This is an opportunity for you!

This is an opportunity for you!

__Can you spot it?

In the end, you’re always going to react to a new venture in one of three ways: 1) as a consumer; 2) as an entrepreneur; or 3) with dismissive indifference. Just remember: Every new venture that’s created also creates opportunities for YOU to #imagine and #create a new venture.

Consider Vaya which I wrote about last week: What opportunities do you see as an entrepreneur now for YOU to create a new venture? Since this platform is about #Afripreneurship, I’m urging you to open your eyes to the infinite possibilities that it opens for you. What do you “see”?

# You might have simply spotted something in the concept, and go on to use it for other things.

# You might have seen something my team and I missed, and now go off to create something new or better.

# You might have seen a way to use it to enhance and scale your own business.

When we completed the Vaya business concept, I actually said to myself: “I wish Vaya had been there when I started my own business for the first time.”

This is because most of the money I raised went into vehicles, and now it’s possible to start a business without ownership of a vehicle.

As Entrepreneurs we learn to ride on the back of businesses started by others. Most great companies out there came about as a result of an entrepreneur appreciating this principle of entrepreneurship.

To be able to take advantage of this principle, you must have more than a casual interest in what makes a particular business work. It requires a deep level of curiosity.

I created Vaya after first studying Uber, and then every other player out there that had emerged. My studies were not casual Internet searches, but that is where I started.

The more I studied it, the more I realized that I could use this model to tackle a lot of things. Now I could have gone to Uber or Taxify and asked them to partner with me, but I did not. It is an option, but actually sometimes a lazy option. I like to breakdown and distill a business model, which I can use to tackle the issues I see around me.

The business I created, Vaya Mobility and Logistics (VML), may not be in your market, and it probably never will be. Remember there are people on this FB platform from over 100 countries! Asking me to come and set up in your country tells me that you have not fully appreciated what I’m trying to say to you, as an entrepreneur, which is @FastFollow me!

If you are really an entrepreneur, you must do three things:

#1. Re-read what I have written, several times, because there is always something very deep I’m trying to convey to you! I’m not trying to sell you a product or get you to admire me; I’m trying to hone your entrepreneurial skills, like a mother Eagle teaching an Eaglet to fly!

#2. Go to the website: I never allow a business to be launched that has no website! Neither should you! Go through the website as well as news articles. Read about the competitors and others in that business and industry. Stay with it. Don’t get distracted.

#3. Start writing down practical lessons for yourself: “What can I do with this thing?”

It is absolutely about YOU!

# Can you use this to start a new venture, or improve an existing one?
# Is this pointing you towards something happening out there that you had not yet recognized?
# Where is the smart money on this?

During the past 12 months, my team worked extremely hard, against some extraordinarily challenging head winds, to create and develop several new technology ventures:

# Distributed Power Africa (DPA) was an absolute rock star!
# Cassava Fintech International launched Sasai App, which has now been downloaded in 140 countries.
# Africa Data Center (ADC) became a Unicorn!
# Vaya Mobility and Logistics (VML) launched 17 services, including Clean City and Vaya Tractor.

We also took a hit and had to shut down our beloved Kwesé. This was really hard and painful, but it’s part of entrepreneurship. That is why those who are not entrepreneurs associate what we do with the word “risk”.

Even then, we learnt good entrepreneurial lessons and salvaged unique opportunities such as Technites Africa. I will write a series about this experience one day.

To be an Entrepreneur you must be willing to give something a try, and you must not be afraid of failure or even harsh criticism. If you don’t try, you have nothing!

Don’t be afraid. Be of good courage.

I hope my own modest efforts as an entrepreneur have encouraged you in what you are already doing!


Image credit: Pennsylvania Game Commission/Hal Korber

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.

26 Replies to “This is an opportunity for you!”

  1. Afterthought 3.

    Here’s another article, this one from Entrepreneur Magazine, called “The 17 skills required to succeed as an entrepreneur”. For homework, as in Afterthought 2, please read this and tell me what you think? Do you agree? What would YOU say are the top three skills required for you to succeed as an entrepreneur? (Is there only one right answer?)

  2. Shadreck Mabuzve writes,

    Some 5years ago l started selling a certain drink l would sell 50 packs and make a profit of US20 per day.I was using a pushcart to distribute my staff and it was a slow and very tiring process l would spend the whole day delivering the drink to the tuckshops in Zengeza.I decided to hire someone to help me but the numbers failed to improve.I thought of hiring a car and the numbers improved l was now making US60 per day and l would pay the US25 per day but the problem was he was not cosistent he would tell me today am not cmn or the car is not working today.So the customers would complain and l lost their trust untill l closed the business,so imagine if Vaya was there l would not close the shop l would deliver the whole place of Chitungwiza now with the coming of Vaya l think l will go back to the business

    My reply,
    This week it will be difficult for someone to write a better comment than this one.
    I really, really appreciate you.
    Thank you.
    Keep your head high.

  3. #Reflection:

    You have no doubt heard the expression, “if it does not kill you, it will make you stronger”?

    Which reminds me:
    When the then President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, heard that I had taken the government to court. He issued a simple instruction:
    No government entity was allowed to do business with me!

    At that time every black businessman who wanted to be successful did business with government. I was not only barred from tenders, but I was chased off all existing projects that I was doing.

    It was like I had been thrown out of a plane without a parachute!

    Overnight my businesses, at the time were worthless!
    My employees were reduced from 750 to three people within weeks.
    When I walked down the street people would often cross over to the other side for fear of being seen with me!

    Friends, that is when I became an entrepreneur!
    Before then I was a “tenderPreneur businessman”!

    Entrepreneurs are often forged in extreme hardships.

    “You have not yet gone through a hardship that I cannot relate to. I have been sifted as wheat!
    That is why I’m here to strengthen you”

  4. #Vaya|Atlas AI, Joint Venture.

    Some of you who were not present at AGRF in Accra are probably not aware of a joint venture we announced with a Silicon Valley startup AI company called Atlas AI.
    I was not exaggerating when I told the press that:
    “This is one of those historic moments that you will one day want to tell people: ‘I was there!’”

    I have not had an opportunity yet to talk about this amazing company called Atlas AI, but you are free to look them up.

    Anyway here is something for you to think about:
    After planting a crop on 2,5 Acres in Rwanda, or Zambia —actually anywhere in Africa, you can monitor the health of the crop using satellite imaging, and just your mobile phone!

    Now, #ReImagineRural!

    What do you “see” [entrepreneurially speaking]?

  5. #Pause:

    I like to look at technologies just as one looks at any physical tool, irrespective how sophisticated they may be. It is true that Artificial Intelligence is the most advanced technology emerging but that does not mean it’s not a human tool.
    Consider the use of AI by Altas AI:
    They can use satellites in space to take photographs of fields in Africa. This type of technology was once only available to advanced militaries. But now it’s commonplace, as is GPS for navigation. The satellite pictures are then sent up to the Cloud [another really cool technology], they are processed by Super Computers, and within seconds you will be able to see moisture stress or an infestation of insects!
    Through Atlas AI, governments and other sponsors [like those in the Diaspora] will know if someone who was supposed to buy inputs and undertake tillage did not simply pocket the money!

  6. #Reflection:

    There is nothing that excites me more than when I can use technology to tackle corruption:

    #Vaya Tractor:
    Governments which sponsor tillage, or even a family member in the so called Diaspora, will know if tillage actually took place.
    There is no need to dish out diesel to farmers, which ends up being sold.
    You can actually coordinate an audit with the seed and fertilizer companies.
    Every litre of diesel, seeds, fertilizers, etc can be accounted for.

    #International donors who use taxpayer money from their countries can also ensure that money is not stolen.

    #Sasai Scanning:
    When this platform is activated we will use it to help check fake drugs, seeds, fertilizers and documents.

    We have been working on the introduction of our own Blockchain tools for the last two years. It’s too early to say anything, but you can be sure, I’m trying to create tools to fight corruption.

  7. #Fake Employees!

    Many governments in Africa, suffer from what are generally called “Ghost Workers”:
    This is a terrible form of corruption in which the payroll includes workers who don’t exist. Someone clearly pockets the money. This is actually very easy to root out using tech tools, and it’s not expensive.
    “Kid’s stuff” really. The problem is not the tools to deal with it but rather than obstruction of the powerful civil servants that benefit from it.
    #”Grey Workers”:
    These are people who get onto the actual payroll, and come to work every day, but don’t really do anything. They bloat the size of the civil service. There are technical tools available that can help eliminate Grey Workers, but they are deeply embedded in our political cultures. As long as we want to help our relatives and kinsmen by giving them jobs or expect our relatives and kinsmen to provide such jobs when they hold positions; we all own this problem!

    Ghost Workers and Grey Workers are key drivers of inflation. This is “first year” economics at University.

  8. Orji Kelechi writes,

    I Love you sir for the sincere coaching and mentoring here, it is indeed very priceless to me, Sir, I have an idea to create a solution that will solve major challenges in the urban areas as well as a business model also; it will involve creating a mobile app, my challenge is, at what stage do I involve a partner or cofounder? and secondly, I have been reserved on how to share idea with a work partner so that the idea do not slide off my hands for someone else, how do I go about it sir?

    My reply,
    First of all you have to acquire two skills:
    #1. You must learn to code, so that you can develop this App yourself. If you are unable to do that, whatever you are thinking about is just an idea.

    Soon you will learn that having an idea, is actually a very, very small part of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I don’t know many people who don’t have ideas; almost everyone has an idea—having ideas is very common for human beings.

    #2. After you have developed your App, and it has been accepted on the App Store, then you have to develop it into a business. You must amongst other things learn how to raise money, hire people, marketing, distribution, customer service etc.,

    All these things you must do alone because you are afraid to bring in partners who may have these skills. You cannot have it both ways.

  9. #Pause:

    If you are interested in the use of technology in Agriculture, follow Israel:

    Israel is not a big country (population 8,9m), but it punches way above its weight in a lot of things, and it has the highest concentration of tech companies, and start ups in the world. They list more companies on Nasdaq than any country in the world [other than the US itself]

    It’s AgriTech space is super hot!
    Last year I visited one of their Tech hubs, and spent the whole day listening to pitches from Agripreneurs:
    I was like a kid in a candy store!

    The best thing you can do with your Data Bundle today is to spend a couple of hours researching tech companies from Israel particularly in the Ag space.

  10. #Reflection:


    As an Entrepreneur, the most profitable thing I do is READING!

    Just think about it:
    All the most profitable things I have ever done began with something I READ!!!

    Let me give you an example:
    When the cell phone industry was just starting, there was no such thing as Pre-Paid:
    Everything was Contract, and only the very rich could have a mobile phone.
    Most people thought it was OK. But I was one of those people who did not think this technology should be confined to the rich in every country.
    One day I READ an article about a new technology that had been developed by an Israeli tech start-up:
    I was so intrigued by the idea, and began to converse with them using facsimile [the only fast technology we had at the time]:
    As soon as I got my license I bought their equipment, and launched a service called Buddie!
    We actually had Pre-Paid in Zimbabwe, before they had it in the UK and the US!
    In 1998, I actually told investors in London that we would see explosive growth because of Pre-Paid. They were totally intrigued by the idea, because they had not seen it in practice.

    Soon operators throughout the world were buying Pre-Paid!
    I launched Nigeria’s first Pre-Paid service.

    If you make a habit of READING, it will be very, very profitable to you!

    Now we all read, but we don’t all read profitably.
    That Data Bundle could be used for banter on Social Media, or you could use it to browse information that could make you a billionaire. The choice is always yours to make.

  11. #Breaking News!

    READ this email for yourself:

    Strive, we Israelis are honored by your shout-out for Israeli AgriTech!

    In case you want to add a link to *593* start-ups/companies in the AgriTech sector, here are some helpful direct links—

    Start-Up Nation Central’s brand-new Israel’s AgriFood-tech Sector 2019 report, which provides new figures and covers major trends in the sector. It’s free to download.

    The full list of Israeli companies targeting AgriFood can be found here on our free online platform for searching Israel’s innovation ecosystem.

    Looking for more info? Feel free to contact Start-Up Nation Central’s AgriFood-tech analyst, Shmuel Rausnitz, at

    Shmuel Rausnitz
    Industry Analyst | AgriFood-tech, Water


    “Get knowledge and sell it not”!

    Let those who have wisdom hear!

  12. #Reflection:

    Whilst I was visiting Israel to learn about its AgriTech sector, I was told that the largest delegations that visit to study are from one particular country.
    Can you guess which country it is?

    (1). South Africa,
    (2) China,
    (3). Saudi Arabia,
    (4) Singapore.

    No Prizes, and please research rather than guess.

  13. Austin Uzim writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa

    I will say China, then Singapore and finally South Africa in that order.

    As I was researching the Agritech Industry of Isreal, I also became aware that AgriTech is the small but growing segment of the start-up and venture capital universe that is aiming to improve the global food and agriculture industry. It was while i was in AGRF Conference in Ghana last two months, that I learnt some observers now refer AgriTech as the new FinTech.

    In 2012, there was a delegation, from the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel, agronomists, researchers, university professors and business people to Israel to learn new skills under the event banner “The Management Programme for Beijing.” The VIP group included Zhenbo Lin, director of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

    According to Xie, “this group from a dry western region in China shares similar water security issues as Israel. In Israel, they learn about drip irrigation technologies, desalination and a range of topics that cover facilities management in agriculture and dry-farming agricultural cultivation techniques using greenhouses.”

    As we know, some Israeli companies have already made a mark in China, like the drip irrigation innovator Netafim, and IDE Technologies, the desalination company from Israel that has built China’s largest desalination facility – with green-tech elements to boot.

    So, the curious Chinese visitors wanted to see some of these companies in action and to see Israelis in their native environment. It was even confirmed that Israel would welcome many more Chinese visitors

    Visiting Israeli farming cooperatives, they also learnt all there is to know about modern agricultural technology inside the greenhouse so they can go back and teach farmers how to grow food efficiently in China’s high-altitude and cold areas.

    During their 13 days in Israel, the Chinese delegation took courses (taught in English) and enjoyed a range of study and recreational tours to see the land of Israel with the help of a Chinese-speaking guide. “They really want to learn how we manage our water,” says Xie.

    And as far as breaking the ice, the trust is already there: “I know that during World War II, when Jewish people were refugees of the world, the Chinese opened their doors and helped many Jewish people. The older people in China still remember this, so they still have a very special relationship.”
    Xie says that Joseph (Yossie) Shevel, president of the Galilee Institute, wishes that 1,000 Chinese, rather than only 80, would come to learn in Israel every year. Xie, who is from China, joined the Institute about seven years ago after marrying an Israeli and moving to Israel. She knows from personal experience what the Chinese know and think about Israel.

    So, I firmly believe with these findings and many more, that China wins the race as the most visiting country to Isreal AgriTrch hubs.

    ~Austin Uzim, Senior Class Memeber.

    My reply,
    Excellent research!
    When I was there my eagle entrepreneurial eyes noticed a lot of Chinese:
    They were there to @Fast Follow!

  14. Mbulunza Simon

    There is no benefit to you, if you simply guess an answer. Use your Internet browser like the others have done.
    It is not South Africa, it is China.

    As an entrepreneur, if you can go there that is great. But if you spend this evening studying the report I sent you from Israel, you can identify potential technology partners, and start new ventures in your country.
    That is how we @Fast Follow.

  15. #Pause:

    At High School, I was a decent athlete, and participated in all the sports. I could run, and I was decent with both bat and ball.
    Going into my final year at school my mother looked me in the eye, and said in our language:
    “Remember the purpose of your journey…”

    When I returned to school that year, I would wake up very early in the morning at the crack of dawn, and go for a 5km run. That was the extent of my involvement in school sport. Those were harsh days but a principle had been ingrained in me.
    If I travel to a country those words spoken over 40 years ago, still ring in my ear:
    What about you? Don’t forget why you are on this platform now!
    “I’m here to build my entrepreneurial skills, so that I can build the prosperity of my nation.”

  16. Tafadzwa Mack Kadere writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa those words must have been on your mind the whole time you were studying abroad.

    My reply,
    Those words are always on my mind even today.
    Once I travelled with an executive who started shopping. I sent him home, and he never travelled with me again!

    “We cannot ask others to take us seriously, if we are not prepared to take ourselves seriously..”

  17. #Pause:
    A lesson I learnt working with the Japanese!

    During the mid eighties, Zimbabwe used to get a lot of technical aid from Japan.
    As a young manager I was assigned a group of Japanese technicians who were there to work in my department.
    At the end of each day all my Zimbabwean staff were gone by 5pm, but I noticed that the Japanese never left, until….

    I used to work late. It was something I had learnt in the UK.

    I noticed that as long as I was there the Japanese technicians remained at their workstations….

    “You are the boss, Masiyiwa Son. We cannot leave before you leave. When you work we work..”

    I realized then the extraordinary passion that drove the Japanese work ethic.

    I did not demand my Zimbabwean staff to do the same, but I urged them to observe their Japanese colleagues.

    In the Netflix series on Bill Gates, which I urged you all to see, you will be stunned by the work culture that he created at Microsoft…

    As Bill Gates keeps saying:

    “We have to work harder..”

    We cannot ask others to take us seriously, when we are not prepared to take ourselves seriously..

    This week I was in Washington for the World Bank meetings, then I travelled to New York.

  18. Adedayo Olumuyiwa writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa

    As a fast follower, too, great Chief, AI is one of the technologies of the 4IR which I have committed to fast following Sir.

    I wonder its powers when we master Quantum Computing and few other 4IR technologies, great Chief.

    This academic article on AI authored by me will interest you and other Afripreneurs’ on MBS, great Chief.

    My reply,
    A POWERFUL and selfless contribution from you!
    May you prosper in it!

  19. Omoruyi Folarin Osas writes,

    Work Ethic plays a very important role in Business.

    When I was still working at an organisation! I tell myself that even though my time on the job might be temporary, if I do a good enough job, I know my work there will last forever.

    Work Ethic can’t be undermined.

    My reply,
    Before I returned to Zimbabwe in 1984, I had worked for an Entrepreneur who was setting up one of the first computer start Ups. The work ethic was fast and furious, and we often slept (voluntarily) in our offices. We loved it, as we believed we were in a race with teams in the US working on the same things!
    When I got back to Zimbabwe, I joined a State Owned Enterprise (SOE), where everyone left the office by 5pm. The security and cleaners used to get upset if they found you in the offices.
    I fought with them constantly, and eventually they left me alone.

    My problem is I felt I was not really doing any work, because I knew the high level of productivity that I could achieve.

    Sadly for a lot of my colleagues, they had no idea of the levels of productivity that colleagues in developed economies, and those who wanted to be fully developed were working at.

    As an engineer, I understood everything in terms of “manhours”, and the definition of #Work:

    “Force times distance, in the intended direction”.

    “We must worker harder” …And smarter, guys, if we are going to be revel at in this global game.

    If someone says to you, “you work too hard”, ask them “what is the basis of your comparison?”

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