Meet Strive Masiyiwa: How did he become Britain’s First Black Billionaire?

Strive Masiyiwa, born 29 January 1961, is a Zimbabwean billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He is also the founder and executive chairman of international technology group, Econet Global.

Masiyiwa, who is based in London, is the only black billionaire in the Sunday Times Rich List with a net worth of £1.087bn (about N655bn), earning him the title of Britain’s first black billionaire, according to DailyMail.

He has gained international recognition for his philanthropy and business expertise and is considered one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians. Over the past 20 years, he has provided scholarships to more than 250,000 young Africans through his family foundation as well as supported more than 40,000 orphans with educational initiatives and sponsor students at universities in America, United Kingdom and China.

The 60 year old tycoon currently sits on the board of Netflix and Unilever and is actively working as an African Union special envoy on COVID-19, saddled with the responsibility of providing Africa with vaccines. Recently, he secured 400 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for Africa.

Strive Masiyiwa earned a B.Sc degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Wales in 1983, after which he worked briefly in the computer industry in Cambridge but soon returned to Zimbabwe in 1984 to aid the country’s recovery after it had who won the War of Independence in 1980.

Upon his relocation to Zimbabwe, he began to work as a telecoms engineer for the state-owned telephone company until he quit his job and set up his own company. Consequently, he emerged as one of the country’s leading industrialist having built a large electrical engineering business. The emergence of mobile cellular telephone led him into telecommunications, but he soon ran into major problems when the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe refused to give him his licence to operate his business, known as Econet Wireless.

After the long legal battle against the Zimbabwean government the company’s first cell phone subscriber was connected to the new network in 1998. However, in 2000, Strive Masiyiwa left Zimbabwe never to return to the country due to persecutions he received from local authorities. His main interest remained in telecoms.

Some of the key businesses that he established with partners included Econet Wireless International, Econet Wireless Global, Mascom Wireless Botswana, Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Airtel Nigeria), Econet Satellite Services, Lesotho Telecom, Econet Wireless Burundi, Rwanda Telecom, Econet Wireless South Africa, Solarway, and Transaction Processing Systems (TPS). He also has interests in mobile operations in New Zealand, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic.

The company has now expanded its operations into Africa, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East region.

Together with his wife, they pledged $100m to establish a fund to invest in rural entrepreneurs in his home country. They also started a non-profit organisation, Higherlife Foundation, which empowers disadvantaged children through education and creating opportunities for highly talented young people.

Strive Masiyiwa is very supportive of entrepreneurs and start-ups in general and he is known to promote franchisees through his business interests which has created employment for many and uplifted livelihoods.

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