By John Kachembere
HARARE – Although Zimbabwe is in the economic doldrums, a few distinguished and enterprising citizens continue to make waves on the continent in the world of business, and management.
These feted Zimbabweans include Econet Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa and controversial businessman Frank Buyanga, who have just cracked the Forbes and Ventures Africa (VA) rich list.
While the two maybe from different worlds in terms of their pedigree, financial clout and philosophies, their exploits on key global rich lists continue to inspire many in a country wracked by political paralysis, business despondency, high levels of unemployment and serious poverty.
Also in the laudable category of people who are continuing to fly the country’s battered flag are Africa Export-Import Bank vice president Denys Denya and Coca-Cola’s Nathan Kalumbu.
Commenting on the achievements of these Zimbabweans, economist Christopher Mugaga told the Daily News that the country should tap into these successful individuals to help it to attract investment.
“We have a lot of our people who are doing well in other countries, but their administrative clout is not being recognised (in Zimbabwe),” he said.
“The government must find ways of harnessing these people’s exposure to international markets and develop diaspora bonds that can help in reviving various sectors of the economy,” Mugaga said.
Francis Mukora, another socio-economic commentator, said the international recognition of these Zimbabweans exposed “the government’s lack of vision and innovation in engaging members of our society on issues of national importance, and strategic development”.
“Most of our leaders… have lost touch with modern trends. Their ideas have become stagnant and they are more concerned with preserving their status… than changing the fortunes of their people,” he said.
“We definitely need a new class… with modern ideas, who understand today’s realities and can engage… in relevant ways of harnessing resources both natural and human within the national frontiers and the diaspora to bring about change and development,” Mukora said.
Masiyiwa and Buyanga, meanwhile, have largely thrived due to their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, which have seen the former amassing an estimated $600 million fortune and being placed 41st on the latest Forbes wealth survey.
While the telecoms magnate has continually earned recognition on the prestigious list, the Hamilton Group founder on the other hand is now also rubbing shoulders with the likes of South Africa’s Mark Shuttleworth (39), Nic Haralambous (38), and Jason Chukwuma Njoku (32) of Nigeria.
According to VA, other continental entries, include Roland Agambiri of Ghana, Kenya’s Michael King’Ori Macharia, Patrick Ngowi (28) of Tanzania and Ugandan billionaire Ashish Thakkar (31).
After breaking the government’s monopoly regarding the operation of telecommunications services about 20 years ago, Masiyiwa has not only been transformed into Zimbabwe’s most successful businessman, he has also built a thriving group with operations throughout the continent, in Britain, New Zealand, the United States of America and other parts of the world.
Today, Econet stands as one of international investors’ favourite counters on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, along others such as beverages maker Delta Corporation and Zed Koudenaris’ Innscor Africa Limited.
With a market capitalisation of nearly $600 million, the company has diversified into the financial services sector, beverages manufacturing, energy supply and insurance.
In 2014, Masiyiwa told the African version of Forbes magazine that his business philosophy and thinking is driven by five simple things: commercial ideas driven by the need to fulfil human needs, hard work, patience, philanthropy and staying focussed.
To demonstrate his clout, the 54-year-old tycoon has also been named among the 100 most influential Africans by a British-based magazine.
Like a true entrepreneur, Masiyiwa has leveraged his Econet infrastructure to diversify into mobile money transfers, car tracking, farm and personal insurance.
Buyanga, meanwhile, has huge investments in Zimbabwe, SA, the United Kingdom and Zambia.
Like Mukora emphasised that innovation was key, VA says the 10 achievers on its millionaires’ list embraced new technologies and foreign investment to boost their empires and to change Africa’s economic landscape.
“These (entrepreneurs) made most of their money through technology, property, mining exploration and brokering of lucrative government contracts,” it said.