The skills of the future (Part 6)

The skills of the future (Part 6)

__“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat.” Steve Jobs

Last Thursday Cassava Fintech International, the company in our group that controls our highly popular mobile money service, EcoCash, released a new super App called Sasai under the tag line: “Pay, Chat, Explore”. I want to discuss this with you as an entrepreneur, not as a potential customer.

You might be asking yourself the question: “If you have a very successful business called EcoCash which enjoys 90% market share, why would you launch another business in the same segment?”

This is a good question, which I believe is best answered by one of the most admired CEOs in the world today, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, who said the following:

__“Longevity in this business is about being able to reinvent yourself or invent the future”.

The technological platform on which services like EcoCash and M-PESA are built was for feature phones, but now more and more phones are Smartphones. These new phones are powerful micro-computers which drive sophisticated services using algorithms, that we have all come to know as “Apps”.

The mobile networks themselves are evolving from 3G to 4G, and now 5G is coming! 5G will open the door to the most powerful computer programs the world has ever seen, which we are now calling Artificial Intelligence.

By launching Sasai — which combines #Instant Messaging, #Social Media and #Mobile Payments into one simple, secure, reliable (and awesome) App — we are hoping to do five principle things I wanted to see achieved:

#1. “ReInvent” ourselves;

#2. “Disrupt” ourselves (even if you don’t have strong competitors, you must always act as though you do!);

#3. “Invent the future” by migrating the services we have onto a smarter, faster, more powerful platform that uses Smartphones that will be able to run on 5G, and AI! We have created a #Pathway to AI driven services. This means we will be able to seamlessly go into the future.

#4. We also wanted to build a platform that we can take anywhere in Africa, without having to own the mobile network. EcoCash operates on Econet networks, but Sasai works on any network, anywhere in the world, just like the popular WhatsApp, Instagram or even Facebook. When we are done you will be able to use it from anywhere in the world. I believe and hope that Africans in the diaspora will eventually use Sasai as their link back home!

#5. We wanted the platform to be inclusive, and yet global in look and feel. It must be vibrant, reflecting the youthfulness and diversity of Africa.

It must also be able to accommodate local languages, an exciting feature that will emerge by Christmas.

__Every day you must innovate or die!

Now let’s look at our pathway briefly:

The team that developed Sasai is not the team that run EcoCash. Do you know why? There is a profound reason for that!

A small team of people were put together that worked away from the glare of any activity. Some of these young people are super smart, with degrees from the world’s top universities. They were led by a proven leadership team that knew how to plan and develop a new product.

They had access to research and could travel to places like India, China and the US to study services, and meet potential partners. The type of computer programming required hundreds of specialists in the countries I have mentioned. You don’t buy something like this off the shelf. It also cost tens of millions.

We knew exactly what we wanted: Something similar to the “We Chat” platform in China, which has 1,2bn users, but it had to be an African platform. We could not go to WeChat and say, “Please give us your platform!” So we built it from observation. This is how @Fast Follow works. It is what Jack Ma did after seeing Yahoo, and went home to build Alibaba.

It was sometimes agonizing as months gave way to years. Yes, it was a number of years. We never talked about it, and 99% of people who work in Econet did not know about the project. It is hard to keep something like this going, when it is not making any money at all. This is where the entrepreneurship comes in: “You bet the farm”!

Once it was ready we unveiled it to staff members to try out for several weeks. Their feedback led to radical changes. Then we released it to “friendly customers” who began to use it and gave us further feedback. Again we went back to the drawing board.

By then rumors about it were flying around it. The teams were now working in overdrive to make changes coming from the feedback. Then finally we had a product for the market!

It is a good product, but it is not perfect. We don’t allow “perfect to be the enemy of good”.

Now that Sasai is launched we will continue to listen from the feedback of the people that really matter: the customers! Every few weeks or so we will release an upgraded version based on the feedback, including criticism.

# There are many features we want to have, but we will not add them all at once.

# There are many places we would like to be, but we will not go there all at once! Someone once said, “If everything is a priority, nothing is!”

The product is now in the hands of our awesome marketing and sales army. They must introduce Sasai to Africa and eventually the world, persuade potential customers to download the App for free, encourage them to #Explore all the cool things it does, and keep using it! If you’re interested, you can check it all out here:

You want to be an entrepreneur? How much risk can you, really take? Come on, be honest…

Sometimes it feels like you have jumped out of a plane without a parachute. I have felt that for 33 years.

To be continued. . .

Image caption: #PayChatExplore! Sasai launch event last Thursday.

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.

10 Replies to “The skills of the future (Part 6)”

  1. Afterthought 2.
    You can check out the Sasai website and #Download the App here if you’re interested and want to help give us feedback. #Pay, #Chat. #Explore! The team and I will be taking notes.

    #Quick quiz!
    We have launched three new businesses in the last year, and they have one thing in common:

    1. Vaya Africa
    2. Clean City Africa
    3. Sasai Africa

    Visit the three websites and tell me what they have in common. Do you see it?

    I will give the answer at the end of the week. No prizes, because I can never match what you will make if you understand it!

  2. Afterthought 3.
    It never ceases to amaze me that every time we launch a service, some guy walks off the street and claims it was his “idea” that was “stolen”. How does anyone in Africa, claim that they “own” an idea that is being used by 1,2bn people in China?!

    In entrepreneurship we do not talk in terms of “stealing ideas” otherwise everything would be a monopoly! We talk in terms of infringement of patents or copyrights, or even legally binding agreements. That is what courts consider. Everything else is slander or just a crude attempt at extortion.

  3. Douglas Mandaza writes,

    The websites has African countries only. It restricts some of us outside Africa the ability to go and explore the website further. Was it designed deliberately to exclude diaspora outside Africa ?

    My reply,
    In order for us to include countries outside Africa, it would have delayed us by upto 6 months.
    As I pointed out in the main post, Sasai will be opened to people in the diaspora.
    For instance we want to give you a “Home Wallet” so that you don’t just send money but you decide how to spend it directly yourself.
    You will be able to all Remittances using this platform. We will allow all the remittance companies to link through Sasai, as it already has access to 250m Mobile phone numbers through its partnership with MNOs in Africa.

    We also want to give you access to other services.
    Our team has a schedule of developments that will be added on monthly.
    12 months from now you will not even recognize it.

  4. Omoruyi Folarin Osas writes,

    I shared this on my wall yesterday.

    Africa as a continent couldn’t create a tech reply to the following.
    1. Facebook Zone
    2. Instagram
    3. YouTube
    4. Twitter.
    5. WhatsApp etc.


    The Chinese created their tech reply with the following:
    1. WeChat
    2. QQ
    3. Tik Tok etc.

    With the Artificial Intelligence revolution upon us, Africa must not be left behind. We never created our own reply to Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc.

    But Wait!!! Don’t feel sad…

    We finally have a reply and are now officially in the AI race with the rest of the World. I bring you our own AI App called Sasai.

    Sasai is a chat and payment app seeking to challenge WhatsApp dominance in Africa. Like WeChat, Sasai combines social interaction (Chatting) with payments. You can chat and pay for stuff via the same App.

    For more about Sasai visit

    Artificial intelligence is here. Join the train before it leaves. For those interested in sharpening their skills. You can do so on (It’s free).

    Have a blessed August.

    Your Friend,
    Omoruyi Osas Folarin.

    My reply,
    Thank you for your kind remarks.
    I need you to @Fast Follow, every single one of those international services.
    Even if we fail trying, it is better than never to have tried.

    One of the big challenges Africa faces today is the involuntary export of personal data. As long as we don’t have our own platforms, our data will reside outside our continent.

  5. #Pause:
    Finally, the last are first [well almost]

    Someone complained about the fact that Sasai is available only in African countries, and not in Europe or America.
    Whilst it is true that we will eventually allow the platform to work from outside Africa.
    It is interesting to observe that until now, whenever a big thing happens, most people ignore Africa until they have established themselves in The USA, EU, and Asia.
    All these services like Facebook, Netflix, Google, Twitter; only came to Africa after years.

    When we ourselves [as Africans] begin to set up businesses, we Should always start first in African countries, and expand outwards.
    It is natural.
    Interesting observation.

    “The hour cometh, and indeed, now is, when the last shall be first!”

  6. Mark Mutale writes,

    Your comment “the team that developed Sasai is different from the team that developed sasai do you know why?” Here is my attempt
    So as to allow the team to disrupt themselves. Successful executives may feel hesitant to think beyond the box in times of success and a conflict of interest may arise. You needed a team with no attachments to the current product with its successes who can think outside the box

    My reply,
    Mark, you are right!
    It is extremely difficult to get people who are being successful with something to see the need for change.

  7. #Pause:
    Keep the Innovation Pipeline moving!

    In today’s fast moving entrepreneurial environment, companies actually try to develop what is called an “innovation pipeline”:
    Even as we were launching Vaya, Clean City, and now Sasai; there must be other teams had at work on our next major ventures. Some many even fail, but we dare not stop innovating.
    There are two amazing ventures that will also make their debut this month!
    Wait for it. Even if you think you know, be quiet about it.

  8. Madio Elise Traore writes,

    I hope you’re well.
    I am so happy to send this email.
    I am Madio Elise from Mali.
    I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Chairman of Econect Mr Strive Massiyiwa.
    I thank God for discovering him during his interview with TD Jakes in the global leadership summit.
    He said one thing from the Bible which pleased me.
    ” we are the salt of the world”
    I notice that Mr Massiyiwa has been the salt of the world.
    Because, he loves where he comes from and he accepts to help African people.
    His leadership became a source of inspiration for we young African people.
    We wish him more success for the rest of his career.
    Thank you so much!

    My reply,

    You wrote this message to me earlier and I wanted to be sure to say thank you for your kind words. God bless you.

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