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Strive Masiyiwa was born in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in 1961. He attended primary school in Zambia, completed his secondary education in Scotland, and obtained a degree in electrical engineering in Wales. In 1984 he returned to Zimbabwe and set up an electrical engineering business, which by 1989 was quite large and successful.
With the global rise of cell phone usage, Mr. Masiyiwa determined to start Econet Wireless, but the government, which had a monopoly in telecommunications, refused to grant him a business license. Ultimately Mr. Masiyiwa prevailed and obtained a license, but only after a five-year legal battle that nearly drove him into bankruptcy. By 1998 Econet Wireless Zimbabwe had its first cellphone subscribers and was listed on the local stock exchange. Within a few years it was the second largest company in the country.
In 2000, Mr. Masiyiwa moved to South Africa and founded the Econet Wireless Group, an organization entirely separate from the Zimbabwean company with partners in Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda and Burundi. He has interests in mobile phone operations in more than 20 countries on several continents. After more than a decade in South Africa, Mr. Masiyiwa moved to London, where he currently resides.
Mr. Masiyiwa is enjoying his great personal wealth in part by giving back. Like Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim, he is participating in the Giving Pledge. Mr. Masiyiwa’s Higher Life Foundation has provided scholarships to over 100,000 Africans, sponsored students at universities in the UK, USA, and China, and created one of the largest educational support programs for orphans in Africa. The foundation gives to health campaigns to fight HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, Ebola and malnutrition. Mr. Masiyiwa also co-founded the Carbon War Room, an environmental group. He is the chair of Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA) and co-chair of Grow Africa, an investment forum that has helped put US $15 billion into African agriculture.
Mr. Masiyiwa has received considerable international attention for his business expertise and is considered one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians. The World Junior Chamber of Commerce named Mr. Masiyiwa one of the “10 most outstanding young leaders of the world” in 1998. In 2003 he joined the Rockefeller Foundation’s Board of Trustees and was named one of the world’s most influential business leaders by a CNN Time magazine poll. In May 2012, Strive Masiyiwa was awarded an honorary doctorate by Morehouse College in recognition of his good work across the African continent. In September 2012, Dr. Masiyiwa established a $6.4 million trust to sponsor at least 40 African undergraduates for four years at Morehouse College. That same year, Mr. Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to attend the 38th G8 summit at Camp David to discuss strategies on how to increase food production and end poverty in parts of Africa. In 2014, Mr. Masiyiwa was named one of the 50 most influential business leaders by Fortune Magazine and in 2015 he made Forbes Magazine’s 10 Most Powerful Men In Africa list.
by Heidi Frontani
April 11, 2015