LAST week Econet Wireless celebrated its 14th anniversary. It was the celebration of an ongoing fulfillment of the age-long vision of its founder to connect every Zimbabwean to a mobile phone.
Today, Econet Wireless is an investor’s delight and it is easily Zimbabwe’s most successful corporation.With a subscriber base of over 6 million, Econet is apparently the largest mobile telecoms firm in Zimbabwe. Its profits for the year ended February 2011 stood at more than US$145 million and the Johannesburg-headquartered company has operations in Burundi, Lesotho, Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana and Rwanda. Econet has a market capitalisation of US$1 billion.
Strive Masiyiwa, the unassuming and soft-spoken founder of the Telecoms giant, is one of the richest people ever to emerge from Zimbabwe. With a fortune estimated at more than US$600 million, Masiyiwa has the wealth of our dreams.
You can glean important business and life lessons by taking a close look at what made Strive Masiyiwa a successful millionaire telecoms tycoon.
Identify a need and meet it
According to Masiyiwa, this is a sure 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. That was a human need. Masiyiwa, then 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 said to graduating students of Morehouse College. If you reach out to meet the needs of the people around you, you will wear the crown.
Be Patient And Relentless
Few people are as patient and 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 & Telecoms 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 licence.
The government threatened to prosecute him if he dared to proceed with his venture. Masiyiwa took the battle to court and the case dragged on for nearly 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 he 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. In 1997, the supreme 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.
Work hard: 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!
“God will do nothing except you pray; and you have to be clear what you want”
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 licence, 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.
What you give comes back to you 10-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 more than 28,000 Zimbabwean orphans. Apart from providing scholarships to these children, the organisation 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. — Ventures Africa.