Pause: Turn your indignation into a force for innovation!

Pause: Turn your indignation into a force for innovation!

Going through podcasts like #Business Wars, you will by now have realized that some of the greatest entrepreneurs were motivated by an indignation they felt over injustice, mistreatment, or simply a bad service. As an entrepreneur never waste your energy on unnecessary complaints; turn it into an energy to produce something better!

Let me give you a recent example: I was looking at the structure of a very popular App that most of us use, when I suddenly realized that it is available in almost 20 languages, but not a single one from Africa. Some of the European languages were so small compared to large African languages like Yoruba, Swahili, and Amharic, spoken by tens of millions.

“Why can’t we have the option to use our own languages on major Apps?” I wondered to myself. “Why don’t developers ever think of Africa? How does this contribute to the so called ‘digital divide?’”

This led me to do some research, and I found it was the case in a lot of popular Apps. It’s always assumed that Africans speak English, French, Portuguese and, of course, many of us do. Yet even if 70% of our people can speak or read those languages, it still means that over 350m cannot speak any of these international foreign languages. That is a lot of people!

Sadly, at least 43% of the world’s 6,000+ languages are now considered “endangered”. In fact in a few days, on 21 February, the world (and now Sasai!) will celebrate “UN International Mother Language Day”. It got started 20 years ago when they realized so many languages were literally going “extinct”, so few people were using them anymore.

__Now how do you say “building Africa’s century” in your own home language?

Protecting and celebrating our mother languages is not just cool: They are our memories, stories, customs, traditions, and history! While knowing international business languages such as English and French is very important… let’s get back to my story (of #Innovation)!

“So what if I were to make an example with Sasai, and all my own Apps in future?” I asked my team late last year.

“Surely people would just love to see their own languages available in digital form on popular Apps, even if they do speak an international language. I think it’s cool to have Sasai available in isiNdebele or Kinyarwanda”.

“It would be a great idea sir!” replied my team leader.

“But who will do it for us?”

“Let’s ask the young entrepreneurs on my platform to do it for us. After all they come from every corner of the world.”

I then assigned the team at Muzinda Hub in Harare to coordinate the initiative. And sure enough, within a couple of weeks, they had a whole process going. You guys who participated were great. Thank you!

I was so excited when the first 10 languages were uploaded on the platform. It was so cool to see the App change from English or French to languages like Yoruba, Shona, and Zulu!

But immediately I spotted a big problem… In order to change my App to use a different language, I had to first go to the Smartphone’s own Language setting. This was a cumbersome process which only those with a strong technical background can do. Most of us didn’t know this!

“This is too difficult for people. I want it changed,” I declared. (Not all #Innovations work the first time!)

Then one of our coders came up with a solution: “We can create an “In App” translator”.

“A what?!” I asked, bemused.

“We will code Sasai itself to change the languages, in the app, so you don’t have to go to the phone’s setting.”

“I like it! How long will it take?”

“Given all the other things we’re doing, I think we need about 6 months.”

“Okay. Go ahead. Meanwhile translators should continue working on more languages. Don’t do any marketing until it’s working properly.”

By working over the Christmas holidays, our team was able to crunch the codes, and now it’s working. Wow! There are already 67 languages translated (seven have one more step to go and will be completed in a few more days)… 21 African languages so far, whilst others are from Europe and across the world – places like India, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.

If you want to check if your language is there, here are the steps after you download the Sasai App (you can find it free on the App Store in both iOS and Android):

#1. Go to the “Profile” tab at the bottom right of the Sasai taskbar.

#2. On that Profile tab, scroll to “General Settings”.

#3. On the General settings, find “Languages”.

#4. A huge list appears. Click the language you want.

#5. A tick will appear next to the language you’ve chosen.

#6. Click “done” at the top right.

That’s it! Sound easy? If it does, well done to our team.

I think this is the beginning of something very big: The digitization of all African languages and content!

Now, what are your takeaways from this story, as an #Afripreneur? How will it help you in the development of your own Digital Platforms?

As you think of the power of language and words, here’s a thought for the week:

“A smart person knows what to say. A wise person know whether to say it or not”.

Remember, this is supposed to inspire you, as an entrepreneur, to also do something similar. Don’t complain simply because your own language is missing on the current list. Either wait to see what happens next, or make a constructive suggestion.


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.

28 Replies to “Pause: Turn your indignation into a force for innovation!”

  1. Afterthought 2.

    Since Muzinda Hub managed the translation, guess what?! They have been approached by global Apps who want them to translate their Apps for them. Some of you will soon get calls, and start making a bit of money!

  2. Afterthought 3.

    We still need your help to check each of these languages for any mistakes that you might spot. I know some languages have different dialects, and you may find it is not the one you are familiar with. Don’t get upset: Entrepreneurs don’t get upset, they help find a solution! To find out more go to

  3. Afterthought 4.

    I also want to introduce other #Innovations into the Sasai App, so that my mother can just speak into the phone, and send! It would then send me back text in any language I want. This capability is already out there, we just have to integrate it in.

  4. #Pause:

    “How I built this”[Podcast on NPR]: Daymond John of Shark Tank!

    One of my favorite episodes is the interview with Daymond John, the African American entrepreneur who created the Clothes and Fashion brand called FUBU.

    I want to hear from the first member of this platform to complete it.
    Comment using our formula:

  5. Bidemi Ojo writes,

    Good initiative sir. I’m inspired by the volume of languages gathered within a short time. Of course, this goes a long way in promoting indigenous languages.

    However, how do we tackle the problem of digital lethargy? Apart from poverty, lethargy is one of the biggest causes of illiteracy and a drawback to digital penetration.

    My reply,
    If you see it as a problem, then you find a solution. Unless you do that you are never going to be an entrepreneur yourself.

  6. #Pause:

    Do you know how to make money using African languages?

    There are so many opportunities!

    Can you see how I’m going to make money, yet?
    Don’t guess,because people who answer questions based on guesses are not mature.

  7. Oyinloluwa Oyegoke writes,

    I like it. Tried it out in Yoruba. Great work. Yoruba reads easier when the tonal marks are included on top. Ẹ.g. Yorùbá. Ẹ kú iṣẹ́ lórí Sasai.
    All in all… Awesome work, Sir. And congratulations to you and the team… More grace

    My reply,
    Great advice. We will look into this!

  8. Youngsaviour Msuya writes,

    Dear Strive Masiyiwa , it works perfect well, congratulation.i checked the swahili language it is very interesting.just some few areas of improvement. ill take some time to go through it more thoroughly and submit my suggestions to your team. kindly let me know where should i submit. You are the best.

    My reply,
    Thank you!

    Post it here and they will read it!

  9. Godswill Bu Uchechukwu writes,

    Thank you greatly for this, i am looking forward to see Igbo language in future smart phones. It will be a dream come when the likes of apple tech, huawaii and microsoft will export their technologies to Africa with African languages in usage.

    My reply,
    Most Apple and Huawei products contain this capability in their language settings, but unfortunately, with the exception of Ethiopians, most Africans don’t use it.

    When we translated Sasai into African languages Ethiopians spotted it immediately.

  10. #Jack Ma’s advice:

    “If you want to be an entrepreneur, start by solving problems in your community. A lot of people want to go to the moon or mars, but I think that cleaning the garbage in the streets and the ocean is more important than going to the moon. Entrepreneurs don’t wait for conditions, they create conditions.”

    ~Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba and founder of Africa Netpreneur Prize.

    My comment:

    Our App, Clean City is the only digital platform in Africa for Garbage collection.

    Clean City collects plastic waste.

    Clean City delivers millions of litres daily of fresh drinking water. Deliveries to schools, hospitals and clinics are free!

  11. #Reflection:

    The population of Sub Saharan Africa is 1bn. The literacy rate is 65% (i.e. 650m). This means that 350m people cannot read or write!
    This should break your heart.

    As an entrepreneur you should be trying to develop Innovation in products and services that can help these people enjoy what we take for granted.

    A simple innovation like Podcasts allows us to give them access to content like books.
    Imagine if an [educational] entrepreneur collated an eBook platform of business books and materials,or presented them in Podcast format, in local languages!

    You can take my material audio format it, and upload it on Sasai Podcast in your local language! (With permission, of course).

    This is just one simple idea that you could execute with a mobile smartphone.

    There is no limit on opportunities, just entrepreneurs willing to take up challenges.

  12. Lizo David writes,

    i was showing my partners the isiZulu translation on Sasai 2 weeks back,we had a nice time in the office discovering beautiful tech words in our language.Our own super app is a #fastfollower on this.

    My reply,


    I want every App in Africa include local languages of Africa!

    I have just fired a starting gun for a revolution!

  13. #This means a lot to me!

    To be the first African entrepreneur to launch a digital App, that is available in 50 African languages means a lot to me.
    We will be adding more.

    It might not be getting man on the moon or building an AI platform, but it matters.

    We build precept, upon precept.
    Here a little, there a little.

    I hope you will visit the platform and show this feature to your friends and family.

  14. #”Marketing teaser”!

    In advertising there is something we call a “Teaser”, where we tip you off about something coming.
    If you are a visitor to the Sasai Global website, you will see a “Teaser” entitled “WiFi Finder”!

    When we launch this product next month, you will begin to understand our slogan:
    #DataPricesMust Fall!

    Remember we had #Remittance FeesMust Fall?
    They have by 75%, to 30 Countries in Africa!

    How about Data prices?
    We might even get you Free Data soon!

    Sasai is not WhatsApp, it’s Sasai App, and you ain’t seen nothing yet!!!

  15. #Breaking News!

    The Milken Institute has offered us copies of all the discussions I did with Michael Milken at the global investor conferences in Abu Dhabi and Johannesburg.
    It includes a 1-hr Fireside Chat, I did with Michael Milken and Patrice Motsepe which was attended by most of the kings of South Africa [real kings!]

    You will be able to see my Pitch for investment in Africa, to global investors.

    We are going to Post them on a new platform I have created called #Sasai Watch. It will be like a “mini YouTube”. It will be free to watch. It will sit on Sasai Explore on the “super” App itself.
    You will not need a separate App.

    I have a massive collection of material you have never seen before that will be available on that platform.
    #Sasai Watch will also have Posts from African Influencers, who are not politicians. Mostly entrepreneurs.
    We are also going to have #Sasai Watch Live!

    I will talk about these new platforms again in a few weeks time.

    We are adding amazing new Innovations to Sasai App.

  16. Blessing Machiya Shumbakadzi writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa in Zimbabwe we import a lot of second hand vehicles from Japan. These cars are inbuilt with GPS and other safety sensors in them. BUT they all speak in Japanese!! How cool could it be if someone came up with a local language translator that can be fitted into the car system that will translate what the car is trying to tell you as some of the information could potentially save lives. I have had this idea but haven’t found anyone to help me execute it..

    My reply,
    This is a good idea but it is not for you to pursue.
    Your own business is create a Fast Moving Consumer Goods business. Your dream must be to create Africa’s own Nestle [the largest business in the whole of Europe].
    The lesson is this:
    Every day I have hundreds of business ideas, and potential entrepreneurial businesses. I probably have more business ideas than all of you put together,but filter them out, and stay focused ONLY on my telecoms and related tech platforms.

    #Stay in your own lane. If it was good for Nestle,then it is good for you!

  17. Joshua Kapusana writes,

    Another way that Sasai can make money is through collecting data in African languages and monetizing that data.

    An example of that could be Google or Facebook.Google doesn’t charge for using gmail,google maps or the android operating system(open source) but it collects data from these free products and uses that data to create other products that people pay for and they also get revenue from advertising with a large number of users.I believe Facebook does a similar thing of monetizing data from WhatsApp.

    Looking at the 350m people in Africa and those from other parts of the world,Sasai can gather information that can be used to develop other products and services for groups that have been missed by other digital platforms.

    My reply,
    I know exactly how I’m going to make money. I have over 100 people full time,working in 5 countries.
    The real challenge for you and your entrepreneurial colleagues is to think about how you can also take advantage.

  18. John Chisowa writes,

    I’m just from updating to the current vision..
    And I tried bemba unfortunately, instead of bemba(Zambian language) the words are in chichewa..

    For example “Query ” in bemba it can be “amapesho” but in sasai it’s displaying “funso” which is chewa..

    I appeal if you can check about that Sir..

    The app is great and responding fast..

    Thank you.

    My reply,
    This is an excellent observation. Two local languages mixed up.
    We will fix it!

  19. Adegolu Emmanuel Rotimi writes,

    Chief you are stretching my mind here every time I’m in class on here. You are making me to think on how to solve long standing Africa problems. My heart is enlarged

    My reply,
    And you are get very rich as you develop these solutions.

  20. Goodluck Ojusin writes,

    There is this great sense of prioritisation that comes on my mind whenever I read about Clean City.
    Riverbank Protector is a startup @fast following the works of clean city.
    We started right from our door step making sure plastics can waste are randomly collected and bond inside a waste bag. We dont disposed these plastics but sell it to market women.
    While we educate ourselve on ways to rise funds for the business we voluntarily doing community cleanup.
    We growing the business gradually and not desperate for anything.
    God bless the work of our hands.

    My reply,
    You are a remarkable entrepreneur! I have watched you grow on this platform. You are destined for greatness!
    Strive Masiyiwa

  21. #ShoutOut TopezFarms!

    Opara-Eze Tochi writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa This idea of solving local problems motivated us to build an agritech startup that creates market linkages for our rural based smallholder farmers. It’s a problem my mum had when I was a child. Most of our farm products after harvest get wasted.
    But with Topezfarms that I and my University of Port Harcourt friends are building, we are changing the narrative and #ReimaginingRural.

    Watchout for us, we’ll make global news and this our mentor, Dr. Strive Masiyiwa will be mentioned as the man who pushed us hard enough to build our business.

    My reply,
    This is fantastic!

  22. #Share with others what you know, it can save a life!

    Last week when I wrote about the Corona Virus, one of our members drew my attention to a Free Online course for Healthcare workers on a platform called Alison. I had never heard of it before. However, I asked the guys at Higher Life Foundation to look it up.
    They are now using it to help doctors,nurses and ambulance crews who are preparing for a potential outbreak.

    Each of us knows something that could be helpful to others.

    If you know about a course,a conference, a scholarship, a training program, a funding source, that has helped you; why not post it here for others to learn about it.
    There are so many things out there that are going on that can help others.

  23. #ReImagineRural~Revisited.

    “Rural river crossings”

    The other day I watched a Netflix documentary about a young American woman engineer who quit her job,and set up a foundation that builds bridges in rural areas around the world. She basically finds goes to communities that live near small rivers. She then uses local materials,and her expertise as an engineer to build simple but durable bridges. She does not use anything you cannot find locally and she organizes locals to help themselves.
    Suddenly kids can go school, and lives are transformed.

    She saves hundreds o lives from either drowning or crocodiles.

    I wonder how many engineers we have in Africa who have the skills to sit up similar initiatives.

    This reminds me o Crystal from Rwanda who came third in Jack Ma’s. Africa Netpreneur Prize

    If you are doing similar things, I want to know about you.
    Please post about such initiatives.

    There are so many things waiting for entrepreneurs in Africa.

    Let’s ReImagine Rural.

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