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Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe’s Messenger of Hope

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Bloomberg


RUNAWAY inflation in Zimbabwe has rendered its currency almost worthless.

With $8 billion in unpaid debt, the country can barely afford services for its citizens, and the deterioration is epitomised by the woeful state of the health-care system.

Medicine shortages and recurring strikes over pay and working conditions were common even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Strive Masiyiwa, a billionaire who’s originally from outside of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, paid monthly stipends from ZW$5,000 to ZW$10,000 ($62 to $124) to health-care workers to stay on the job.

When Covid-19 hit, he offered an additional ZW$500 a day for anyone hospitalised by the virus and $ZW50,000 for permanent disability or death. His programme ran through July, and since its expiration some workers have gone back on strike.

Masiyiwa, whose telecommunications company operates in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America, has had his run-ins with Zimbabwe’s government, which he sees as pursuing policies detrimental to his wireless business.

More than 90% of the country’s commerce is conducted via mobile-money transactions because of cash shortages. The government accuses Econet, which dominates the industry, of fueling black-market currency trading and money laundering, accusations the company denies.

Masiyiwa sees his donations as giving back to his home country, even though he lives in self-imposed exile, mostly in Johannesburg and London.