Our partners in Nigeria wanted Econet Wireless as the technical partner to find a top CEO from Europe. So I asked a Head Hunter to advertise the position in Europe and because of the salary we were prepared to pay, we got applicants from the top operators in Europe. I asked that the top applicants come to Nigeria for interviews.
One of the top applicants ran a network in Norway and he was visiting Nigeria for the first time. I asked him in the interview about his distribution strategy, and he said to me the “problem here is there are no high street shops like in Europe. I need access to large supermarkets, like in Europe.” I replied to him, that Nigeria had the largest supermarkets in the world. “Where are they he asked? I have been walking all over, and I have not seen any; can you show me?” So, I invited him to the window, of the 10th floor building, where we were meeting.”There…See! The largest supermarket, in the world!”. As he strained to see what I was pointing at. I showed him, a street in Lagos full of lively vendors selling everything you could imagine. I even pointed at a young man slaying a goat, and said “fresh meat section my dear friend!”. As we sat down I added, “there is everything there, that makes a supermarket, what has the roof got to do with it?” I then hired, an African CEO, and within weeks, Nigeria, saw its first cell phone, airtime vendors…with BUDDIE PREPAID…The rest is history, as they say!
The business we launched and to which we remain proud shareholders, now has nearly 25 million customers.
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.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa