Masiyiwa slips off Forbes’ Africa top 50 richest list …as Econet share price falls over 63% since last year

ECONET Wireless founder and millionaire Strive Masiyiwa has slipped out of Forbes Africa’s 50 richest after his flagship Zimbabwe operation shed off 63% of its share price over the last year, mirroring the country’s worsening economic situation.

Strive Masiyiwa, Member, Africa Progress Panel, and Founder, Econet Wirelessat the World Economic Forum on Africa 2013. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell
Strive Masiyiwa, Member, Africa Progress Panel, and Founder, Econet Wirelessat the World Economic Forum on Africa 2013. Copyright by World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

The underperformance of the local bourse — a key economic performance barometer — continues to reflect a slowdown in economic growth after total market capitalisation eased by 0,8% to US$3,6 billion in October from US$3,63 billion in prior month, marking a persistent bearish run for eight consecutive months.

This has seen pension funds and other investors reducing their exposure to the equities market to absorb shock.

According to the Forbes Magazine Masiyiwa, executive chairman of the country’s largest mobile phone operator, is one of the seven wealthiest men in the continent who failed to make to the list. Masiyiwa is probably Zimbabwe’s richest black entrepreneur.

This year the minimum net worth needed to make the Forbes list of Africa’s 50 Richest was US$330 million, down from US$510 million for the 2014 list.

Currency devaluations, falling oil prices and stock dips, according to Forbes, were some of the factors that affected their fortunes.

Other millionaires who slipped include Tanzania’s media mogul Reginald Mengi, Nigerian compatriots Hakeem Belo-Osagie, Tunde Folawiyo, and Oba Otudeko, Egypt Ahmed Ezz and South Africa’s Desmond Sacco.

“Masiyiwa is the controlling shareholder of publicly-listed mobile telecom company Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. The share price fell more than 63% in value since last year on the back of declining revenues and new taxes imposed on the company,” Forbes says.

“That in turned lowered Masiyiwa’s fortune. Econet has been laying off workers and in June reportedly cut the salaries of workers by 35%. But for Masiyiwa, a devout Christian, redemption may be coming soon: He plans to list his Liquid Telecoms, a UK-based broadband group with operations across Africa, on an European Stock Exchange in a move that could significantly boost his dwindling fortune.”

Chronic liquidity constraints on the back of continued economic implosion saw the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange turnover for October at US$12,8 million, reaching the lowest figure in six years.

Despite this gloomy outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees Zimbabwe’s economy registering a modest growth of 2,7% from a forecast of 1,5% this year, discounting fears of a recession triggered by weakening commodities prices and poor rainfall patterns.

However, independent economists doubt the IMF’s projections given unending company closures, job losses, falling commodity prices and looming drought.-Staff Writer