Strive Masiyiwa 2017


Strive Masiyiwa, a London-based Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He was born on 29 January 1961 in Zimbabwe and attended primary school in Zambia before completing his secondary education in Scotland. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wales.

Strive Masiyiwa returned to his native Zimbabwe in 1984 after a 17-year absence. After working briefly as a telecoms engineer for the state-owned telephone company, he quit his job and set up his own company with the equivalent of US$75. In five years, he had emerged as one of the country's leading industrialists, having built a large construction and electrical engineering business. The emergence of mobile cellular telephony led him to diversify into telecoms, but he soon ran into major problems when the Zimbabwean government refused to give him a license to operate his business, known as Econet Wireless.

Masiyiwa appealed to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, on the basis that the refusal constituted a violation of "freedom of expression". After a five-year battle, the Zimbabwean court, then one of the most respected on the continent, ruled in his favour.  The ruling, which led to the removal of the state monopoly in telecommunications, is regarded as one of the key milestones in opening the African telecommunications sector to private capital. Masiyiwa listed Econet Wireless Zimbabwe on the local stock exchange in July 1998 as gesture of thanks to reward the thousands of ordinary people who supported him during his long legal battles. Today, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has gone on to become a major business that dominates the Zimbabwe economy. 

In March 2000, Masiyiwa left Zimbabwe, never to return to the country, and moved first to South Africa, where he founded The Econet Wireless Group, a new and completely separate organisation to the listed Zimbabwean entity. After more than ten years in South Africa, Masiyiwa moved to London; however, he still retains significant business interests in South Africa.

A devout philanthropist, he is a cofounder, along with his wife, Tsitsi, of the Higher Life Foundation, a charity that provides scholarships and meals to destitute orphans in Zimbabwe.  Masiyiwa has used his wealth to provide scholarships to over 250,000 young Africans over the past 20 years, through this foundation. Every year, he supports over 40,000 orphans in educational initiatives, as well as sponsoring students at universities in America, the United Kingdom, and China. He also funds initiatives in public health and agriculture across the African continent. In addition, he is a member of the Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, initiative known as the Giving Pledge.

Strive Masiyiwa serves on the boards of numerous global organisations, including Unilever Plc, The Rockefeller Foundation and the US Council on Foreign Relations International Advisory Board. He also sits on two United Nations Advisory Panels and is the only African member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience.

In 2014, the Chair of the African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, asked Masiyiwa to help mobilise resources for Africa's response to the EBOLA outbreak. This was the first time the AU had asked a business leader to undertake such a role. Masiyiwa, with the help of other leaders, set up the first ever Pan African fund raising campaign known as the #AfricaAgainstEbola Solidarity Fund.

He is an avid environmentalist and together with Sir Richard Branson founded the environmental group, the Carbon War Room and took over the chairmanship of AGRA from former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, an organisation that supports Africa's smallholder farmers. In 2014 Fortune magazine named Masiyiwa one of the 50 most influential business leaders in the world and in 2015, one of the 10 Most Powerful Men in Africa. In August 2016, he received Africa’s Digital Revolution Leadership Medal of Honour.

For his contribution to entrepreneurship,philanthropy and his incredible influence on business leadership, it is an honour for Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to confer the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Strive Masiyiwa.