Strive Masiyiwa is a Zimbabwean billionaire who is based in the United Kingdom. He was born on 29 January 1961. His family relocated to Zambia (when he was seven years old) and settled in a city called Kitwe where he attended his primary school. His mother was an entrepreneur which made them be able to send him to Scotland for his secondary education. He earned his first degree in electrical engineering in 1983 at the University of Wales in Britain.

He worked briefly in the computer industry in Cambridge, England, but returned to Zimbabwe in 1984, hoping to aid the country’s recovery following the country’s independence of 1980.

Masiyiwa’s international appointments and board memberships over the years include:

Masiyiwa is the only African member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum‘s Committee on Conscience.

Masiyiwa also served on two UN Advisory Panels.[16]


Masiyiwa returned to his native Zimbabwe in 1984 after a 17-year absence. After working briefly as telecoms engineer for the state-owned telephone company, he quit his job and set up his own company with the equivalent of US$75. The emergence of mobile cellular telephony led him to diversify into telecoms, but he soon ran into major problems when the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe refused to give him a license to operate his business, known as Econet Wireless.

Masiyiwa appealed to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, on the basis that the refusal constituted a violation of “freedom of expression”. The Zimbabwean court, ruled in his favour after a five-year legal battle, which took him to the brink of bankruptcy. The ruling, which led to the removal of the state monopoly in telecommunications, is regarded as one of the key milestones in opening the African telecommunications sector to private capital. The company’s first cell phone subscriber was connected to the new network in 1998.

Masiyiwa listed Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in July 1998 on the local stock exchange as a gesture of thanks to reward the thousands of ordinary people who supported him during his long legal battles against the Zimbabwean government. Today, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has gone on to become a major business that dominates the Zimbabwe economy. It is currently the second-largest company in Zimbabwe by market capitalisation.

In March 2000, fleeing persecution from the local authorities, Masiyiwa left Zimbabwe, never to return to the country, and moved first to South Africa, where he stayed for more than ten years and founded The Econet Wireless Group, a new and completely separate organisation to the listed Zimbabwean entity. His main interest remained in telecoms.

Some of the key businesses that he established with partners included

  • Econet Wireless International,
  • Econet Wireless Global,
  • Mascom Wireless Botswana,
  • Econet Wireless Nigeria (now Airtel Nigeria),
  • Econet Satellite Services,
  • Lesotho Telecom,
  • Econet Wireless Burundi,
  • Rwanda Telecom,
  • Econet Wireless South Africa,
  • Solarway,

Transaction Processing Systems (TPS). The company he created is known to have operations and investments, in more than 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, US, Latin America, and New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, and China.