Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet | Summary and Q&A

December 5, 2017
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet


Strive Masiyiwa, an influential entrepreneur and philanthropist, shares his insights on the importance of entrepreneurship and philanthropy in Africa and offers advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Key Insights

  • 👨‍💼 Strive Masiyiwa encourages entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and philanthropic initiatives early on.
  • 😑 He emphasizes the importance of addressing pressing global challenges such as climate change and unemployment.
  • 🧑‍🌾 Masiyiwa discusses the significance of small holder farmers in Africa and the need for policy frameworks that support their growth and provide sustainable solutions.
  • 🤙 He acknowledges the data challenges in Africa and calls for innovative solutions to access and utilize data effectively.
  • 🇨🇫 Masiyiwa emphasizes the role of entrepreneurship in Africa's future development and highlights the potential of young African leaders and entrepreneurs to drive transformative change.
  • 🪈 He encourages young entrepreneurs to learn from failures and to focus on their cause or passion in order to create meaningful impact.
  • 🇨🇫 Masiyiwa stresses the need for the African diaspora to contribute to Africa's development, whether through investments, entrepreneurship, or other means.
  • 🚂 He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to train like soldiers and focus on solving problems rather than being deterred by unfavorable conditions.


[MUSIC] I want to first start off by saying that you have easily been one of the most instrumental leaders in shaping my journey. And you've even been responsible for my journey here to Stanford Business School, so, it's truly an honor to be here today. And I think I speak for many of the people here in this audience, that it's truly an honor.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did Strive Masiyiwa gain the courage to pursue entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe in the early 90s?

Masiyiwa explains that his background in engineering and telecommunications, combined with his recognition of the potential of the mobile revolution, motivated him to pursue entrepreneurship in the telecommunications industry.

Q: How did Masiyiwa navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship and self-doubt?

Masiyiwa emphasizes the importance of perseverance and learning from failures. He shares a personal experience of facing significant challenges in Nigeria and how he overcame them through determination and long-drawn-out legal battles.

Q: What insights can Masiyiwa offer on building trust and partnerships in entrepreneurship?

Masiyiwa highlights the significance of building trustworthy relationships by being genuine and not transactional. He cites examples from his experience, such as gaining the trust of agents to enable mobile money services and inspiring young people to spread the message of his company.

Q: How did Masiyiwa motivate young people to trust his vision for Econet and contribute to its early success?

Masiyiwa explains that he focused on addressing a pressing problem, such as the lack of access to telecommunication services, particularly in Africa. He engaged university students and used innovative marketing techniques, such as creating street comedies, to educate and inspire people to adopt mobile money.


In this video, Strive Masiyiwa, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, discusses his journey as an entrepreneur and shares valuable insights and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. He emphasizes the importance of skills like reading, counting, and selling in business and talks about his early experiences as a young entrepreneur. He also discusses the challenges he faced in starting his telecommunications company, Econet, in Zimbabwe and how he overcame them. Masiyiwa emphasizes the importance of trust in building successful partnerships and highlights the need for entrepreneurs to be non-transactional in their relationships. He also talks about the importance of giving back and the impact of his philanthropic work in education and agriculture in Africa. Masiyiwa discusses the pressing global problems of climate change, job creation, and food security, and calls on young entrepreneurs to begin their philanthropy journey early and make a positive impact.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the three most important skills in business, according to Strive Masiyiwa?

According to Masiyiwa, the three most important skills in business are reading, counting, and selling. He believes that these skills are essential for entrepreneurs to be successful.

Q: How did Masiyiwa cultivate these skills in the early days of his career?

Masiyiwa shares that he started developing these skills at a young age. His mother encouraged him to earn his own pocket money by selling chewing gum at school. This experience taught him the importance of selling and being able to read, as he got lost on the way back home because he couldn't read well. He also mentions that his interest in math and engineering led him to develop strong counting skills.

Q: In the early 90s, when Masiyiwa had the vision for Econet, what motivated him to pursue such a daring career path?

Masiyiwa explains that by the time he decided to start Econet in 1993, he had already been in business for six or seven years and had a well-established construction business. He had been tracking the mobile revolution since his university days and knew that the switch to digital standards was the right time to get into the industry. Despite facing resistance from his former employers, he pursued his vision because he believed in the potential of mobile technology.

Q: How did Masiyiwa gain the boldness and conviction to address a problem that Africans did not yet know they had?

Masiyiwa shares that during his time as a telephone engineer, there were government advertisements asking people not to talk too much on the phone. He realized that people wanted to have access to telephones but faced many obstacles, such as corruption and limited infrastructure. When he presented this evidence in court during his battle for the right to operate a mobile network, it gained significant attention and support. This experience taught him the importance of gathering data and responding to the needs of the people.

Q: How did Masiyiwa gain the trust of agents who enabled mobile money to work and the young people who spread the message of Econet?

Masiyiwa explains that trust is built by being non-transactional in relationships. He highlights the example of introducing mobile money in Zimbabwe, where people had little trust in banks due to hyperinflation. Masiyiwa's team went to universities and hired students to ride on buses and initiate conversations about mobile money. They also staged street comedy performances to educate people about the safety and convenience of mobile money. These strategies helped to build trust and encourage adoption of mobile money.

Q: How has Masiyiwa navigated failure and self-doubt as an entrepreneur?

Masiyiwa acknowledges that he has experienced failure and self-doubt at various points in his career. He shares the example of his failed venture in Nigeria, where he faced significant challenges and even imprisonment. Despite these setbacks, he emphasizes the importance of persisting and learning from failures. Masiyiwa believes that failure is a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey and that it is necessary for growth and success.

Q: Who inspires Masiyiwa about the future of Africa?

Masiyiwa finds inspiration in the young entrepreneurs he interacts with on his Facebook page. He mentions entrepreneurs like Juliana Rotich, who built Ushahidi, and Fred Swanika, an alumni of Stanford and the African Leadership Academy. Masiyiwa believes that these young leaders will transform Africa and the world.

Q: What are some of the most pressing global problems according to Masiyiwa?

Masiyiwa highlights climate change and job creation as some of the most pressing global problems. He emphasizes the need to address climate change to ensure the future of the planet. Additionally, he recognizes the urgent need to create jobs in Africa, given its young population and the potential security challenges that can arise from high unemployment rates.

Q: How does Masiyiwa encourage young entrepreneurs to take action and make a difference?

Masiyiwa advises young entrepreneurs to start working on their causes and philanthropic endeavors early in their careers. He encourages them to integrate philanthropy into their businesses and to register their foundations alongside their companies. Masiyiwa emphasizes that creating positive change should not be postponed until after making billions and that making a difference is an integral part of entrepreneurship.

Q: How does Masiyiwa advise young individuals interested in addressing health problems in developing countries, like diagnostics for diseases such as Malaria, HIV, and Tuberculosis?

Masiyiwa encourages young individuals interested in addressing health problems in developing countries to pursue their passion. He advises them to start their own biotechnology companies and use their skills and resources to make a positive impact in their home countries. Masiyiwa believes that solving problems using local resources is essential for sustainable development in Africa.


Strive Masiyiwa's insights provide valuable guidance for aspiring entrepreneurs. He emphasizes the importance of developing skills like reading, counting, and selling. Masiyiwa encourages entrepreneurs to be non-transactional in their relationships, build trustworthy partnerships, and gain the trust of their customers. He highlights the need for entrepreneurship to be an agent for positive change, and stresses the significance of starting philanthropy early in one's career. Masiyiwa also highlights the pressing global problems of climate change, job creation, and food security, and calls on young entrepreneurs to address these challenges. Overall, his journey and advice serve as inspiration for those looking to make a difference through entrepreneurship.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Strive Masiyiwa emphasizes the importance of three key skills in business: reading, counting, and selling.

  • He recounts his early career experiences and how he cultivated these skills to become a successful entrepreneur.

  • Masiyiwa discusses the challenges and opportunities in entrepreneurship, particularly in Africa, and shares his experiences in founding Eco net, a telecommunications company.

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