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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Opportunities don’t happen, you create them

Twenty years ago, almost to the month, I listed my first company on a stock exchange: Econet Wireless Zimbabwe (EWZ). As I have discussed before, taking a company to a public listing is what many entrepreneurs live for. To us it can be the equivalent of qualifying (as a soccer team) to join a top flight league, or to go to the World Cup Finals. It is pretty special.

I have written about raising money through a stock exchange before, as the ultimate for any entrepreneur. When I listed Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, it was exactly 12 years after I had started the business. It took a lot longer than I had originally hoped, but I faced other challenges which were beyond my control.

At the time of our listing of EWZ in 1998, we went out to raise $10m. Today the company is valued at $3,9bn. We made our millions of shareholders very wealthy along the way, and we are the backbone of the investment of most people’s pensions in Zimbabwe.

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Over the years, thanks to the technology revolution I have been telling you about, we have hugely expanded the range of products and services we are able to offer to our customers beyond our mobile phone services.

Whilst times have been tough sometimes (and that’s an understatement) we have learned to “fight in the conditions” and our great teams of #people have developed innovation after innovation, with our #products and #processes winning a lot of awards along the way.

Now when we and our team at EWZ reflected on what we should do to commemorate this historic event of our 20th anniversary, we decided to do something really audacious…

In a few weeks, (subject to the approval at the EGM), EWZ will “spin out” one of its businesses called Cassava Fintech which is now called Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe (CSZ). This company is currently a subsidiary of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.

__When this “unbundling” takes place, our digital products and services group, CSZ, will be listed as an independent company on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange!

Note that we are not going to sell any shares in the company, but rather distribute all the shares directly to the existing shareholders of EWZ for free, as it were!

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This means EWZ shareholders will wake up on the listing day owning shares in two independent companies that have nothing to do with each other. As a student of entrepreneurship this should be very interesting to you. Start thinking why we’d do this!

Whilst many people have never heard the name Cassava, they know the business through its brands, many which are household names like EcoCash, EcoSure, EcoFarmer, and Ruzivo. These are products and services used by millions of people every single day.

Some of you may know that Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe is part of a bigger international group we call Cassava Smartech International (CSI) that is already active in 20 other African countries! There is no shareholding relationship between the two, just a management and technical support arrangement.

“Opportunities don’t happen, you create them!” One of you shared this quote in your comments on my last post and that’s exactly right…

This is what my new series is going to be all about. We study to do!

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To be continued. . .

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