How a Zimbabwean Electrical Engineer Made Over $1 Billion Dollars

Biography & Success Story Of Strive Masiyiwa: Founder Of Econet
Biography & Success Story Of Strive Masiyiwa: Founder Of Econet

Attaining success in anything, while admirable, is not only just a product of hard work, but largely to a great, consistency. Both work together, but without the latter, success is difficult to reach.

One person who has not just worked hard & smart, despite trials and tribulations that have come his way, but stayed consistent and true to his goals and dreams, and in the process built a billion dollar business, is telecommunications magnate, Strive Masiyiwa of Zimbabwe.

See Also: How A Nigerian Economist Built A Multi-Billion Dollar Business

Here’s how he did it:


Early Life & Education Of Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa was born on the 29th of January, 1961 in Zimbabwe.

At the age of seven, Strive and his family fled Zimbabwe when Ian Smith’s dramatic government started crumbling. His family found refuge in Kitwe, a city in north-central Zambia that is widely known for its abundant copper mines.

Strive’s mother was an entrepreneur during their stay in Zambia, while his father who first worked at a mine, later stopped and joined the family business.

After Strive Masiyiwa finished his primary school education in Zambia, by the time he was 12 years old, his parents had made enough money to enable them to afford him a European education and so, he left Zambia for Edinburgh in Scotland to complete his secondary education.

After his finishing secondary school, Strive Masiyiwa proceeded to the University of Wales, where he obtained an undergraduate degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering.


Journey To Entrepreneurship

Shortly after graduating from the University of Wales, Strive Masiyiwa had a brief stint in Cambridge, England, working in the computer industry; but as a dogged individual with a strong desire for entrepreneurship, he moved back to Zimbabwe in 1984 with the intention of exploring the local market and to also join in assisting his country in its recovery process after the war that saw it gain independence from Great Britain in 1980.

After returning from the United Kingdom, Masiyiwa joined the Zimbabwean post and telecommunications corporation (ZPDC) as a Senior Engineer and quickly moved up the ranks at ZPDC before he was eventually appointed a principal Engineer.

In 1988 Masiyiwa resigned his appointment and went on to establish his own Electrical Contracting firm, Retrofit Engineering.

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Business Success

Within the space of 5 years, Retrofit Engineering started experiencing real growth, and Masiwiya, still a young and daring entrepreneur, continued on his search of larger opportunities.

With the emergence of the Mobile Cellular Telephone across the African Continent, he quickly delved into telecoms establishing his own telecommunications firm called Econet.

After a legal battle with the telecoms company and the then-president Robert Mugabe, which lasted 5 long years, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe finally ruled in Masiyiwa’s favour and Econet was granted a licence to provide cell phone services in Zimbabwe.

In its ruling, the Apex court ordered the removal of state monopoly in the country’s telecommunications sector, and Econet connected its first cell phone subscriber in 1998. 

Within a few years, Econet was able to spread its operations within and outside Africa, establishing cell phone networks in Nigeria, Lesotho, Botswana, Rwanda, South Africa, New Zealand, Bolivia, the United Kingdom, etc.

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Econet Today

Standing as one of the leading telecommunications group in Africa and across the globe with investments in well over 20 countries, the group headed by Strive Masiwiya is involved in several other sectors asides telecommunications, such as Solar Energy, E-commerce, Education, Renewable Energy, Banking, Hospitality, Television & Media, and much more.

One of the most profitable ventures of Masiyiwa is the UK based liquid telecom company, Africa’s biggest fibre optic and Satellite firm with a strong presence in over 14 countries.

 As at 2011, Econet’s Global revenue stood at $3billion. 

See Also: How A South African Geologist Built A Mining Business Worth Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars


Strive Masiyiwa Today

A seasoned Engineer, serial Entrepreneur and philanthropist, Strive Masiyiwa is regarded as one of the people who revolutionised the telecommunications sector in Africa. He also sits on the board of several multinational firms, institutions and organisations like Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, Morehouse College, The Asia Society, Stanford University, Alliance for a Green Revolution, and many more.

Strive Masiyiwa also happens to be the only African member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience, and previously functioned as a board member on two UN Advisory panels.


Strive Masiyiwa’s Impact 

A seasoned orator and gifted writer Strive Masiyiwa has never hesitated in telling his story in an attempt to inspire young entrepreneurs across the globe, especially in Africa.

As one of the most consistent philanthropists to emerge from the African continent, Strive Masiyiwa has successfully funded the education of well over 40,000 orphans in Zimbabwe and other African countries. He and Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic also came together and founded The Carbon War Room, an environmental group which is aimed at implementing market-driven solutions to climate change. 

Masiyiwa sits on the board of several NGOs and Charity organisations across the globe. Till date, he and his wife, Tsitsi Masiyiwa, have both donated immensely to the health sector of his home country. In January 2020 he brokered a deal with Medical Doctors in Zimbabwe who were on strike and offered to pay them the sum of $300 each monthly, asides transportation to work as against $100 that most of the striking Doctors previously earned.

Through his foundation, Strive Masiyiwa runs one of the largest Scholarship programmes in Africa, paying the school fees of over 30,000 students.  

See Also: How A Lawyer Built One Of South Africa’s Largest Banks



Growth can happen regardless of one’s location. In life, you must take opportunities as they come and the be able to make the most of them wherever you are. Strive Masiyiwa was able to identify and exploit the opportunities in the tech industry. You too can emulate him.


What are your thoughts on this success story of Strive Masiyiwa? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Stan Edom
Stan Edom
I'm an entrepreneur with expertise in supply chain management, international trade, small business development, e-commerce, internet startups, renewable energy, and agriculture. I'm also a network engineer, I.T security expert, and computer programmer. In my spare time when I'm not working out at the gym, I try to solve problems people face in their everyday lives with whatever means necessary.

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