Strive Masiyiwa (born 29 January 1961) is a Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of diversified international Telecommunications, Media and Technology group Econet Wireless and Econet Media (Kwesé) .
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 through his Facebook page, which has a growing follower-ship of over 3.4 million people from across the continent. 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.
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.
Masiyiwa also sits on two United Nations Advisory Panels and is the only African member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience.
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 2003, a CNN Time magazine poll named Masiyiwa as one of the most influential business leaders in the world.
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 2014 Fortune Magazine named Masiwa one of the 50 most influential business leaders in the world.
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, USA; 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.
In 2017 Fortune Magazine named Strive Masiyiwa number 33 in the World’s Greatest Leaders list for 2017 along with Elon Musk and LeBron James.
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, 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 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.
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 Boliviaand 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, Africa’s largest satellite and fibre optic business spanning over 14 countries.
Other activities of Econet include enterprise networks, financial services, renewable energy, television and media (Kwesé TV).
Philanthropy and Humanitarian Initiative
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.
There are no reliable estimates of Masiyiwa’s wealth because the vast majority of his business investments are held in private businesses. The only publicly known information is that of his listed business in Zimbabwe, the country he left 15 years ago. Based on this, Forbes Magazine estimates put Masiyiwa’s personal wealth at US$1.7 billion.
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