Strive Masiyiwa: billionaire and philanthropist pioneered telecoms in Zimbabwe and owns multimillion-dollar properties




Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa, the richest businessman in Zimbabwe, is more than your average billionaire. Econet Wireless, the telecommunications company he set up in 1993, pioneered the use of mobile phones and changed the communications landscape in the country.

By Kenn Anthony Mendoza: South China Morning Post

Higherlife Foundation, which he co-founded with his wife Tsitsi, has supported the education of more than 250,000 vulnerable children. Touted for his entrepreneurial savvy and philanthropic work, he has been dubbed the “Bill Gates of Africa”.

Other than his business ventures and philanthropy, who is Masiyiwa, what does his lavish life look like, and what challenges did he face in becoming a billionaire?

1. He almost joined the military

Strive Masiyiwa, London-based Zimbabwean billionaire. Photo: @wallstreet_god/Twitter
Strive Masiyiwa, London-based Zimbabwean billionaire. Photo: @wallstreet_god/Twitter

Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Masiyiwa was only seven when his parents fled the country amid the political turmoil that followed the white minority government’s 1965 declaration of independence from Britain. His family first moved to Zambia, but they were able to send him to a Scottish boarding school for his secondary education, with him joining their neighbour’s son in Edinburgh, according to Business Insider South Africa.

Strive Masiyiwa receiving his honorary degree at Yale University. Photo: @strivemasiyiwa/Instagram
Strive Masiyiwa receiving his honorary degree at Yale University. Photo: @strivemasiyiwa/Instagram

He returned to Zimbabwe in 1978 and was keen to join the military to fight against minority rule. However, his plans were derailed with the war already being won. Masiyiwa then studied engineering at the University of Wales.

2. His legal battle took him half a decade

Strive Masiyiwa at one of his talks on entrepreneurship. Photo: @fbicoach1/Instagram
Strive Masiyiwa at one of his talks on entrepreneurship. Photo: @fbicoach1/Instagram

Masiyiwa’s rise to billionaire status did not come easy. After starting Econet in 1993, he faced intense opposition from Zimbabwe’s government under Robert Mugabe. He took the government to court in a legal battle that lasted five years and left him almost bankrupt, but eventually he secured the license to launch his network. Today, the company is a pioneer in mobile communications, but continued harassment led Masiyiwa to leave Zimbabwe and move to South Africa in 2000.

3. He owns a bevy of million-dollar properties

Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwean billionaire called the “Bill Gates of Africa”. Photo: @greedysouth/Instagram
Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwean billionaire called the “Bill Gates of Africa”. Photo: @greedysouth/Instagram

With an estimated fortune of US$2.7 billion as per Forbes, Masiyiwa has a history of splashing millions on luxury properties. In 2014, it was reported that the African mogul leased a US$40,000 flat in Manhattan’s 737 Park Avenue. Then, in 2016, he bought two penthouse units at the prestigious Eldorado Tower for US$24.5 million.

737 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York, where Strive Masiyiwa rented a flat in 2014. Photo: @yolostercom/Instagram
737 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York, where Strive Masiyiwa rented a flat in 2014. Photo: @yolostercom/Instagram

In 2010, Masiyiwa moved to Britain, where he lives in a £2.5 million (US$3.3 million) mansion on an exclusive private estate in Surrey.

4. He sticks to a strict fitness routine and diet

Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi. Photo: @famous_magzim/Instagram
Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi. Photo: @famous_magzim/Instagram

On Facebook in 2018, Strive recalled how on holiday in 2004 he almost passed out after carrying one of his daughters upstairs on his back. His doctor told him he was overweight and had high blood pressure. So he vowed to make some lifestyle changes.

He went on to share how he started to exercise and changed his diet, reducing his meat consumption and opting for fish, fruit and vegetables. According to him, the last time he ate chips and pizza was in 2004.

5. His daughter runs a luxury property in South Africa

Strive Masiyiwa’s daughter, Vimbai. Photo: @VimbaiMasiyiwa/Twitter
Strive Masiyiwa’s daughter, Vimbai. Photo: @VimbaiMasiyiwa/Twitter

Vimbai, Strive’s daughter, seems to be following in his footsteps. She is the executive director of Batoka Hospitality Group, which operates Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge.

The company has revamped the lodge to attract tourism and will reopen in March. According to House & Garden, the 24-bed lodge comprises 10 standard suites, each with a private pool, and offers a view of the Zambezi River.