?The African continent has experienced a massive explosion in ?the communications sector within the last two decades. The ?Wall Street Journal reported in November 2013 that Sub- ?Saharan Africa is the fastest growing region on earth for mobile ?phone use. Additionally, mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan ?Africa have grown at a high rate of 18% a year over the past five ?years to a total number of 253 million subscribers; this indicates a 31% penetration rate. The future is also bright as the GSM Association forecasts Sub-Saharan Africa to hit 346 million mobile subscribers by 2017.
The rapid penetration of mobile communications is due in great part to the visionary entrepreneurs who saw this potential soon enough and was dedicated to making it a reality. Entrepreneurs like Strive Masiyiwa have contributed to the communications growth in Africa.
Strive Masiyiwa was born in 1961 in Zimbabwe, in what was then known as Southern Rhodesia. Tensions at the time were high amidst guerrilla warfare and independence struggles. His family fled to Zambia in 1968 and later sent him to boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland. After secondary school, Masiyiwa won a scholarship to the University of Wales where he earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. Shortly after returning to the continent, Masiyiwa worked for the state telecom company, where he became fully aware of the inadequacies of state run industries. This realization prompted him to lead a five year legal battle in Zimbabwe, culminating in a landmark ruling which opened the doors for the privatization of the telecommunications industry. Without the efforts of Strive Masiyiwa, the African communications market could have remained largely government run and inefficient. Since then, Masiyiwa?s business venture, Econet Wireless, has helped privatize the telecom industries across various other countries, and has proven to be the key to growth and market penetration. Econet Wireless which was founded in 1993 is currently based in South Africa and has operations in over fifteen counties in Africa, Europe, USA, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific.
Masiyiwa?s achievements continue to precede him. He was the publisher of Zimbabwe?s only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News. He was listed among the 25 Leaders of Africa?s Renaissance by the London Times in 2011. He has also been listed among the 20 Most Powerful Business People in African Business by Forbes Magazine. His efforts have been recognized around the world; in 2012, United States President Barak Obama invited him to attend the G-8 Summit at Camp David. He sits on the boards of the Rockefeller Foundation and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, as well as the Africa Progress Panel.
Masiyiwa does not rest on his laurels as a telecom magnate and thought leader, he has also extended his influence into other areas of expertise. According to the official Econet Wireless website, Strive Masiyiwa?s portfolio includes operations and investments in financial services, insurance, renewable energy, hotels and lodging, and bottling for the Coca-Cola Company. A humanitarian at heart, he and his wife, Tsitsi are involved in philanthropic efforts with a focus on youth entrepreneurship and support for orphans.
Image credit: Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Press/Newscom