Reflection: Sad farewell to my counselor, mentor, friend, father, confidant.

Reflection: Sad farewell to my counselor, mentor, friend, father, confidant.

__The World’s peacemaker from Africa.

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God”. (Matthew 5:9)

The world just lost one of the greatest leaders ever. Africa has lost its most illustrious son. I just lost one of the most important people in my life @Kofi Annan.

For the last 12 years I have worked with the man I simply called “Chief,” at times on a daily basis. Being my elder, I never called him Kofi, but when he would come on the line, it would always be “Strive, it’s Kofi. How are you? How are Tsitsi and the kids…”

We talked about everything and anything.

We discussed serious and grave situations: world peace, African crises, poverty, hunger, girls’ education, pandemics, food crises, elections, leaders, climate change…

We discussed them all. He was always looking to do something right away.

I worked with him on several international organizations, often at his invitation. I always saw myself as one of his foot soldiers. Just ready to do anything to help his work.

We started things together and drove initiatives together.

He was a quiet man of extraordinary humility and poise.

We also laughed and joked together because he had such a warm sense of humor.

He was my counselor, mentor, friend, father, confidant. All that… and more!

I loved him so dearly.

My family and I loved him to high heaven.

True, I’m kinda hurting right now but I know how to draw Comfort, so I will be fine.

To Nane, Kojo, Ama, Nina – my deepest heartfelt condolences. This man worked for peace, and henceforth shall be called:

# The world’s peacemaker from Africa!




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 “Reflection: Sad farewell to my counselor, mentor, friend, father, confidant.”

  1. Reflections:
    Some of you have asked about the two pictures I have posted.
    They were both taken on the same day, at the Palace of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
    The government of the Netherlands invited the full board of AGRA then chaired by Kofi Annan to visit and learn about how Africa’s agriculture sector could benefit from their expertise.
    When the Queen Of the Netherlands heard we were in town, she invited us to visit her. As soon as we arrived she told us that it was “in honor of her friend Kofi”.

    There is no significant world ruler including Monarchs (Kings and Queens) who did not respect and/ or even adore Kofi Annan the global leader from Africa.

    Some of you will remember that I posted a beautiful picture with Kofi Annan, and his wife [Nane] together with my own wife [Tsitsi], it was taken at a small private dinner to honor his 80th birthday.

  2. Steve writes,

    When I was a child I would always see Chief Kofi Annan, Arafat, and Bill Clinton on TV like everyday. One day I asked my grandpa who Kofi was since I knew Clinton and Arafat because of their countries. He replied, ‘one day you’ll know who he is when you are old enough”. Then in 2007/08 when Kenyans turned on each other, Kofi Annan came to Kenya to broker peace between the opposing sides and they shook hands. My grandpa passed on but Kofi to me was a peace maker. It’s how I came to know him better apart from reading about him. I am happy that nowadays Kenyans shake hands to get over things. Surely, what an old man sees while seated, a young man can only see with time. #AfricaMourns

    My reply,
    Thank you my brother.
    Let me not say more at this time…

  3. Breaking News!
    I too had a role model and I was only trying to teach you [the next generation from Africa] some of the things he taught me:
    @Kofi Anan, Africa’s peacemaker to the world.

    Thank you “Chief”.

  4. Reflections:
    Whenever I think of Kofi Annan, I always think of #Humility:

    Yes, you don’t know what humility is until you have spent time in the presence of a man like Kofi Annan.
    One day we were walking together [without an entourage] when some young Chinese students spotted him, and rushed forward to ask for a picture:
    “They have probably mistaken me for Morgan Freeman”, he quipped as they each took a selfie.
    We call this “self effacing [make one self appear less important] humility”, and it was typical of his style. The students knew exactly who he was—one of the greatest leaders in modern history.

  5. Oben writes,

    “The World’s Peace Maker From Africa” (Title copied from Dr Strive Masiyiwa)

    18th August 2018.

    An entire continent bleeds,
    Swimming in rivers of tears,
    Hearts are torn with grieve,
    Bones are shrieking with pain,
    Grinding teeth like metal, kissing
    The rough tar.
    Another star has fallen from the heavens
    To spark no more.

    Blessed be the earth upon which you tread.
    The lives inspired, forever will remain grateful.
    And to generations shall it be recounted,
    That once, a great man made of it a better place,
    This continent for which we all are proud.
    For peace you fought and in peace you shall rest.
    Your sun on earth is set,
    But the rays of your light will remain eternal.


    Oben K Djeudo

    Rest in Peace Koffi Atta Annan

    My reply,
    Praying and thank you

  6. #Wisdom from The Elders:

    Here’s a link to a wonderful conversation just last month in Johannesburg, hosted by the Obama Foundation, called “The Future of Africa: Elders Pass the Baton”.

    Moderated by former US Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, the panel included former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Africa’s first elected female head of state) and UN diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi from Algeria, with 200 young African leaders in the audience.

    It’s just over 1h:22m long but some of you may be interested in the special wisdom and insights.

    Mr Annan:
    • 10:22 (coming of age at Independence)
    • 22:39 (never too young to lead, never too old to learn)
    • 36:19 (on sanctions; how people miscalculate what really matters to the sanctioned)
    • 43:40 (importance of getting to know yourself; understanding your environment and society)
    • 52:03 (importance of a good team)
    • 1:06:59 (what happened in Rwanda)
    • 1:20:00 (importance of relationships)

  7. Reflection for today:
    # Develop and nurture a soft tone, if you really want to be heard:

    Anyone who ever met [or worked with ] Kofi Annan, or even Nelson Mandela will tell you that they had a soft tone, which at times was almost a whisper. They were never animated in their style of delivery, or spoke down to people.

    There were many tense meetings in which one would have expected him to shout or scream to express his displeasure, but he never did.

    This style of speaking to others, in which we do not shout or scream or even use bad language and expletives is something we can all train ourselves to do.

    As President Obama once put it:
    “We can disagree without being disagreeable..”

  8. Afterthought 1.

    My friend Marco’s inventor/partner, Jurgen, saw that poor sanitation (no flush toilets) in rural communities, schools, clinics, informal settlements etc. was really hurting the quality of health and life for millions of people, so he set out to invent a solution which he patented: a 100% South African sanitation product.

    He explained that it’s environmentally friendly, cost effective, easy to install, low maintenance, uses off-grid energy and little water. Wow, I said. You can check out the link at

  9. Afterthought 3.

    “To live is to choose,” said Kofi Annan (as a few of you shared here last week), “but to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go, and why you want to get there.” Thank you so very much for all the kind words and tributes to Chief Kofi Annan you chose to share here last week.

  10. Afterthought 4.

    Last week I posted my congratulations to the team of young women students (ages 12-14) from Regina Pacis Model Secondary School in Nigeria who won the World Pitch Technovation contest in Silicon Valley, USA earlier this month. They developed an App that can be used to detect counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs which are a huge problem. They were up against teams of girls from throughout world who developed about 2000 other apps… Wow!

    In case you missed it, I wanted to be sure you read and be inspired.

  11. Winner announcement!

    A belated congratulations to Steve Maina of Kenya who won an iPhone for answering all the questions about the Nigeria vs Argentina match at the World Cup last month. Well done! This was a tough one, and the first days I ran the contest, no one remembered the usual rules (for example, to include your country in your answer) so we had to keep it open a while… Details, my friends! They matter.

    Quiz questions:

    “Using KweseESPN website: the first person to answer the following question will get a free iPhone! (only one available!)

    ‪#1. How many times did the Ref blow the whistle in both halves?

    ‪#2. What was the incident at 90’ +4m?

    ‪#3. How many shots on goal did each team have?

    ‪#4. Give the names of at least 3 substitutes not used by either side, and their positions.

    ‪#5. Give the name of anything available on Kwese Predictor.

    My normal rules apply and you cannot contest my team’s decision. Answers must come only from KweséESPN. Now run!”

    Winning answers from Steve Maina:

    #1 Blowing the whistle 68 times as per KweseEspn Plus 1 at the start, 2 in the end of first half, 1 in the start of the 2nd half, and 3 in the end of 2nd half, Total 75 times.

    #2 Incident 90′ + 4m Foul by Simy (Nigeria), Javier Mascherano (Argentina) wins a free kick on the right wing, and Lionel Messi (Argentina) is shown the yellow card.

    #3 Shots on goal Nigeria 3 Argentina 4

    #4 Subs not used Nigeria 1. Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Goal keeper), 2. Joel Obi (midfielder) 3. John Ogu (Central midfielder). Argentina 1. Nahuel Guzmán (Goal keeper) 2. Cristian Ansaldi (Full-back) 3. Lucas Biglia (Midfielder) #5 Kasey Keller predicts France to beat Argentina. From Nairobi Kenya Stephen Maina

  12. Reflection:
    I had to move a couple of really urgent meetings for Marco to make his pitch to me.
    Then I asked him to install 10x pilot systems at some rural schools and business centers so we could evaluate his concept.
    We also discussed an entrepreneurial model which would enable someone to keep them clean, and to provide toilet paper. That person would also be given basic plumbing skills in case of breakdown.
    Let’s see how it works out.
    The global sanitation business is worth billions. For me this is just philanthropy.

    Now, some of you might want to get together and buy such a system for your old school.

  13. Gordon Martin,
    I read and enjoyed your Post on China.
    I’m always very impressed when I visit China. It’s extremely competitive for entrepreneurs in China, but there is also a lot of support.

  14. Alfred writes,

    Apart from the obvious health and dignity benefits, this movement has created a market drive for related industries and products like cement, concrete plastic, ceramics. This makes it a great hunting ground for an entrepreneur. Like during the gold rush, not everyone struck gold but they all needed shovels and the shovel business boomed! So this will create various industrial scale opportunities ranging from skills training like plumbers, masons etc to products industries like cement steel, plastics ceramics glues, and water drilling connections. It is a revolutionary tsunami with goodies for all kinds of entrepreneurs!

    My reply,
    Perfect response!
    Absolutely perfect response.
    Someone might look at it and think it’s about hygiene, and cleanliness but someone seriously trained in economics will see what you have seen:
    -an opportunity to create jobs;
    -an opportunity to boost the manufacturing sector of a country;
    -an opportunity to increase GDP growth rates…

    -an opportunity to spur entrepreneurship and more.

    #this is really smart policy making at its best.

  15. Oviri Patrick writes,

    Actually for sometime now,I have been thinking along this line of building toilet system in some places and make good profit. It is capital intensive so I need someone who I can partner with.

    My reply,
    It is not as capital intensive as you think.
    Just learn to start small, and humble…
    Marco and I discussed how he could set up an entrepreneurial concept around @FRANCHISING!

    He would build say 10 x [clean public] toilets at business centers. He would then appoint an entrepreneur who would manage the facility like a branded coffee shop. People would pay using plastic tokens available in local shops for a few cents. Someone would always be there to keep it clean and to provide paper, and water. This is like you find in airports all over the world.

    Let me tell you someone is going to do it, whilst others watch and hold their noses!

    #Would you accept to be his franchise partner in your local area?

  16. Kalesha writes,

    Interesting development in India and this is what Ive learned.
    It has challenged the Economist in you because the market (toilet related products and services) is projected to double to $62bn by 2021 which is real growth in sector.
    It jas challenged the Entreprenuer in you because $20bn has bn committed to the Health drive which has created opportunities for sales in building materials, and bathroom and sanitary ware.
    It has challenged the Engineer in you because you are a trained Engineer by profession and it is fulfilling seeing your profession add value to the many lives in India.
    It has challenged the Philanthropist is you because in the next 5 years over 111million latrines will be built which means the health, safety and dignity of hundreds of millions of Indians and their households will benefit, especially the young ones who are tomorrows’ leaders, now that is philanthropy at its best!

    My reply,
    Got it!
    Most of all it inspired me!
    We could do this in Africa:

  17. Reflections from my time with Kofi Annan:
    The funeral and burial service of Kofi Annan will take place in Ghana on 13th September. I plan to be there.
    Which reminds me about something he taught me:
    #One of the most prized leadership skills in the world is Conflict Resolution.
    I spent a lot of time trying to learn from him how to deal with conflicts.
    He really wanted to pass on this skill.
    It is not easy to get two warring parties to stop a conflict and decide to work together.
    Central to how he approached it was his humility tempered with extraordinary patience.

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