Pause: “The times, they are a-changing!”

Pause: “The times, they are a-changing!”

__Breaking a mindset built on distribution of finished goods and resources.

When I was a child there were two types of African business people: a “BigMan” was someone who had started with a small shop in the village, and then expanded it into a supermarket (usually in the nearest big town). As I got older the BigMan had ventured into operating buses and Keke (kombi, matatu).

“Strive, if you want to make money one day, you must go into the WhiteMan’s business”, my uncle counseled me at the age of 14. “The WhiteMan makes money from mining and farming, using our natural resources.”

When I started my career, new areas of entrepreneurship had opened up. We could now get government tenders as long as our own kinsmen were in control. It was a simple compact: Vote our own guys in and they will help us get to the feeding trough!

Moving Africa forward requires us to dramatically change our mindset both as entrepreneurs, and also in popular culture that shapes how our people perceive entrepreneurs. Our teachers must be challenged to show our kids what is true entrepreneurship. Our policymakers must be focused on developing policies that encourage entrepreneurship in every sphere of our economy.

In entrepreneurship, there is no such thing as “value addition”. That is an outdated concept. We need to replace that expression with “innovation and entrepreneurship”.

__Our oil, diamonds and platinum are frittered away because we have no innovation and entrepreneurship associated with them.

I love that man Aliko Dangote, because he has never been associated with pumping oil and exporting it, but with developing products that use Nigeria’s natural resources.

He uses natural gas to make fertilizer, and Clinker (a type of mineral) to make cement.

# What are you going to do with the cocoa?

# What do the people who buy our platinum do with it?

These should be exam questions in high schools in the digital era… which is hurtling us to 4IR, driven by AI and AR. (I make no apology for using acronyms, because if you don’t know them by now, poverty is moving into your house!)

We have to move our mindset at school, in the home, and in policymaking to understanding the drivers of the emerging economy:

# Why are Amazon and Alibaba so valuable?

# How do you develop a distribution business in the digital era?

# Why is coding such an important skill?

These are questions for the high school student… I’m not even talking of what I expect the university student to be able to answer!

But two questions are fundamental for that level:

# Can you draft a business plan in 30 minutes for a digital business?

# What would you need to scale it?

No pressure… Just remember those famous words from one of my favorite artists:

“The times, they are a-changing”!

And of those things that you hold onto as the basis of wealth and prosperity?

“It ain’t necessarily so…” (words from a famous play called “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”).


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.

23 Replies to “Pause: “The times, they are a-changing!””

  1. Afterthought 1.

    “Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. Afterthought 3.

    There are many amazing ways to use digital technologies to change the world. Who in the #SeniorClass has heard of “Philanthropy University” which was founded by a friend of mine, Amr al-Dabbagh? Philanthropy “U” is an online platform with an amazing curriculum for serious social entrepreneurs who want to make a real impact to change the world, using some of the disruptive digital technologies I have been talking about here. Please check them out, take some of their courses, study and learn, then tell me what you think. I will write more about them soon but I want to hear from you once you take their courses in subjects such as:

    # Intro to fund raising

    # Connecting to donors

    # Setting up a nonprofit board

    # Planning for monitoring and evaluation. . . and many more.

    What other kinds of courses would be valuable to you?

  3. #Reflection:

    “Oh how I wish all our people were entrepreneurs”

    Being an entrepreneur is at its best, when it is a mindset, rather than a vocation.

    Leadership requires us to have the courage to go back and re-think the way we have always done things, particularly if they are not working.

    Don’t be afraid to change something, simply because it has been done that way for a long, long time.

  4. #Why some people struggle to see a business beyond a person:

    Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is a public listed company, with tens of thousands of shareholders. Virtually every person who has a pension of any kind or insurance policy is an indirect shareholder as well.

    I have never personally held more than 50%, since it was listed.

    So I actually don’t own the company. I’m simply the largest single shareholder.

    Whilst there are more than 5000 people work at the company, I have never actually seen or met 98% of them, including many of the senior leadership people.

    You will still find even media people saying of a public listed entity “the Strive Masiyiwa owned business.” They will even ask me to intervene on things I have no idea about, and should not be expected to even know.

    The reason for this is quite simple:
    Such people are still trapped in a mindset of the #BigMan I wrote about on this post. They never shook away the BigMan idea developed when they were young.

    This is not unique to Zimbabwe, and happens all over Africa:
    Many of us simply struggle to see Institutions and corporate structure and see only a person.

    If we are to build businesses that expand continentally and even globally, we need to put away simplistic understanding of how businesses are structured, and the rules by which they operate.

  5. Austin Uzim writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa thank you sir for the update. In case anyone out there is still wondering why they should use Sasai?

    Here is why as found on Sasai website where I currently hang out more than any other place, I even mentioned Sasai to Barack Obama on his Facebook page where I’m a top fan. You should be proud of your product.


    Easy, safe, reliable mobile payments: Sasai Pay allows you to transfer funds, buy goods, pay accounts, split restaurant bills, track expenses and so much more, all without leaving the App.

    Easy bill splitting: Sasai Pay helps with splitting restaurant bills between you and your friends and can also track how much each person should chip in for the tip, by allowing you to track your bill while you chill.

    Easy to use chat facility: With Sasai Chat, you get unlimited messages, voice and video calls to friends and family around the world.

    Added chat features: Sasai Chat also lets everyone know how you feel with tailored emojis, pictures and voice notes, and allows you to invite your inner circle to a new way of chatting.

    Loans and overdraft facilities: Sasai Explore rewards you for being smart with your money. The Sasai savings and investment app encourages saving (deposit mobilisation) through gamification – goal-setting, targets, awards and more.

    Gaming and Music streaming: Sasai Explore brings you the freshest live streaming music and selected games to help you entertain yourself whenever, wherever and however you want, right on the device in your hand.

    Order services: If you need a ride, need to shop online, need an electrician or a plumber, it can all be done through the App. You can do all of these things in the comfort of your home, Sasai has you covered.

    Make some extra Money: With Sasai you can also make some money through our paying Ads integration. We’ve partnered with an international technology company that gives subscribers a chance to earn $$ for watching Ads on Sasai. Yes, it’s that simple. Just sit back, relax and make that passive paper with Sasai!

    My reply,
    I hope to see you and some of your colleagues in Lagos, and possibly Accra.
    Our team is looking at options.

  6. #Bad advice from my uncle:

    A few years after I started my business, and had began to make a little money, I happened to travel to a family event in the village.
    One of the elders took me aside and called out to everyone there “my nephew is said to be quite rich now by many people. But I just don’t see it:
    He has no Mercedes Benz yet, and he has no farm!”
    It completely continued to baffle him that I never bought those two symbols of his perceived sense of prosperity.

    A dear family friend came to give me advice:
    “You must buy a mine.”
    “Why?” I asked completely surprised.
    “Then people will know you have money.”

    “Really? Why is it important?”

    “You don’t understand”, he said frustrated,

    #Stop and Think on this!

    This is NOT why we become entrepreneurs!

    You should not buy a farm or big car, simply to impress others. That is the old type of #Mindset that is blocking our path to really prosperous communities.


  7. #Entrepreneur’s Kitchen:

    Ever since we set up Clean City, our Digital Waste Management Platform, I have been just as fascinated with Waste as much as growing of food!

    Every human being produces waste [not just from their body]

    You know there are people who have done studies which show exactly how much waste on average is generated by each citizen in a country.
    Managing Waste is a huge global business, and recently I have met experts who have done PHDs on Waste.
    It should not surprise you that some of the biggest companies in the world are in Waste related activities.

    It’s a fascinating industry.

    Through Clean City we collect waste from over 300,000 homes and businesses in just Harare.

    Which brings me to my entrepreneurial Kitchen:

    I asked one of our best Entrepreneurs in our company [we have a lot of entrepreneurs~best paid and always have access to me directly], to undertake a study on vegetable waste in Harare City, at the main fruit and vegetable market where Market women sell their products. It’s called Mbare Msika:
    The result would stun you!
    He found that there is almost enough Waste each day to provide power to Mbare Township itself that is right next to the market.

    The bio-waste [waste vegetables, Potatoes, corn meal, meat etc] we collect every day can actually provide electrical power and clean cooking gas, for most residential areas of the city at night.

    Remember #ReImagineRural?

    This is not just an urban opportunity:
    If rural people collected all the cattle manure every week, and took it to a center with tractors, it could be converted into Fertilizer, Cooking Gas, or electricity!
    We have done a study on that too, during the Cyclone Idai project.

    We know exactly how to power up rural communities now, using biogas and solar.

    So why have these kinds of initiatives never been pursued aggressively?

    We need more entrepreneurs!

    “Oh how I wish all our people were entrepreneurs”.

    This month [September] we will commission a rural power plant that we built!

    More about that some other time!

  8. Edmilson Romao writes,

    Well I don’t speak English perfectly
    But I gonna try

    Everytime I read your posts I feel a different person with new ideas.

    I am from Angola and your brilliants ideas must be shared, so that everyone get it.
    No one will develop Africa
    We all must be the responsible of our own home land.

    My reply,

    Thank you my friend. Your English will get better. If my Portuguese was as good as your English, I would be very, very happy.

    I’m planning a huge investment to Angola. I met recently with your new President. He is a very serious guy.
    It is not just the things he has said but the things he HAS done which are beginning to impress investors once very skeptical about your country.

    Few people realize how big Angola economy is:
    At $125bn GDP, it is bigger than every economy in SSA, besides Nigeria and SA.
    It is a bigger economy than Kenya, and Ethiopia, which are both also loved by investors. They are in my top five picks!

    These days when foreign investors ask me which country to look at, I say “ time to look again at Angola”;
    and they are surprised.
    Then I show then #NUMBERS from my research, and they say “you are so right!”

    Of course there is still so much to be done. And I’m not talking politics but economics.
    Economically Angola can take off like a rocket!
    I call on everyone on this platform to pay attention to Angola.

  9. Parity M Chizela

    10 years ago, I started working on a BioGas Digester. It worked. I was so young, only in grade 8 at that time. I started designing plans of how each house can be self-sustaining energy wise. I did my research, and found out each house in rural areas can do it to. It’s something I want to work on later. I’m working on something to sustain me and all these future endavours at the moment.

    My reply,
    Where are you from?
    What qualifications do you have now?


    My mother is almost 80 years old. In the 20 years since I left Zimbabwe, she has never been to the company to ask for anything. This is because when I listed the company [21 years ago] I sat her down, and explained to her that it was no longer my business alone.
    When the company pays a dividend to all its shareholders, that is when I also get some money. I then transfer my own share into a Trust account for my personal use within the country. My Family Office administer anything my mother and other relatives request. They are all forbidden from approaching the company itself for anything.

    My Family Office give most of the money from my trust account to Higher Life Foundation. They must give a minimum 50%, in line with my Giving Pledge commitment.

    My children never approach the company for anything. They go to The Family Office. This office has its own staff, and they have nothing to do with any of the businesses! They work for me personally.

    Econet money is not my money. It belongs to all shareholders.

    During the Cyclone some people were surprised to see that I gave money through my two foundations, and then each of the Econet group companies also gave money independently; this is because they have different shareholder interests. And each must decide what they want to do.

    At all times a good company must have a separate life, even from the founder, particularly if there are other shareholders [even with 5%]

  11. Solomon Solomon writes,

    Because you are my teacher, I also want to help you as a sign of appreciation for the lessons you have taught me on this platform.

    I want Sasai App to be a success. I have learnt that the easiest way to distribute the app is to let your team post the App directly on facebook so that I can be downloaded easily because it will be available also on facebook for downloading.

    My reply,
    I appreciate your practical expression of support.
    I will pass on your suggestions.

  12. Lucy Kirisha writes,

    Do you have us in mind,how can a dinner meeting with Jake’s,Nunu and you cost ksh.75000,I can’t even come near the gate. Invest that money in me I get to your level brother, thank you, God bless

    My reply,
    I was invited by TD Jakes to join him for an event. I’m not one of the organizers.
    Neither TD Jakes nor myself want your money.
    Your attitude however, disturbs me. You will need to correct it, if you are to truly succeed in life. No one owes you a living, and I personally would never invest in anyone who feels entitled to my money or assistance.

  13. Parity M Chizela
    When will you finish your studies?
    Once you have your degree, you can come and work for me, if you like. You will still have to pass our entrance interviews, but I think you have something.
    Meanwhile I will see if some of the Liquid Zambia people can give you and Internship during your holidays.
    Someone from the Admin team will pick this up.

    1. Hi Sir, I am ready to take the entrance interviews to come and work for you. I’m looking forward to joining your team and innovating with them. I can be reached on this email address “”

  14. #Use The Tools I have given you, to grow your business!

    For those of you who have followed the development of Vaya, you will notice that the services platform has been dramatically expanded over the last 12 months.

    Each of those services particularly Vaya Logistics is my way to help entrepreneurs!

    When I was a young entrepreneur my biggest challenge was transport, and machinery:
    All the money I raised was to buy my own trucks, and cars to move around.
    If I were starting a business today in Zimbabwe,I would use Vaya Logistics:

    #Carpool would allow me to move my sales people to see customers;

    #Vaya Express would deliver parcels, quotations, and invoices to my customers.

    #Vaya Shuttle would be used to get my workers to projects;

    #Vaya Van and Truck would be used to deliver materials to construction sites.

    #Vaya Tractor is busy deploying tractors to help small holder farmers who don’t own their own tractors.

    I would use Sasai to communicate with all my teams.

    I invested in these tools, so that entrepreneurs in the informal sector, as well as young entrepreneurs will not have to spend their own money….

    Remember my mantra:
    “What do you see”?

    I would be interested to know how Zimbabwean entrepreneurs are using these tools.
    Next year, Vaya will begin its roll out to other key markets around Africa.

  15. #Pause:

    You must get out of the notion of “my” business, if you want to be really big!

    Large businesses, are large because they have more than one shareholder.
    Aliko Dangote is the richest man in Nigeria, but he does not own Dangote Group, all by himself. It is the case for any billionaire out there whether in Africa, Europe, China and the US.
    The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos owns 16% of the company he founded.

    Having other people as investors and [permanent] shareholders in your business is a reality of having a successful business.
    I have never met a truly successful entrepreneur [by global standards] who said “I own the business 100%”!

    Now each of those shareholders has rights, and if you use the company money though it belongs to you and your family, it is a form of fraud and corruption!
    Once you have other shareholders then you must wait for a salary or dividends.
    My mother was a successful entrepreneur in her own right, and she understands the laws of business; she taught me some of them!

  16. #Big Read!
    Something every serious African entrepreneur should read today:
    It will change your perspective on where Africa is going:

    Every week, I set aside articles that I study carefully and also share with friends:

    This was one of my BIG Read today:

    The last defenders of free trade are in Africa
    By Fareed Zakaria, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019

    The best word to describe the mood of the global economy these days is gloomy. The pessimism is closely tied to the loss of faith in free markets and free trade, the two forces that propelled the world economy for the past seven decades. The United States, long the staunchest supporter of these ideas, has moved into full-scale mercantilist mode. Britain, the original free trade superpower, is pulling out of the European Union, its largest free-trade relationship. China is striving to become less reliant on foreign firms and global supply chains. Everywhere the trend seems the same. Except in Africa.

    Last month, unnoticed by much of the media, Africa’s leaders announced the creation of a continent-wide free-trade area that will potentially bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion economic zone. The success of this project hinges on whether nations actually do reduce tariffs and other trade barriers, but if they do, trade could rise by as much as 50 percent in the next few decades, according to the International Monetary Fund. As the IMF put it, “This could be an economic game changer for the continent.”

    Africa has six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. By 2050, a new African middle and upper class of 250 million people could stimulate a five-fold rise in demand for goods and services. The World Bank found that a third of all business-regulation reforms from 2017-2018 took place in sub-Saharan Africa, and the continent boasted five of the 10 most-improved economies in the institution’s annual Doing Business Index. More than 400 African companies already take in at least $1 billion in annual revenue. These data points come from a recent Brookings Institution op-ed, “The high growth promise of an integrated Africa,” by Landry Signé and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

    One country that has bet big on Africa is China. In 2000, trade between China and the entire African continent was $10 billion. Today it’s $200 billion, making China its largest trading partner. Beijing has invested heavily in aid and loans for the region. President Xi Jinping hosted an African summit in Beijing last year and announced that China planned to spend $60 billion in credit, investment and development projects for the continent for the next three years.

    Of course, there are many caveats to the rosy picture of Africa. It’s easier to announce the intention to reduce trade barriers than to actually enact such laws. Africa continues to face massive problems in the form of corruption and mismanagement, not to mention conflict. Some of the continent’s promising growth statistics reflect the simple fact that Africa is rich in natural resources, and a growing world economy has created high demand for these products.

    The most encouraging aspect of today’s Africa is the striking rise in private business. The region has the highest rate of entre­pre­neur­ship in the world, with 22 percent of working-age Africans launching new businesses, compared with 13 percent of their counterparts in Asia and 19 percent in Latin America. Places such as Rwanda that are truly business friendly and have a strong rule of law are experiencing sustained economic growth and rising standards of living.

    I witnessed firsthand the energy of African entrepreneurs on a recent trip to Nigeria. I was a guest of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which has committed $100 million to train and assist 10,000 entrepreneurs across the continent. The energy and optimism of these young men and women, from all 54 of Africa’s countries, were infectious. Their only complaint was that the world was missing the big good news about their continent.

    Africa will demand the world’s attention over the coming decades. It will add 1 billion people to its population by 2050 and 2 billion more by the end of the century, at which point more than one in three people on the planet will be African. That demographic boom could create enormous problems if it is not accompanied by job opportunities and political stability. But it could provide the world with energy and dynamism as populations age and growth slows in most of the rest of the world. Much of this will depend on Africa’s leaders, who will have to finally fulfill the promise of the continent and its people. Too many have stolen from their people for too long.

    Africans know the price they have paid by being locked out of global markets and of living in countries with limited private enterprise. They understand that the only real and sustainable path out of poverty is expanding free markets that are, of course, well-managed and regulated by effective governments. Much of the world today could be reminded of that simple lesson.

  17. Memory Ngwenya writes,

    Sir u hardly mention mining sector.

    My reply,
    I teach entrepreneurship #PRINCIPLES that apply to all sectors. If I had to write about every single sector I would be no different from an economic commentator.

    You will not find the substance in an issue by looking for specific words. In this particular post I talked about Aliko Dangote, who made his wealth by creating and selling products from raw materials mined in his country.
    If you as an entrepreneur choose to focus on just mining, then I say good:
    Do it efficiently, sustainably, using the 3Ps.
    Take advantage of digital platforms for logistics and distribution to scale.
    Blockchain technology will control mining within a decade.

    Prepare for AI, because mining will be heavily impacted by AI:
    I don’t think there will be a human miner within 25 years.

    And yet there is a more excellent way:

    The nation that mines, and uses the raw material to innovate products, will always be wealthier than the nation that simply mines and sells raw materials.

    Focus on principles and not key words:
    Principle is the substance of what I have to say.

  18. #Reflection:

    My favorite icon on my mobile smartphone is “A” for App store:

    I can spend hours just studying the Apps:

    Never forget that Facebook, Twitter, Sasai, WhatsApp, Instagram are all Apps! There are tens of thousands of other Apps on the App Store, that can help you with so many things.
    It is not good to simply have a few favorite Apps, but keep studying other Apps, and seeing what others are doing.
    You can even have your own Apps. I have at least 5, already. And I want to build even more!
    It’s no longer enough to have a website, but you must have an App!
    No pressure!

    If you never go into the App Store of your mobile smartphone, and simply focus on particular Apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, then you are like a man living in one room, in a mansion, on a huge estate, without any knowledge that there is more to it than one room!

  19. Memory Ngwenya writes,

    Thank you sir because I was thinking can Vaya also transport ore for small scale miners even big mines I wrongly assumed you viewed mining as risk business like most Zimbabwean banks

    My reply,
    Vaya can provide you trucks of any size, and for any sector or industry.

    If you don’t find what you want ask Dorothy who runs Vaya and she will take care of it for you!

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