Strive Masiyiwa

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Strive Masiyiwa
Masiyiwa at Youth Town Hall in Kigali, Rwanda with President Paul Kagame
Born (1961-01-29) 29 January 1961 (age 60)
Alma materUniversity of Wales
Net worthIncreaseUS$1.3 billion (March 2020)[1]
TitleFounder and executive chairman, Econet Global
Board member ofUnilever
National Geographic Society
Bank of America Asia Society
Rockefeller Foundation
Morehouse College
Ashinaga (organization) Netflix
Spouse(s)Tsitsi Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa (born 29 January 1961) is a London-based Zimbabwean billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of the international technology group Econet Global.

He has gained international recognition for his business expertise and philanthropy, and is considered one of Africa's most generous humanitarians.[2][3] Masiyiwa has provided scholarships to more than 250,000 young Africans over the past 20 years through his family foundation.[4][5] He supports more than 40,000 orphans with educational initiatives and sponsors students at universities in America, The United Kingdom, and China.[6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Strive Masiyiwa was born in Zimbabwe on 29 January 1961. He attended primary school in Zambia before completing his secondary education in Scotland. When he was seven, his family fled the country after Ian Smith's government declared independence from Britain.[8] The family settled in Kitwe, a city in north central Zambia known for its copper mines. Masiyiwa's mother was an entrepreneur. By the time Masiyiwa was 12 years old, his parents could afford to provide him with a coveted European education.

They sent him to private school in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he graduated in 1978, he travelled back to Zimbabwe, intending to join the anti-government guerrilla forces there.[8] However, he returned to school in Britain, and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Wales in 1983. He worked briefly in the computer industry in Cambridge, England, but soon returned to Zimbabwe in 1984, hoping to aid the country's recovery after the war of independence it had won in 1980.

Global influence[edit]

Masiyiwa's international appointments and board memberships over the years include: Unilever (board member), Netflix (board member), the National Geographic Society (trustee), Bank of America (global board member), Prince of Wales Trust (trustee), UN Commission on Adaptation (Commissioner), Generation Africa (co-founder), Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development (co-chair), The Rockefeller Foundation (former board member),[9] US Council on Foreign Relations (Global Advisory Board),[10] the Asia Society (Board member), Stanford University (Global Advisory Board), the Africa Progress Panel,[11] Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Chair, now Chair Emeritus),[12] The Micronutrient Initiative of Canada (former board member),[13] Grow Africa, the African Union's Ebola Fund (co-founder),[14] Morehouse College,[15] the African Academy of Sciences (Honorary Fellow) and the Pan African Strategic Institute.

Masiyiwa is the only African member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience.[16] Masiyiwa also served on two UN Advisory Panels.[17]

Leadership and international accolades[edit]

In 1999, the World Junior Chamber of Commerce named Masiwa one of the Ten Most Outstanding Young Persons of the World.[18] In 2002, he was named on Times Global Business Influentials List.[19] In 2003, a CNN Time magazine poll named Masiyiwa as one of the most influential business leaders in the world.[8]

In 2011, The Times of London named him one of the 25 Leaders of Africa's Renaissance Award.[20]

In 2012, President Barack Obama invited Masiyiwa and four other business leaders to attend the 38th G8 summit at Camp David to address them on strategies on how to increase food production and end poverty in parts of Africa.[21] Also in 2012, he was named one of the 20 Most Powerful Business People in African Business by Forbes Magazine.[22]

In 2014, Fortune Magazine named Masiwa one of the 50 most influential business leaders in the world.[23]

Masiyiwa was cited as one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2014 and 2020.[24][25]

In September 2014, the Chair of the African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, asked Masiyiwa to help mobilise resources for Africa's response to the Ebola outbreak. This was the first time The AU had asked a business leader to undertake such a role.[26][27] Masiyiwa, with the help of other leaders, set up the first ever Pan-African fund-raising campaign known as #AfricaAgainstEbola Solidarity Fund.[28]

The fund has raised millions of US dollars from the public using SMS donations, with contributions coming from many African countries. The donations enabled The AU to deploy the largest known contingency of African healthcare workers to combat the spread of the deadly pandemic.[29]

In 2015, Forbes Magazine named Masiyiwa in the 10 Most Powerful Men in Africa list for 2015.[30]

In 2015, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) awarded Masiyiwa the Freedom Award.[31][32] The award is given annually to an individual who makes an extraordinary contribution towards supporting refugees and championing the causes of liberty, individual freedom, and dignity.[33]

At the UN Global Leadership, 2015 awards dinner in New York City; The Africa Against Ebola Campaign was recognised for their humanitarian contributions and outstanding work in response to the Ebola epidemic.[34] Chairman of the Trust, Masiyiwa accepted the award on behalf the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust.[34][35] Also in 2015, Masiyiwa earned the Lifetime Achievement Award at both the African Business Awards and the Brand Africa Awards[36][37] as well as the Freedom Award from the International Rescue Committee.[31][38]

In 2017, Fortune Magazine named Masiyiwa number 33 in the World's Greatest Leaders list for 2017, along with Elon Musk and LeBron James.[39]

In 2018, Masiyiwa was granted the Points of Light Award in recognition of his volunteer work.[4]

In 2019, he was awarded the Norman E. Borlaug World Food Prize Medallion[40][better source needed] and named one of the 100 Most Influential Africans by New African magazine.[41]

In 2020, he was named a JA Worldwide Global Business Hall of Fame Laureate.[42][better source needed]

In December 2020 Masiyiwa was named by Bloomberg as one of the 50 world's most influential people.[43]

In December 2020, Masiyiwa was included in the list as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans of 2020 by the New African Magazine. [44]

In December 2020, Masiyiwa was included in the list, by the Mail & Guardian Continential Edition, as one of the 100 Africans of the year for 2020.[45]

Business career and interests[edit]

Masiyiwa returned to his native Zimbabwe in 1984 after a 17-year absence. After working briefly as a telecoms engineer for the state-owned telephone company, he quit his job and set up his own company with the equivalent of US$75.[46] In five years, he had emerged as one of the country's leading industrialists, having built a large electrical engineering business.[47] 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.[46]

Masiyiwa appealed to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, on the basis that the refusal constituted a violation of "freedom of expression". The Zimbabwean court, then one of the most respected on the continent, ruled in his favour after a five-year legal battle, which took him to the brink of bankruptcy.[46][48] The ruling, which led to the removal of the state monopoly in telecommunications, is regarded as one of the key milestones in opening the African telecommunications sector to private capital.[8] The company's first cellphone subscriber was connected to the new network in 1998.[49]

Masiyiwa listed Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in July 1998 on the local stock exchange as a gesture of thanks to reward the thousands of ordinary people who supported him during his long legal battles against the Zimbabwean government.[50] Today, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has gone on to become a major business that dominates the Zimbabwe economy.[51] It is currently the second-largest company in Zimbabwe by market capitalisation.[52]

In March 2000, fleeing persecution from the local authorities, Masiyiwa left Zimbabwe, never to return to the country, and moved first to South Africa, where he founded The Econet Wireless Group, a new and completely separate organisation to the listed Zimbabwean entity.

His main interest remained in telecoms. Some of the key businesses that he established with partners included Econet Wireless International, Econet Wireless Global, Mascom Wireless Botswana, Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Airtel Nigeria), Econet Satellite Services, Lesotho Telecom, Econet Wireless Burundi, Rwanda Telecom, Econet Wireless South Africa, Solarway, and Transaction Processing Systems (TPS). He also has interests in mobile operations in New Zealand, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic. The company he created is known to have operations and investments, in more than 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, US, Latin America, and New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, and China.[53][54]

After more than ten years in South Africa, Masiyiwa moved to London; however, he still retains significant business interests in South Africa.

Econet Global (Econet)[edit]

Econet Global (Econet) is a privately held international technology group with business operations and investments in more than 20 countries in Africa, Latin America, The United Kingdom, Europe, China, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and New Zealand. Two listed entities are its Zimbabwean subsidiary, Econet Wireless (1998) and Cassava Fintech (2018). The Zimbabwean business is often mistaken as the holding company, because it is listed.

Strive Masiyiwa owns over 50% of publicly traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.[55]

Masiyiwa also has interests in the United States of America (USA). He has partnered with one of America's leading telecoms entrepreneurs, John Stanton, in a venture called Trilogy International Partners, which built New Zealand's third mobile network operator known as "2 Degrees". Masiyiwa's investment in Seattle based Trilogy International, have also helped him secure interests as an investor in Viva's Bolivia and Dominican Republic businesses. Masiyiwa also has a controlling interest in a company based in Vermont USA, that manufacturers nano fibre carbon products, called Seldon Technologies.

One of Masiyiwa's most successful ventures is the London-based privately held Liquid Telecom Group (now Liquid Intelligent Technologies) Africa's largest satellite and fibre optic business spanning over 14 countries.[56]

Other activities of Econet include enterprise networks, fintech and financial services, and renewable energy.

Philanthropy and humanitarian initiatives[edit]

Masiyiwa is generally recognised as one of the most prolific philanthropists to ever come out of Africa.[7][57] He has used his own family fortune to build one of the largest support programs for educating orphans in Africa. At any given time his family foundations support and educate more than 40,000 children.[6][7] Masiyiwa is also a member of the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett initiative known as the Giving Pledge.[58]

Masiyiwa is also involved in supporting a diverse range of health issues including campaigns against HIV/AIDS, Cervical Cancer, malnutrition, EBOLA, and more recently, COVID-19. He is an avid environmentalist and together with Sir Richard Branson founded the environmental group, the Carbon War Room.[59]

He [60] took over from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the chairmanship of AGRA, an organisation that supports Africa's smallholder farmers.[60] In 2019 he stepped down from AGRA and now serves as Chairman Emeritus. 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.[61]

Upon the cholera outbreak which happened in Zimbabwe in 2019,Strive Masiyiwa together with his wife donated a total of US$10m to fight against the disease. Moreover, he pledged US$60m to be used to build resilience against the disease.[62]

In May 2020, he was appointed by South African President and African Union Chair Cyril Ramaphosa to serve as a Special Envoy to the African Union for COVID response.

Together with his wife, they pledged $100m to establish a fund to invest in rural entrepreneurs in his home country.[63] The two also started a non-profit organisation, Higherlife Foundation, which empowers disadvantaged children through education and creating opportunities for highly talented young people.Through one of the largest scholarship programmes in Africa, the Foundation pays the school fees for 30,000 students annually in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi who they call their "history makers"[63]

In January 2020 he paid for Zimbabwe's doctors to return to work after they struck to get paid.[64] Masiyiwa will pay each doctor a subsistence allowance of about $300 (£230) and provide them with transport to work, through a fund he set up. Most of the doctors on strike were earning less than $100 a month.

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Tsitsi, they have six children, and live in London, England.[1] Masiyiwa owns two adjacent apartments atop the 29-storey Eldorado Tower at 300 Central Park in New York City, bought for US$24.5 million in 2016.[65]


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