I grew my $15 billion business empire from a mere $75: Strive Masiyiwa
Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa revealed how he started his first business with $75 in 1986 but now his business empire is worth $15 billion. Masiyiwa was speaking at a town-hall meeting on the sidelines of the Africa Now Conference at Speke Resort Hotel, Munyonyo in Kampala, Uganda on Wednesday, March 13.
“I started with $75 and went out to change the world. 20 years later, I have built businesses that are now worth $15billion.”
The Africa Now 2-day summit is co-chaired by Uganda President Museveni alongside other Heads of States and key business leaders on the continent including
- Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo
- Kenya Deputy President William Ruto
- Tanzania Vice President Samia Hassan Suluhu
- UN Resident Coordinator Rosa Malango
- Egypt’s Minister of Transport Amr Nassar
- Morocco Minister for Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita
- African Development Bank (AfDB) Vice President and Chief Economist
- Celestin Monga
- Vice President and Chief Economist –
Strive Masiyiwa started mobile network company Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in 1998, which has expanded to Botswana, Burundi, Lesotho and New Zealand. He also owns Liquid Telecom that owns the largest fiber-optic network in Africa.
Who is Strive Masiyiwa?
Strive Masiyiwa is recognised as one of the most admirable billionaire philanthropists to ever come out of Africa. He has steadily used his personal family fortune to support and educate more than 40,000 orphans. Born in Zimbabwe on January 29, 1961, Masiyiwa attended primary school in Zambia before completing his secondary education in Scotland.
He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wales. Masiyiwa, a remarkable business man, is the founder of Econet Wireless – a well-known international telecommunications company.
After working briefly as a telecoms engineer for the state-owned telephone company in Zimbabwe, he quit his job and with $75, set up his own company. In five years, he had emerged as one of the country’s leading industrialists, having built a large electrical engineering business.
The emergence of mobile cellular telephony led him to diversify into telecoms, but he soon ran into major problems when the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe refused to give him a license to operate his business, known as Econet Wireless. With perseverance and diligence the rest is history. Masiyiwa is a man, absolutely committed to helping others and touching lives wherever he goes.
He is married to his better half – Tsitsi Masiyiwa, woman who has acted as his backbone from day one. She inspired him to continue when all he wanted to do was to stop.
Masiyiwa is committed to helping young entrepreneurs grow. He strongly believes that Africa doesn’t lack entrepreneurs, scaling to become bigger businesses, he believes, is the problem. He is dedicated to helping such entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls of success. He uses his Facebook page to actively involve the minds and hearts of young CEOs.
He also aims to be an agent for change. In one of his talks, he described Econet as a Christian company. He believes God helped him start his business and talks of how the dividends and profits from his businesses are largely used to fulfill the needs of the needy. One thing is certain: his business life doesn’t interfere with his Christian life and philanthropy.
His Struggle to be Successful
Masiyiwa had a serious legal war with the government of Zimbabwe when he returned to the country after a 17-year absence and decided to set up a private telecommunication company. He waged this war for about five years until he finally won at the brink of bankruptcy. Strive believes that it was only possible due to divine intervention.
His success is recognized as one of the key milestones in opening Africa’s telecommunication sector to private capital. He believes in sharing. As compensation to all who supported him in his fight, he put Econet Wireless Zimbabwe on the local stock exchange, making it possible for ordinary people to share in his joy and success.
Today, he owns over 50% of the company but has actively involved others in his continuous growth. The Zimbabwean economy cannot be separated from Strive Masiyiwa because he is an integral part of it – like what Bill Gates is to America and Aliko Dangote is to Nigeria.
In an interview on TonyTV, he mentioned that at some point during the legal battle, he thought of quitting when his wife wanted to quit. But then, she changed her mind and so did he. He shared an important lesson from that incidence.
He emphasized the importance of having the right kind of support; the right friends and partners who believe in your course, so that when the chips are down and all you can see is the beginning of the end, they’ll help you rise above such thoughts. He started his company with about $75 but today has a net worth of $1.66 billion as estimated by Forbes.
His Advice to Young Enterpreneurs
- Build your own network where you strengthen and reinforce one another. He asks youths to utilize advanced technology that they have right at their fingertips. He urges them to exchange ideas with their peers, discover what their neighbors need and strive to fill that need.
- Do not be afraid to fail. This is another strong statement targeted at helping all entrepreneurs realize that failure is essential for success to be. He urges them to be prepared to fail but always rise and start again.
- Be an agent for change. Strive, in many walks of life, has been a source of inspiration and hope to others. In his fight against corruption and his numerous philanthropic activities, he has proved to be more human than businessman. He urges others to be such an agent for change.
Some of Masiyiwa’s accomplishments Include:
Masiyiwa is also a member of the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett initiative known as the Giving Pledge
Supporting a diverse range of health issues including campaigns against HIV/AIDS, Cervical Cancer, malnutrition, and more recently EBOLA.
He is an avid environmentalist and together with Sir Richard Branson founded the environmental group, the Carbon War Room
He recently took over, from former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, the chairmanship of AGRA, an organisation that supports Africa’s smallholder farmers.
In 2013, he was appointed co-chair of Grow Africa, the investment forum for Africa’s agriculture, which has helped mobilise over US$15 billion in investments for African agriculture.
- 1990 – Zimbabwean Businessman of the Year Award (youngest ever recipient of the award)
- 1998 – Zimbabwean Manager and Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
- 1999 – Junior Chamber International (JCI) – Ten Most Outstanding Young Persons of the World
- 2002 – Times Global Business Influentials List.
- 2003 – CNN/Time magazine Poll – 15 Global Influentials of the Year.[
- 2010 – Builder of the Modern Africa Award
- 2011 – Forbes Magazine – 20 Most Powerful Business People in African Business.
- 2011 – Times of London – 25 Leaders of Africa’s Renaissance Award.
- 2012 – Invited by President Barack Obama to attend G-8 Summit at Camp David (G-8 Summit, Camp David)
- 2014 – Fortune Magazine – 50 most influential leaders in the world
- 2015 – Forbes Magazine – 10 Most Powerful Men in Africa list for 2015.
- 2015 – African Business Awards – Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 2015 – Brand Africa Awards – Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2015 – Freedom Award – International Rescue Committee.
- 2017 – Fortune Magazine named Strive Masiyiwa number 33 in the World’s Greatest Leaders list for 2017.