Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

ImageOver two decades ago, Strive Masiyiwa took the Zimbabwean government to court in a grueling five-year legal battle. Masiyiwa had been planning to launch his own mobile telecoms company, but the government, which claimed it held an exclusive monopoly to manage and operate telecommunications inZimbabwe,was desperately trying to thwart his ambitions. After the High Court ruled in favor of Masiyiwa, the Zimbabwean tycoon went on to build Econet Wireless, a leading Pan-African mobile telecoms company with operations across Africa, the U.K and New Zealand.

Today, Econet Wireless is an investor’s delight. It is easily Zimbabwe’s most successful corporation. It is Zimbabwe’s largest mobile telecoms firm, with a subscriber base of over 6 million. Its profits for the year ended February 2011 stood at over $145 million and the Johannesburg-headquartered company has operations in BurundiLesothoKenya, Nigeria, Botswana and Rwanda. Econet has a market capitalization in the region of $600 million.

Strive Masiyiwa, the unassuming and soft-spoken founder of the telecoms giant, is the richest person to emerge from Zimbabwe.

You can glean important business and life lessons by taking a close look at what made Strive Masiyiwa a successful billionaire telecoms tycoon.

1.   Identify A Human Need And Reach Out To Meet It

According to Masiyiwa, this is the most sure-fire way to succeed in business.

In 1994, 70% of Africans had never heard a Telephone ring. People all across Africa desperately needed a reliable and cost-effective means of reaching out to their loved ones and associates wherever they were in the world. That was a human need. Masiyiwa, as a young engineer set out to change that. He had the technology to do it and access to substantial resources. “We didn’t wake up and say we wanted to make billions of dollars; we said we wanted to extend telecommunications to all the people of Africa,” Masiyiwa stated during last year’s commencement address to graduating students of Morehouse College. If you reach out to meet the needs of the people around you, you will wear the crown.

2.   Be Patient And Relentless; Never Give Up

Few people are as patient and as relentless as Masiyiwa. In 1993, when Masiyiwa set out to establish Zimbabwe’s first independent mobile telecoms network, he encountered stiff opposition from the Zimbabwean government. The Zimbabwean Post & Telecommunications Corporation (PTC) – a government-owned entity held a monopoly over the telecommunications business in the country and the corporation was vehemently opposed to granting Masiyiwa a mobile operating license. The Government threatened to prosecute him if he dared to proceed with his venture. Masiyiwa took the battle to court, and the case lingered for close to five years. It was a slow and long process, but Masiyiwa never gave in. Of course the government tried to subdue and frustrate him, but Masiyiwa was resolute. He was determined to challenge the government’s monopoly of telecommunications services in the country and was keen to launch his own mobile telecoms network. His persistence paid off. By 1997, the court ruled in his favour and Masiyiwa was able to launch Econet wireless. Develop a tough skin; be relentless, and be patient. Success hardly occurs in a split second; you need to learn to wait for your moment

3.   Work Hard And Stay Focused

This is a no-brainer. Nothing good in this world comes easily, least of all, success. You may have identified a need and possess the most brilliant business ideas. You may even have the praying spirit of Jesus; but if you are lazy you’re doomed to fail. Success requires hard work. Masiyiwa works long hours every day and has cultivated the requisite discipline to be focused. Work Hard And Stay Focused!

4.   Pray Hard

“God will do nothing except you pray; and you have to be clear what you want”- Strive Masiyiwa

This might sound like illogical business advice particularly if you’re an atheist. But according to Masiyiwa, a devout Christian, prayers are essential for success in business. Masiyiwa has stated countless times that when he was battling the Zimbabwean government in court for the right to operate a mobile Telecoms license, he prayed fervently. While the court case lingered, Masiyiwa prayed for victory. Even though it took four years, Masiyiwa’s prayers were eventually answered. Employees at Econet and people close to Masiyiwa confirm that the tycoon never takes any important business decision before first going on his knees. Judging by Econet’s raving success, Masiyiwa’s prayers actually work. Prayers may work for you as well.

5.   Give Back

What you give comes back to you ten-fold. Masiyiwa is Zimbabwe’s biggest philanthropist. Along with his wife, Tsitsi, Masiyiwa is a co-founder of the Capernaum Trust, a Zimbabwe-registered privately funded Christian charity which sponsors the education of over 28,000 Zimbabwean orphans. Apart from providing scholarships to these children, the organization also provides food packs and healthcare for them. Masiyiwa funds the trust from his own personal resources with support from Econet Wireless. The Universe seems to have rewarded his generosity with brilliant success and a $600 million fortune.



Business leaders and political bigwigs will soon meet in Cape Town for the World Economic Forum. There is a clear understanding that the dialogue has shifted in recent years when it comes to understanding Africa’s role in the world.

No longer dismissed as a business basket case, the global community knows that money is being made on the continent. Growth rates are strong. Investment is flowing. Returns are good.

The big question for Africans is to ensure that they too get a share of the spoils.

But how do they do this?

The answer for many is the rather wordy phrase “beneficiation at source.” Politicians like to throw this buzz phrase into conversations because it describes how local communities should “benefit” from their own natural resources.

Traditionally, foreign companies buy Africa’s raw materials, whether they are metals, oil or crops, and then sell the finished product back to Africa.

Now, there is a political push for more African control over its refining capacity, to have more influence over the end product.

While this makes sense, economists and analysts all point to two significant challenges that Africans face as they try to unlock the potential of their continent and grab the opportunities “at source.”

Over and over again, I hear the same two concerns – that a lack of infrastructure and a skills deficit continue to hold back Africans.

If Africa’s working-age youth – an estimated half-a-billion people by 2050 – are to seize the chances that lie before them, then more investment has to be plowed into education.

African engineers, farmers and architects are urgently needed to create a better infrastructure to underpin the continent’s economic potential.

Highways linking big cities and regional hubs need to be built. Fertile agricultural lands need to be farmed strategically. Electricity and power grids need to be upgraded and maintained.

The world and African leaders cannot talk about economic growth unless they increase investment in the critical areas needed to sustain that potential.

Posted by: CNN Correspondent, Robyn Curnow

First scenario: An agricultural scientist from Israel was contracted by a West-African country to help them boost their food production. The Israeli signed a contract involving lots of money in consultancy payments.

Initially he wondered how a country that could not feed itself could put together the heavy sum, but he decided to complement their efforts with his expertise. He also hoped the experience would enrich his knowledge.

He was received at the airport with impressive pomp and whisked to plush accommodation in a pricy hotel. The following morning, a helicopter lifted him for an aerial tour of the country. He sat quietly during the tour, observing the fresh, green land the country is blessed with. When the copter touched down, the surroundings had been made even fresher with rain. He also saw rivers, green forests and a vast arable land.

Expensive lunch had been served. Ministers were seated. Journalists had gathered to report the recommendations by the expert. They waited while the food got cold. Then they waited. The Israeli had sneaked out of the hotel for the airport, wearing a pair of shorts and his sandals. But he was kind enough to have left a handwritten note with the hotel receptionist: “You don’t need me to show you how to farm. In my country, we farm on rocky lands, and have enough to export.” He also left the cheque he had been paid.

Second scenario: A millionaire Scottish entrepreneur likes to call himself a global citizen. He is consumed with guilt when he sees images of malnourished African children on television. He wants to help. He invites the finance minister of an African country to discuss a joint project that would see both countries learn from each other and improve on their fortunes. The African minister came with his wife in a big entourage.

While in Scotland, the minister’s wife went on a shopping spree. One of the stores where she swooped items from aisles in bales is owned by the Scottish host. Meanwhile her husband sat with the millionaire in his office, discussing the mutual benefits of the project and the amount involved. The project would require a follow up visit to Scotland and two feasibility, fact-finding tours in the African country. The minister departed.

The millionaire would discover from company accounts that the amount of money his guest had spent on shopping is more than half the total amount required for the joint Scotland-Africa project. His store manager and sales girls had received generous donations in tips from the minster’s wife. There was talk of similar sprees in other stores. The millionaire decided to halt the project. Meanwhile an African delegation to the second half of the project had already been assembled, which included travel-hungry Africans who had no knowledge of the project. They had paid good money to sneak out.

Last Scenario: In a certain country, the finance minister and his government are embarking on a serious cost-cutting measure, to invest more in healthcare and education. Government expenditure, including all financial transactions in the Prime Minister’s office are reduced to half, and periodically published for all to see. It gets so serious that photographs at functions are reduced to only one. Instead of buying a new pair of shoes to replace his old one, the finance minister goes to a shoemaker’s shop to resole the old shoes, just like we did years ago. He does not cut the typical profile of a rich politician because there is no ostentation around his person. His mandate is to work, do more work, and work even harder. The objective is to use his public office to better the private lives of people. His mission is to make the policies of his government work in people’s lives.

What lessons can the ministers in the earlier scenarios learn from the shoemaker experience of the other minister in the last scenario? The countries of the ministers in the earlier scenarios are behind 250 years in development. There is no social protection for the poor. Schools are held under trees and there is no middle class. Instead, there is the poor who live in the very abyss of depravity, surviving on less than a dollar a day in dire economic situations. There are no jobs for their youth and children of school-going age sell by the road side and in the middle of traffic. Health facilities are so inadequate that women in labour have no beds to sleep in. These countries are going back in development while the world they live in is advancing in science and technology.

Yet, they live large: Does a preacher of the gospel need four private jets to do the work of God in a poor country? Raise a curious voice in honest disapproval and you are the accuser of the brethren. The Lord has blessed Him. What about the millions in the same country who have no public toilets and no jobs to do? They must have been cursed. What use is a million dollars in a land where only cowries are used? That is what it means for a few proletariats to live large in the midst of tribunes. There would always be reason, often a good reason, to accuse the brethren. And the brethren should hear the accusers.

To reduce the 250 year gap by even a year, we would learn to go to the cobbler to resole our old shoes, instead of spending money and time to import the latest designer make from rich countries. That is cost-cutting. That is cutting expenditure. Ironically, the millionaires in the rich countries have no time to buy and wear the expensive items. Like the Israeli agric expert in the first scenario, they walk in shorts and sandals. Where they cannot walk, they ride their bicycles to their laboratories to research into things. Where they cannot ride, they drive cars built and assembled by their engineers.

Meanwhile, back to the country in our first scenario, intensive investigations have been initiated into what government spokespersons described as the ‘disappearance’ of the Israeli agric expert. Hotel staff have been quizzed and accused of negligence for allowing a government contact to leave their premises without official permission. The hotel manager has bluntly been told that he would not be engaged for future government deals. This was after he had been detained for several hours during investigations. A committee of inquiry headed by a former high court judge has been tasked to look into the matter.

There is also trouble in the second scenario. The travel-angry people, who had paid large sums to misrope in the government delegation to Scotland, are on the offensive. Some are threatening to go public if their money is not paid. ‘They had been told: ‘Go head, do your worst, and you will see where you will end.’ The most aggressive ones have been promised a juicier deal coming up in a few months. Back in Scotland, the millionaire is planning to open another branch of his chain in New York and France. And he did.

Source: Tawiah-Benjamin, Kwesi