“The God Factor In My Success Story”- Strive Masiyiwa, Chairman Econet Wireless
I was born in what was then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and I was barely 4 years old when conflict started — first over independence from Britain, and then against white-minority rule. In 1968, my family fled to Zambia, across the border. Our neighbors were Scottish and had a young son, and that’s more or less how I landed in an Edinburgh boarding school.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, I guessed that cell phones would become a major growth sector in African countries. The government of Zimbabwe certainly didn’t. I offered to develop a cell phone network in tandem with the state telecom company, but the Mugabe-controlled government rejected my offer — a refusal that must surely rank amongst the greatest follies in the world of business: They could have owned the Econet Wireless Group, but instead they declared war on me! They refused to grant us a license, claiming they had a monopoly. So, I took them to court, and it took five years…Read: Kenny Blaq’s Grace story
When we lost the Supreme Court case in June 1994, I was totally devastated. Two years of work appeared to have gone down the drain. My dream was shattered. The lawyers made it clear that there was no appeal possible, and we packed up the files…My wife had been trying to get me to church since we got married, but I refused. Church for me was a place of funerals or wedding ceremonies. One Sunday though after dropping her off, I drove around the block and returned…It was the first time, in my life, I had listened to a church service, without the compulsion of duty for an event held there. It seemed as though everyone in the room, except me was so happy! The young American pastor, was preaching about Jesus Christ, whom I thought I had known all my life. And yet now I realised that I did not know Him; I only knew of Him. Disturbed, I left hurriedly and went and sat in the car.
I went again another Sunday…and arriving home that day, I realised that the misery of my court defeat, had completely lifted. It just seemed so unimportant. Sitting down that afternoon, with a borrowed copy of the New International Version Bible, I sat down to read the bible for the very first time, in my life. I read it everyday and finished it in three weeks…what I did not tell anyone at the time, (including my wife), was that almost every night I laid my head down to sleep, I would begin to have quite extraordinary dreams…
One evening, I attended a special church event, held at a local hotel. The Pastor preaching, had never met me. As he preached, he suddenly stopped: ‘There is a man in this room, you have been having these dreams…. in these dreams, you are building towers, rather like broadcasting towers…everywhere, all over the world. God is asking me to tell you, that He is the one giving you those dreams, and He is going to make it happen. He has also given you a new heart, you are going to have such compassion. Please come forward, if you are that man.’ There could have been 500 people in that room, that Sunday evening. I got up, and made my way to the front of the room.
Some years later, I won the case. Econet now has a majority share of users in Zimbabwe and operations in more than 15 countries. It started offering mobile banking through its phones a few years ago, and within 18 months, some 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s GDP was passing through its networks.
Strive Masiyiwa is a London based entrepreneur, businessman and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of international diversified telecommunications group, Econet Wireless. He sits on board several organizations such as the Rockefeller foundation, US Council on Foreign Relations International Advisory Board, and the Asia Society to mention a few.