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Strive Masiyiwa in 2017
|Alma mater||University of Wales|
|Net worth||US$2.5 billion (January 2020)|
|Title||Founder and chairman, Econet Wireless|
|Board member of||Unilever|
Africa Progress Panel
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Strive Masiyiwa (born 29 January 1961) is a London-based Zimbabwean billionaire businessman, and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of the telecommunications, media and technology company Econet Wireless.
Masiyiwa is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. As a Panel Member, he facilitates coalition building to leverage and broker knowledge and convenes decision-makers to influence policy for lasting change in Africa.
He has won numerous accolades and gained international recognition for his business expertise and philanthropy, and is considered one of Africa's most generous humanitarians. Masiyiwa has used his wealth to provide scholarships to over 100,000 young Africans over the past 20 years through his family foundation. He supports over 40,000 orphans with educational initiatives, as well as sponsoring students at universities in America, The United Kingdom, and China. Over the last few years, Masiyiwa has devoted his time to mentoring the next generation of African entrepreneurs on Facebook. Facebook has identified his platform as having the most engaged following of any business leader in the world.
Masiyiwa also funds initiatives in public health and agriculture across the African continent.
Early life and education
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 as Ian Smith's embattled government began to crumble. The family settled in Kitwe, a city in north central Zambia known for its copper mines. Masiyiwa's mother was an entrepreneur. His father worked at first in one of the nearby mines but later joined the family business. 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 traveled back to Zimbabwe, intending to join the anti-government guerilla forces there. "One of the senior officers told me 'Look, we're about to win anyway, and what we really need is people like you to help rebuild the country'" (Time , 2 December 2002). Masiyiwa took the man's advice and returned to school in Britain, earning 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.
Masiyiwa's international board appointments include The Rockefeller Foundation, US Council on Foreign Relations International Advisory Board, the Asia Society, the Africa Progress Panel (APP), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), The Micronutrient Initiative of Canada, Grow Africa, The African Union's (AU) EBOLA Fund, Morehouse College Board, and The Pan African Strategic Institute.
Leadership and international accolades
In 1998, the World Junior Chamber of Commerce named Masiwa one of the "10 most outstanding young leaders of the world", an accolade previously bestowed to John Kennedy.
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.
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. Masiyiwa, with the help of other leaders, set up the first ever Pan African fund raising campaign known as #AfricaAgainstEbola Solidarity Fund.
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.
In 2015 Forbes Magazine named Masiyiwa in the 10 Most Powerful Men in Africa list for 2015.
In 2015, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) awarded Masiyiwa the Freedom Award. 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.
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. Chairman of the Trust, Masiyiwa accepted the award on behalf the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust.
Business career and interests
Strive 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. 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.
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. 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. The company's first cellphone subscriber was connected to the new network in 1998.
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. Today, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has gone on to become a major business that dominates the Zimbabwe economy. It is currently the second-largest company in Zimbabwe by market capitalisation.
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.
After more than ten years in South Africa, Masiyiwa moved to London; however, he still retains significant business interests in South Africa.
Econet Wireless Group (Econet)
Econet Wireless (Econet) is a privately held global telecommunications company 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. The only listed entity is its Zimbabwean subsidiary. 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.
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.
Other activities of Econet include enterprise networks, financial services, renewable energy, television and media (Kwesé TV).
Philanthropy and humanitarian initiatives
Masiyiwa is generally recognised as one of the most prolific philanthropists to ever come out of Africa. 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. Masiyiwa is also a member of the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett initiative known as the Giving Pledge.
Masiyiwa is also involved in 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.
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 resiliance against the disease.
Together with his wife, they pledged $100m to establish a fund to invest in rural entrepreneurs in his home country. The two also started a non-profit organisation,Higherlife Foundation,which empowers disdvantaged 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"
In January 2020 he paid for Zimbabwe's doctor's to return to work after they struck to get paid. 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.
He is married to Tsitsi, they have six children, and live in London, England. 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.
Honours and awards
- 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
- 2018 – Points of Light Award
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- "Council on Foreign Relations Global Board of Advisors".
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- "AGRA Board of Directors".
- "Micronutrient Initiative Board of Trustees-Strive-Masiyiwa".
- "Africa Against Ebola Board of Trustees-Strive-Masiyiwa".
- "Morehouse College Board of Trustees-Strive-Masiyiwa".
- "Sustainable Energy for All Board of Trustees-Strive-Masiyiwa".
- "Holocaust Memorial Museum Board of Directors".
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- "Part 5. #AfricaUnitedAgainstEbola". Strive Masiyiwa Blog. London. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- "African Answers Ebola". London: Al Jazeera. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
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- "The Giving Pledge".
- "Carbon War Room Founders".
- "Kofi Annan Steps Down as Chair of AGRA". Africa: Kofi Annan Foundation. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
- "AGRA in 2013" (PDF). AGRA. 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Zimbabwe's Richest Man Strive Masiyiwa Establishes $100 Million Fund To Support Rural Entrepreneurs". Forbes.
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- "25 Leaders of Africa's Renaissance Award". Fortune. London. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
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- Nsehe, Mfonobong. "Zimbabwean Billionaire Strive Masiyiwa And Wife Receive British Award For Philanthropy". Forbes. Retrieved 2 January 2019.