READ, COUNT, SELL
Walk alongside not following Reach out for a need and seek to solve it.Principle he was taught by an old man from Uganda,
‘when its important find the time, when it’s extremely important make the time ’Mentorship is extremely important in Africa because we don’t have a roadmap like America, so who is going to tell them?
Strive used to sell chewing gums at school from his mother to get some personal pocket money, but got lost because he had problems with the 3 most important skills.They faced the greatest challenge of bringing mobile money ‘Ecocash’ in Zimbabwe particularly after the hyperinflation period and people had almost lost trust with banks, but as always they had an interesting marketing plan.They hired university students in commuter omnibuses to start conversations about mobile money, interviews and street comedies.They had street comedies like, “You stole my money, and the other person will be like I can’t steal your money because it is in the phone” then they would advertise from there.