Masiyiwa eyes US$500m for expansion




Strive Masiyiwa

HARARE – Zimbabwe-born billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, who runs firms including Africa’s largest fibre-optic cable network, plans to raise as much as US$500-million to expand his digital infrastructure and services businesses.

The tycoon’s Cassava Technologies will tap investors including venture capital firm C5 Capital Management for the financing plan, Hardy Pemhiwa, CEO at Cassava, said in an interview.

The company on Friday signed a deal to raise $50-million from C5 Capital.

Masiyiwa, who sits on Netflix’s board, wants to tap the tech-savvy and young population in Africa by expanding his businesses from providing cybersecurity to payment services in a region that lacks digital infrastructure.

Demand for higher-speed Internet and data storage is increasing in Africa as millions of people get connected, mostly using their mobile phones.

Cassava wants to “really ensure that Africa has got a technology company of continental scale that can stand up among, you know, the giants”, Pemhiwa said.

That’s “something that Africa has never had”, he said.

Masiyiwa, who founded telecommunications group Econet Global, announced in November that certain assets including Econet’s fibre broadband networks and data centres would be folded into a separate entity to form Cassava.

The firm already generates almost US$1billion of revenue a year, said Pemhiwa.

Cassava plans to use the funds to expand businesses such as the one that manages Econet’s 110 000km of fibre, cloud computing and nine data centers with another 10 coming over the next three years, said Pemhiwa.

It also owns a renewable energy unit.

The company may consider an initial public offering in the future, but its current focus is on building a pan-African technology company of scale, said Pemhiwa.

Masiyiwa’s wealth is estimated at $2.7 billion by Forbes.

Econet is Zimbabwe’s leading mobile phone operator and one of the biggest companies operating in the country.

The business mogul also Zimbabwe’s largest mobile money services provider, Ecocash. – The Standard