An amazing week, with a business sage!

An amazing week, with a business sage!

__”Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”. (Alexander Graham Bell)

When I was a young entrepreneur beginning to follow what was going on around the world, even at a time when news was not as instant as it is today, if you had asked me who I would like to meet, I would have told you without hesitation two guys: Bill Gates and Michael Milken!

And as God would have it, my wish was granted almost 3 decades later. Here is how it happened: Michael Milken despite a few controversies in his early life is, and always has been, considered by many of the world’s most respected business and political leaders, as a bit of a sage.

Look! Like him or not, he is a certified genius!

Anyway, those in the know, which include the leaders of some of the world’s biggest companies, gather twice a year at special annual conferences organized by Michael Milken. Don’t tell anyone you know this, but the Milken Institute Global Conference held in Los Angeles, and the Middle East and Africa Summit (MEA) in Abu Dhabi are a bigger deal than Davos, for those looking for investment.

I remember the first time I was invited to speak, someone whispered to me: “You will be addressing a room with several billionaires, and fund managers with a collective worth of more than $20Tn”. No pressure, that is just about 10x times the GDP of Africa!

The first time I went to the Milken Global Conference in 2013 I was invited to lead a small discussion on investment into Africa, and I teamed up with guys like Patrice Motsepe and Jim Ovia of Nigeria. After I finished my session, Michael Milken, called for me. We had never met!

“Strive, I loved the way you present the case for Africa. Why don’t you join Bill Gates, Tony Blair, President Kagame, and myself, in the final session… the main event!” I was stunned! If you have never seen it before, here it is:

Now Mike and the Milken Institute have also been doing a lot of things to promote investment in Africa, quietly and efficiently for years. Some of the biggest investments by giants like Microsoft, IBM, GE, may have been inspired through discussions at the Institute.

Since 2016, the institute has also been helping to train the next generation of policymakers in 40+ developing and emerging economies including across Africa, through its International Finance Corporation-Milken Institute Capital Markets Program at the George Washington University.

If you are interested in this 8-month program, and you work in a Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, capital markets regulator, stock exchange or other relevant financial market institutions, (or know someone who does), check it out! You can find out more at:

Their people are some of the world’s smartest thinkers on how central banks and ministries of finance can be more effective, in managing economies to make them more attractive to investors.

Next week I will meet about 40 of them when I take part in the inaugural Milken Institute Africa Business Symposium in Johannesburg (which it’s hosting together with the Motsepe Foundation).

As they were planning the event, Mike said to me, “Since I’m going to Africa, what are some of the issues that are on your own heart?”

“Young people, and entrepreneurship. I want our young people to start accessing real capital. We need to understand how you guys built the ecosystem that funded the visions of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Ted Turner. In America they know that you personally were one of the key guys that built that system, but in Africa my young guys are only getting to know these things.”

Mike was excited. We then agreed that when I was in the US on business, I would come visit him for further discussion.

I also told Mike about our Facebook platform, and that we have 4.2m entrepreneurs that discuss entrepreneurship in Africa. About that, he chuckled before adding: “4.2m plus one; Me. I love what you are doing!”

So you see guys… this is why I’m always saying don’t come to this platform here like you are on social media! Come to class, study and join an audience that might change the trajectory of your own life, if not your continent!

One of the reasons I love Mike so much as a person, is something he did when he was afflicted by cancer. With his never-say-die attitude he fought the disease until he was free of it. Then he declared war against cancer in general.

He poured himself into mobilizing resources for cancer research, and ensuring that new medicines get through the regulatory process quickly. Someone once said to me, “If Cancer were a person, it must regret the day it attacked Michael Milken, because he has been relentless in fighting to end it.”

I love it when people who have faced a misfortune of any kind, use their experience to help others who may face the same misfortune. If you lost a friend to a car accident, for instance, you can pour yourself into road safety.

Now we’d planned to do a town hall together in South Africa next week, but unfortunately due to logistics it won’t be possible. We will, however, collect some of the discussions and post them at a later date. As I told some of you, our Sasai App is currently developing a platform called Sasai Watch and Sasai Watch Live, which will stream and archive content like this, for free. It is going to be amazing!

Meanwhile if you want to know more about the Milken Institute, visit their website: You can even learn about their programs for Africa.

Now that this secret has been shared with you in this final year of the class, remember: it is for the mature, and those who would be mature in this game.

“No matter when or where, always bring your “A” game because you never know when it will open doors for you”!

Serious investors are arriving to the continent soon… Be prepared!


Image caption: Mike Milken with Capital Markets Alumni and program supporters, Los Angeles, May 2019.

Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.

19 Replies to “An amazing week, with a business sage!”

  1. Afterthought 2.

    A few months ago, Mike called me and said, “Strive, you know Africa is really close to my heart. I want to get big investors to really start looking at the continent. So, I’m thinking of swinging back through Africa…I have a serious group of investors traveling with me,” he said, “and I have persuaded them to come, some for the first time.”

    If a major global investor landed at your national airport tomorrow wanting to take a look at some new innovative ventures… are YOU ready yet with your pitch? With your business plan? You’ll need Wifi, but here’s the link again to the 2013 Global Conference panel: “Investing in African Prosperity” (1h24m).

  2. Afterthought 3.

    “The wealth of nations hinges on the ability to respond to health challenges.”

    One of the sessions at the Johannesburg Symposium (held together with the National Prostate Cancer Foundation and “Faster Cures”) will include health experts and leading global investors discussing the “Future of Health” new developments in public health, prevention and cancer research.

    As I told you guys a few days ago, Mike is one of the world’s philanthropists focusing on finding a vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus, as is Bill Gates and Jack Ma in China. I was impressed with what some of you are doing to get the word in your communities. Keep doing your part. There’s a long way to go.

  3. Afterthought 5.

    Now I told you about the Milken Institute’s cutting-edge capital markets training program for policymakers. As an entrepreneur, you need to know the key players in capital markets (even if you aren’t looking for that kind of capital yet). Do you understand how capital markets work? Remember: this is the last year on the platform. If you don’t know yet, get busy.

  4. Christian Onehi writes,

    What really attract the investors? What are they looking out for? What can you do to make them look your direction.

    My reply,
    I wish more African leaders would ask me this question.
    You cannot imagine how much I have yearned to just share with them what I have heard over the years, having sat at dinner with the likes of Warren Buffet and Ted Turner. There are some who have reached out to get my opinion, and I guess you know them already …please don’t start guessing, as I won’t comment further. Wisdom is not to say much more. We will get there in time.

  5. #Reflection:


    I try to go to Silicon Valley a few times every year. The place totally invigorates me. I have just come back from a week in “The Valley”. It is a remarkably small place, and totally unassuming, compared to say New York or Hong Kong.
    Imagine an area with few high rise buildings, less than 120 sq km, and yet houses businesses worth twice the GDP of Africa!

    You visit these companies like Facebook, and Tesla where the CEOs and staff are wearing torn jeans and look like college kids.
    Their offices have desks no fancy chairs, and look at like huge garages:
    Only to find that the company’s Market Cap is bigger than the GDP of Nigeria and SA put together!

    And yet, you know the thing that struck me the most?!

    Three things:

    #1. It is “ground zero” of what Peter Drucker said:

    “Innovation makes money…”

    They are totally fueled by the search for the next innovation.

    #2. They totally value “smarts”. They are looking for the most talented people from any corner of the world. They are like a giant vacuum cleaner of the world’s smartest young people. That is their secret source!

    It is almost scary:
    I bumped into some young Africans walking on the streets recently, and I asked them about their qualifications:
    PhDs every one of them! You would not have imagined it, just seeing them. And they did not have it on their cards “Doctor”, it was just Ayo, Tendayi, Kemi!
    If you go around calling yourself “Doctor” or “Prof” in The Valley, they don’t think it’s cool!

    #3. Finally and for me the most important observation:
    They all think and talk like people who believe they can change the world!
    This type of confidence, without arrogance, is crucial to success.

  6. Otisitswe K. Tawana Madziba writes,

    Dr. Strive, I really believe the social entrepreneurship model is what we need in Africa to tackle our socio-economic challenges, including health issues. What is your take on Social Entrepreneurship? I am start-up social entrepreneur, and there is so much potential.

    My reply,
    I too believe strongly in Social Entrepreneurship, and I will encourage it at very turn.
    However, it is important not to look at it as a panacea [magic built, and only solution]. We also need the For Profit Entrepreneurs, because after all the Social Entrepreneurs go to them for funding support.
    We need both!

  7. Kago Tebogo writes,

    Sir what role due instruments play in finance

    My reply,
    I presume you mean financial instruments. Now, if I could answer that question in a few paragraphs here, then we don’t need the mountains of books and university courses on the subject.
    If it is something you really want to know then make it your mission to study the subject, provided you have the foundational understanding of Finance to make sense of its higher levels.
    You will enjoy it!

  8. #ShoutOut

    World Reader.Org

    Dear Strive,
    I hope that you are well?
    Here’s a short blog we posted today on the reading habits of the people we reach, mainly among the relatively more marginalised using feature phones in sub Saharan Africa. I hope you find it of interest and very happy to share more insights with you or your data team from the million lines of data we receive each day. Would still love to find a way to work together, and I am sure we will.

    Best regards to you and your family

    Colin McElwee

    My reply,
    Thanks Colin. You guys are doing an amazing job for Africa and the World.

  9. Omoruyi Folarin Osas writes,

    Just this noon I was watching a documentary of a place called Shenzhen in China and how it became one of the biggest tech hubs to rival silicon valley.

    Just about 30 years ago, Shenzhen was a small fishing village with a population of 30,000.

    The city’s innovation community attracted large numbers of startups, and many have achieved global success. Tencent, owner of WeChat and social networking platform QQ, one of the world’s largest internet companies, was founded in the city.

    I believe we can fast follow like the Chinese did with Shenzhen. Luckily we now have our own Yabacon Valley in Lagos.

    In the words of Steve Jobs, the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do

    We can do this and we shall…

    My reply,
    Your observation is very profound!
    China basically discovered that the secret in American economic dominance lay in what one of their greatest economic thinkers had said:


    They began to build an economic model that placed emphasis on building Innovative businesses. They studied Silicon Valley, and set up Shenzhen and others.
    It was whilst I was on a business trip to Singapore and Malaysia, more than 20 years ago, that I learnt about China’s incredible reforms. I was totally stunned.
    I then managed to get to Shenzhen.
    I have watched it grow like one studies a lab experiment!
    I’m actually sad because I was due to go there this week.
    I love going to Shenzhen!

    Guys I have been on this trail a long, long time. And I have only had one agenda:
    The prosperity of Africa!
    “It is like fire in my bones.”

    We too can do it, but it will not come through declarations and slogans:
    We must “Study to do!”

  10. Theophilus Adeyinka writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa

    I really love you Dr Strive.

    This article is awesome. So are these incredible observations.

    And for the record sir, YOU are the first big entrepreneur I’d like to meet. You’d done more than inspire me and millions. You’ve made us act.

    You once said, “the opportunities in education are limitless. Nothing comes close. We have to skill up and educate over 600M youths by the end of 2030. Don’t tell me you can’t see an opportunity there. There are books to be written and apps to be developed. What an opportunity for if you are in education!”

    This was in an article where you stressed the need to lay a strong foundation of numeracy in young students.

    And you also said, “By the time you finish high school, you should be able to prepare a business plan, know business registration procedures, and basic entrepreneurial principles.”

    This ultimately led me to start #Paragon_Tutors; both to help students with their challenging subjects and to equip them with basic entrepreneurship training.

    A FREE mini-MBA, so to say.

    The overview of this concept is in our handbook here:

    Our Facebook page has over 400likes and we are advancing.

    We’re setting up the online training platform as soon as we have 50 interested clients.

    Thank you for this sir.

    My reply,
    I think you deserve a full #ShoutOut!

    I want to do a full Post based on what you have just said!

    I love you!!!

    We study to do!

  11. #”How did this actually start?”

    Whilst in the gym today, I listened to a Podcast called American Innovations.
    I was listening to the history of ambulances!
    Yes, ambulances!
    Did you know that when I was born, 1961, there were no ambulances outside the military, as we know them today?
    There was an entrepreneur who made it happen!

    To be an effective Innovator yourself, you must be constantly asking yourself questions about ordinary every day things:
    TVs, refrigerators, ambulances, Coca-Cola, etc.

    “How did the Entrepreneur behind this actually start?”
    It will inspire you

  12. #It’s very dangerous to pitch from the negative!

    I once knew a young entrepreneur who developed an amazing product. He begged me to introduce him to the the chairman of one of the biggest companies in SA.
    As a favor I made a call, and the chairman agreed for me to bring this young guy. I took time off from my busy schedule, and I had no personal interest in his product; I just wanted to help him get a break.
    As we settled into our seats, and the young man was allowed to speak, he began by telling the chairman that he used one of their products, and it was “very bad”:
    For the next few minutes, he continued to criticize their products, before shifting to talk about his product and its superiority. But I had been watching the body language of the chairman, and I knew that deep down he was offended even though he remained polite through the meeting. It was over before it started.

    So many entrepreneurs have this habit of “pitching from the negative”—as I call it!
    #Don’t do it!

    This includes criticizing the staff of the company, as part of the pitch. “9 out of 10” you will end up closing the door on yourself.

    One more thing:
    If I get a chance to meet Tim Cook, I will not begin by telling him I have a problem with my iPhone:
    How can I miss the opportunity to pitch my “A” game like that?!
    He might order someone to give me a new one, but is that all I can get from a guy who runs a $Tn company?!
    That is not an “A game performance”.

    “Mr Dangote, I want you to know I bought a bag of cement, and it did not mix very well.”

    Is that how you will miss your opportunity to engage him, and perhaps take a gem of his experience that could change your career?

    #Be wise!

    Always have your “A game”, and it must not be about a small problem you have, however irritating it might be. Make history, when you get the chance.

  13. Ma’am Vicks writes,

    Good evening sir ! I have been following you from the very beginning, how you devote your time to dishing out nuggets to buddy entrepreneurs,I have invested so much on business intelligence and becoming a mastermind in deals/sales closing; do you think i will do well with the way the world is fast revolving and appreciating technology and innovative ideas…..I sometimes feel left out! I will appreciate a word of wisdom from you thanks.

    My reply,
    Thank you for staying engaged for so long.
    The value of what I have taught you will be tested in one of three ways:

    #1. As an Entrepreneur:
    You will either be inspired to start a business, or scale the one you had already began.

    #2. As an Employee:
    You become one other #People, who don’t just go to work to help you get bye, but to build a transformative business.

    #3. As a policy maker:
    You use this as a platform to engage with entrepreneurs. To know how they see things, and to learn their language.
    This will help you develop more effective policies that create jobs and prosperity.

  14. #MLE:

    In my own business philosophy, I do not mix politics with business:

    #1. I don’t see politics as a means to make money;

    #2. I don’t see business as a means to get into politics.

    I chose my own career 33 years ago. It’s a lane I keep with total discipline.

    Another thing I don’t do is to get involved in other people’s politics, even in small talk.
    If I’m in SA for instance, I don’t discuss ANC or DA, or Julius Malema. At most I listen politely but I have no opinion to share. It’s not my place.

    It is the same in Kenya, and any other African country.

    It does not mean I have no opinion or view, but I’m almost like a Priest in my approach.

    If some think I might change my approach, I counsel them not to hold their breath.
    I’m an Entrepreneur since I was 26 years old:
    33 years!

    That is my “A game” and I have no “B game”.

  15. Niwasasira Dickson writes,

    This is real mentorship. Over time I have learnt that building our communities, countries and Africa doesn’t not require a political office. America was not built by political leaders but entrepreneurial leaders, like Thomas Edson, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John D Rockefeller, and the Modern Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve jobs.

    All the young people of Africa must learn and know this. It’s when we will prosper. The entrepreneur space is open and can accommodate several thousands of us, but a country can have one president at ago.

    Let’s build Africa. As you said, we are here in class. Not on social media.

    My reply,
    You have spoken my deepest conviction on this matter.

  16. #Reflection:

    You and your “sense of humor”

    Having a good sense of humor can be a great asset, when used properly. It can be used to show humility, and to relax others and yourself.
    You must be very, very careful with it, because it can backfire!
    Don’t crack jokes that poke fun at others, particularly people of other tribes, race, gender, religion, or nationalities. This is a no go area, and can guarantee the type of trouble for which there is no return!
    Avoid racy banter particularly with members of the opposite sex, another religion, or race!
    Be careful with jokes!
    Don’t be one of these people who are constantly looking for an opportunity to laugh and make jokes, people who don’t know you well, will dismiss you as “childish” [even if they don’t tell you to your face].

    As you expand your horizon, and begin to meet people of other races, nationalities, religions, learn to distinguish that they are not your buddies back in your town or village. Keep a friendly but respectful distance that allows you to learn and understand what is funny, and what is not funny to them.

    One more thing:
    Don’t practice what you watch in the movies, and on tv. It only works in America, and between Americans.


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