Over two decades ago, Strive Masiyiwa took the Zimbabwean government to court in a grueling five-year legal battle. Masiyiwa had been planning to launch his own mobile telecoms company, but the government, which claimed it held an exclusive monopoly to manage and operate telecommunications in Zimbabwe, was desperately trying to thwart his ambitions. After the High Court ruled in favor of Masiyiwa, the Zimbabwean tycoon went on to build Econet Wireless, a leading Pan-African mobile telecoms company with operations across Africa, the U.K and New Zealand.
Today, Econet Wireless is an investor’s delight. It is easily Zimbabwe’s most successful corporation. It is Zimbabwe’s largest mobile telecoms firm, with a subscriber base of over 6 million. Its profits for the year ended February 2011 stood at over $145 million and the Johannesburg-headquartered company has operations in Burundi, Lesotho,Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana and Rwanda. Econet has a market capitalisation in the region of $600 million.
Strive Masiyiwa, the unassuming and soft-spoken founder of the telecoms giant, is the richest person to emerge from Zimbabwe.
You can glean important business and life lessons by taking a close look at what made Strive Masiyiwa a successful billionaire telecoms tycoon.
1. Identify A Human Need And Reach Out To Meet It
According to Masiyiwa, this is the most sure-fire 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 in the world. That was a human need. Masiyiwa, as 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 stated during last year’s commencement address to graduating students of Morehouse College. If you reach out to meet the needs of the people around you, you will wear the crown.
2. Be Patient And Relentless; Never Give Up
Few people are as patient and as 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 & Telecommunications 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 license. The Government threatened to prosecute him if he dared to proceed with his venture.
Masiyiwa took the battle to court, and the case lingered for close to 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 Masiyiwa 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. By 1997, the 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.
3. Work Hard And 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!
4. Pray Hard
“God will do nothing except you pray; and you have to be clear what you want”- Strive Masiyiwa
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 license, 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. Prayers may work for you as well.
5. Give Back
What you give comes back to you ten-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 over 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. PF