By Jonathan Mbiriyamveka
Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe’s richest man and only billionaire, and telecommunications tycoon, is on the verge of clinching the most coveted Africa Forbes Person of the Year award, if votes on the magazine website are anything to go by.
Masiyiwa is among the five top African moguls – the others being Patrice Motsepe of South Africa, Akinwunmi Adesina and, Aliko Dangote and Jim Ovia of Nigeria – who are vying for the title this year.
Masiyiwa is leading the pack with 77 percent of the vote cast so far, while Adesina is trailing behind with 21 percent while Motsepe, Ovia and Dangote are tied up at 1 percent, each.
The poll, whose results will be announced in Nairobi, Kenya, in December by Forbes Africa, seeks to celebrate “the individual who, for better or worse, has had the most influence on events of the year gone by” and Forbes Africa has welcomed the participation of the public in what is fast becoming one of the most momentous and anticipated annual events in Africa.
“Every year, we are excited to decide the Forbes Africa Person of the Year. We want to honour the big hitters of the continent who are making a difference in people’s lives and we hope that in doing so, it will inspire others,” Chris Bishop, the managing editor of Forbes Africa magazine, said.
A look at the votes so far reveals that Masiyiwa is the firm favourite even though there are other heavy hitters like Dangote believed to be the richest person in Africa. Dangote is involved in cement, food, oil and other sectors with an estimated personal fortune of more than US$20 billion.
Masiyiwa (52) is reported to have an estimated net worth of over US$1,4 billion. He was born in 1961 and reaped the rewards during the late 1990s and early 2000s when the cellular phone market shot into space.
His mother was an entrepreneur in her own right and saved enough money to send Strive to be educated in the United Kingdom, where he studied electrical engineering at the University of Wales.
But Africa, and business, called out to him. Masiyiwa founded the cellphone company Econet in 1993, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the cellular provider went online and quickly became Zimbabwe’s cellular service of choice. It took him five years of fighting in court to get rid of the monopoly-controlled telecommunications industry in Zimbabwe.
Within a few years, Econet had bought Mascom, a cellular giant in Botswana that enjoys nearly 80 percent of the market share, had service centres in Kenya and Burundi, and was operating in the United Kingdom as Econet Satellite Services.
Econet wasn’t Masiyiwa’s only business concern, though.
His business portfolio includes financial services, renewable energy supply, beverage bottling, hospitality and insurance, not to mention Econet Wireless, which provides telecommunication services in 15 countries around the world, including the United States, Europe and Asia. The Herald