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Zimbabwe’s First Billionaire

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

Dr. Strive Masiyiwa received a nod from Forbes as Zimbabwe’s first billionaire in January of 2018. According to the article he is now the 14th richest man in Africa, with a net worth of $1.7 billion. Every time I read that number I need to remind myself of how big it actually is – that is one million dollars multiplied 1,700 times.

Although this is quite amazing my focus, as I read the articles, was on how proud I was.

An inspiring journey

I'd first heard of Dr. Strive Masiyiwa three weeks prior to reading the Forbes article. A friend of mine sent me an e-book called ‘How to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Business’; I spent a large part of my Christmas holiday reading through it. In the book, Dr. Strive Masiyiwa describes how he started and built the Econet Group, his Zimbabwe-listed mobile phone company which also has investments in financial services, insurance, e-commerce, renewable energy, education, Coca-Cola bottling, hospitality and payment gateway solutions.

As people wished Jesus happy birthday, I sat fully enthralled by his account of how he raised $250,000 from the World Bank at the age of 30 ; how he spent almost five years fighting the Zimbabwean government to establish the countries first independent mobile telecoms network; and how he and his team managed to list a company on the Zim stock exchange (with no trading record) just so that he could offer thousands of ordinary people an opportunity to be shareholders in a business.

What do you see?

A major concept that rang true throughout the books 159 pages - and throughout the pages of internet articles was one question: What do you see?

In 1994, 70% of Africans had never heard a Telephone ring. People all across Africa desperately needed a reliable and cost-effective means of communicating with their loved ones and associates wherever they were in the world. He saw this as an opportunity and used it as a base to build a billion dollar business in one of Africa’s worst economies.

A symbol of hope

I will admit, up until a month ago when I looked at Zimbabwe I saw no hope. I saw no future. I saw a joke of a country with a former president who was in power for longer than I had been alive. I saw an economy so bad you could only read about it in a textbook and a nonexistent tech industry with nothing to offer the development of Africa. Reading about this man start and build Econet has changed what I see. Instead of lack, I see opportunity. So, a challenge to myself and you - look differently at what you see when you look at the great country of Zimbabwe.

Writers' Bio - Zukiso Diko

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