One writer once said that revolutionaries are never led by people who are poor because they are too focused on what Chenjerai Hove the Zimbabwe author would term ‘politics of the belly’ and if they are too wealthy they cannot understand or relate to the conditions that affect most people in society. This may be true of not only political revolutionaries but economic revolutionaries as well like Strive Masiyiwa as well.
Strive Masiyiwa the Zimbabwean icon was born in 1961 in Zimbabwe which was Southern Rhodesia at the time to a middle class Shona Zimbabwean family. His mother was an entrepreneur whose business savvy plus success plus had a positive impact on Masiyiwa which introduced him to the numerous opportunities that lay in the uncharted world of private enterprise. She was and probably still is; his chief mentor and role model in business. Strive was born at a time that made him young enough not to feel the burden of being a colonial subject and after independence old enough to reap the benefits of modern Zimbabwe in the 1980s. His mother’s business boomed which afforded Masiyiwa the opportunity to attend a boarding school in Scotland and educated at the University of Wales in Engineering.
Like many Zimbabweans who returned home after independence he wanted to carve a new life in the new Zimbabwe. Masiyiwa worked for the parastatal Post and Telecommunications (PTC) as an engineer and then as with most entrepreneurs he wanted a piece of the Zimbabwean pie and challenged the law that allowed constitutionality of the law that only allowed PTC to operate in the telecom industry. Zimbabweans at that time had challenged political laws but not economic laws so his challenge became a landmark battle and his triumph to open up the airwaves was a win for all aspiring entrepreneurs.
Masiyiwa is a devout Christian who does not conceal the effect that his relationship with Jesus Christ affects his business practices and guides his decision making. Masiyiwa and his wife have several charities and educate AIDS orphans to give them an outlet to empower themselves. Morehouse College in Atlanta awarded Masiyiwa a doctorate degree at their May 2012 commencement. This is the same university that also awarded Robert Mugabe an honorary doctorate degree in 1983.
Masiyiwa did not miss an opportunity to enlighten the Morehouse men and world at large of the opportunities that lie in Africa where as he explained 7 out of the 10 emerging markets are in Africa Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana are growing at the same rate as China and projected to have a bigger middle class than China in the next 10 years. If I may borrow from Thomas Friedman while the world was fixated on China, Africa arose from the rubble and is taking her place on the economic global stage.
Masiyiwa’s advice to the college graduates that in 1994 70% of African people had never heard a telephone ring fast forward to 2012 70% of Africans now own a phone. Other areas of opportunity for young Africans or any other people who want to partner with Africans identified by Masiyiwa include sanitation, clean water, and agriculture and food security.
Masiyiwa has indeed challenged and transformed the economic landscape in Zimbabwe, Africa and Australia. The day that Econet South Africa traded for the first time on the London Stock Exchange was Independence Day for many Zimbabweans who followed the journey and the dream of this entrepreneur. Econet’s presence on London Stock Exchange symbolized Zimbabwean businesses had changed from bus companies, grinding mills and bottle stores. Out of Africa had come a company that added value to the world of business and become a game changer in the world of telecommunications not only in Zimbabwe throughout Africa and into Australia and Europe and the rest of the world.