Recently, FoundersAfrica examined the life of Teresa Mbagaya, a renowned educationist and cofounder at Econet Education established by Econet Wireless to our readers. In this article, attention is being drawn to the Leader of the prestigious establishment (Econet Wireless Group) who is relentlessly working at the forefront and behind the scene.
This is none other than Strive Masiyiwa, a serial techpreneur, who founded Econet Wireless Group in 1993, a diversified telecommunications group with operations and investments in Africa, Europe, South America and the East Asia Pacific Rim, offering products and services in the core areas of mobile and fixed telephony services, broadband, satellite, optical fiber networks and mobile payments.
Not many Africans have made it into the narrative of renowned personalities in the world. It requires an uncommon journey and an uncommon victory to make it into these ranks and one of such people is Strive Masiyiwa, whose relevance as one of the individuals that were pivotal and contributory to the birth of the African tech scene cannot be overlooked.
Masiyiwa’s sphere of influence is strongest in telecommunications. In Africa, telecommunication, technology and the internet go hand in hand. Unlike the Europeans and Americans that directly receive their internet services from ISPs, which are corporate bodies that specialize in the provision of bandwidth and data transfer.
The emergence of mobile internet in Africa began with Telecommunication bodies; a market that new and independent data service providers are now trying to penetrate and share.
Masiyiwa looked to broaden his investments in the 90’s when it was clear that mobile phones were the future and he approached his former work place, the ZPTC, with a proposed Wireless Joint Venture which they refused because the Government held a monopoly over the market. He took the government to court and failed, losing all his firm’s contracts in the process. He took them to court over and over again till he was granted a license and the idea of Econet was brought to life.
Born into a bourgeois family in Zimbabwe, Masiyiwa started his Primary education in Zambia but his family had to flee to Britain when he was only seven years and was enrolled to a Scottish school However, like every patriotic young man, he still held a strong attachment to Zimbabwe and after a 17-year absence he returned to Zimbabwe as a Telecoms engineer for the Zimbabwean Phone company, ZPTC. Some years passed and he traded off his car to get a Barclays loan to start his own Engineering firm. His business grew fast and became a million-dollar initiative in no time.
Through the travails of the court cases, Masiyiwa built a reputation as a man of the people and a thorn in the Zimbabwean government’s flesh. He had pumped millions into an anti-government Newspaper which was eventually shut down by President Robert Mugabe.
In the year 2000, he went to South Africa to establish his business as a multinational initiative that spread across the world.
Econet promptly gained wide acceptance through the continent, establishing in over 20 countries in Africa, truly as a force to be reckoned with. In 2001, Masiyiwa saw an opportunity in the Nigerian Mobile market, and he brought Econet to the country in a diplomatic deal that had Econet Wireless holding only 5% in what they called ‘a fine size of a big pie’.
Masiyiwa’s Econet Wireless group is a global entity, with establishments and investments in Africa and beyond. New Zealand, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, The United States, New Zealand, the UAE and China are only some of these countries.
Econet established earlier than their competitors in Nigeria with Masiyiwa making the first ever phone call in the country. The going was smooth till he had a fall out with select members of the government who he claimed were trying to strong arm him into paying a bribe. In his refusal, he was voted off and Econet was absorbed by Celtel.
It would be incomplete to write a piece on Strive Masiyiwa and leave out his philanthropic nature as he is one of Africa’s foremost givers. He alongside his wife, Tsitsi Masiyiwa founded the Capernaum Trust, a Zimbabwean charity that provides bursaries and scholarships to over 28,000 orphaned children. He is also a member of the Giving Pledge, a Bill Gates and Warren Buffet initiative.
He has vocally supported campaigns against HIV/AIDS, cancer and Ebola and he is the chairman of AGRA, an organization that supports farmers. He made Forbes Magazine top 50 most influential leaders in the world, Fortune magazine’s World Greatest Leader list and other countless publications.
Masiyiwa is a Tech Legend, who has carved an indelible niche for himself in the Technology industry and as a world renown philanthropist.