Spear’s Award winner Strive Masiyiwa says entrepreneurship is about more than profit

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Strive Masiyiwa might have been dubbed ‘Britain’s first black billionaire’ by The Sunday Times, but the telecoms entrepreneur prefers not to focus on labels.

Born in a township near Zimbabwe’s capital Harare (then known as Salisbury, when the country was still called Rhodesia), as a young man he trained to be an engineer in the UK, studying at the University of Wales in Cardiff.

Strive Masiyiwa
Strive Masiyiwa photographed at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square by Sebastian Nevols

Today many of his business interests are based in London and he has a home in Surrey, but his career is a pan-African success story.

Upon his acceptance of the award for Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by the Royal Mint, Masiyiwa explained that it was only after his studies in the UK, when he returned to Africa and began working in the telecoms industry, that he knew he wanted to become an entrepreneur.

‘I was truly blessed that the revolution in telecommunications […] happened on my watch, as they might say.

‘I threw myself into ensuring that Africans got access to telecommunications, so I was very much part of that revolution that took place in Africa, where today we have more than 800 million people that have mobile phones.

‘This was an entrepreneurial revolution, led by entrepreneurs, and I was really humbled to be part of that.’

Watch Strive Masiyiwa’s acceptance speech:

Masiyiwa is founder and executive chairman of telecoms giant Econet and of Cassava Technologies, a pan-African tech company that aims to ‘transform the lives of individuals and businesses across the continent by enabling social mobility and economic prosperity’.

The latter has recently been in receipt of significant investment and, through its business Liquid Intelligent Technologies, is now the largest data centre provider across Africa.

Masiyiwa was recognised as Spear’s Entrepreneur of the Year not just for his success in business, but for the wider impact he has made through Higherlife Foundation, the charity he founded with his wife Tsitsi in 1996, and by signing the Giving Pledge, through which the world’s wealthiest people commit to give the majority of their wealth away.

He is also involved in various action groups. During the pandemic he served as a special envoy of the African Union, coordinating the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. More recently he has begun to contribute to a task force tackling threats to food security.

‘At a very early stage in my entrepreneurial journey,’ Masiyiwa said, ‘I realised that as an entrepreneur you must always be part of providing solutions within your community, which go beyond your profit motive.’