Being business-minded…

__It can become a national culture.

Many years ago, I was on holiday on the tiny island nation of Mauritius. Not long after I arrived, I set out to understand how its economy ticks and its key drivers. I do this all the time, wherever I go.

First of all, I had a good look at its economic data: Very impressive… Wow!

It’s in the top five African countries when measured in terms of GDP per capita. Currently, it’s measured at about $9100 (per citizen). Not distorted by a major mineral like oil or diamonds, this is a very meaningful measure in their case.

I don’t want to get into a major economic or political debate because that’s not the purpose of this platform. I know the population at 1.26m might seem very small for a case analysis but I want to share with you one anecdotal story that’s relevant regardless.

One day, I asked the hotel to give me a car and driver as I wanted to tour the island on my own. For an entire week, a young Mauritian driver would pitch up at my hotel and take me around. Having realized what I was interested in, he began to make suggestions…

“Today, Mr Masiyiwa, I want to show you our diamond industry,” he said excitedly.

“You have a diamond industry?” I asked surprised. “My studies show that you have no minerals in this country?”

“We don’t mine; we cut and polish. Here we are like the Japanese. We don’t have minerals, so we buy raw diamonds, cut them and polish. You make more money that way,” he said.

“Can you take me there?” I asked quietly.

On another occasion, I asked him for a place I could stop to eat and he drove me to a very expensive restaurant. I asked him why he had taken me to the most expensive place!

“Our economy, sir, is tourism. We need you to spend as much money as possible when you’re here. If I take you to a cheap restaurant, it’s not as good for Mauritius.”

Then he added apologetically, “I can take you somewhere cheaper, if you like?”

“No, it’s ok, let’s help Mauritius.”

“After lunch, I will take you to Cybercity, sir.”

Back at the hotel, the hotel manager said to me, “Did your driver show you Cybercity? That’s our future, sir. We want to go into IT, as a country,” he said proudly.

“I have seen Cybercity. It’s an amazing vision.”

“Will you invest, sir? If you like, I can arrange someone from our Ministry of Industry to come and see you? Should I arrange?”

As soon as that holiday was over, I sent a team to begin the process of setting up a big office in Mauritius. We went to Cybercity. Soon we were joined there by some of the largest companies in the world.

Years later, I shared the story with a friend who was also a businessman, and a huge investor in Mauritius.

“So, they did that to you as well?” he asked. “They are absolutely obsessive about getting investment into their country. That’s how they turned a nation that was essentially a sugarcane plantation into one of the wealthiest African nations.”

Here the cab driver knew and had been drilled that they must encourage tourists to spend money. The hotel manager was also at work encouraging investment.

And they had pitched to the right guy… Have I mentioned before that I’m an entrepreneurial tourist?

# I look at needs in that community that an entrepreneur could help solve.

# I look at solutions being used there that could work somewhere else…
Imagine if every taxi driver and hotel manager in Africa met visitors with such business-minded vision for their countries…

Let’s be smart. A mindset doesn’t cost a cent to change!



by 9 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

9 thoughts on “Being business-minded…

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is one of the key ingredients to the development of any country. The United States, China, India, France, UK, and Singapore, for example, spend billions every year trying to lure FDI into their countries. You might ask “How can a country as advanced as the US need FDI?” That’s a smart question. Let’s be smart. Even if all the money in a country’s banks and pension funds were effectively invested through its entrepreneurs, it’s not enough for rapid economic development. #We are talking economics, not politics.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    We hear a lot about “intra-African trade” these days. That’s a good thing, because trade between African countries at 15% of total trade is too low when compared to other regions like Europe, the Americas and Asia, which are all over 40%. There’s something else we don’t hear enough about, which is “intra-African investment.” This is where African companies set up businesses in other African countries. It’s only 5% of the total investment in Africa, compared to over 50% in regions like Europe. Africans must step up intra-African trade and investment. To be honest with you, this is one of the most important tools for the development of Africa. We have to unleash our entrepreneurs to trade and invest on this continent. And here I’m not just talking of big companies, but entrepreneurs and businesses of any size… even if it’s just one person!

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    More than 20 years ago when I lived in Harare, Zimbabwe, the Ambassador to Mauritius made an appointment to see me. To my surprise he came alone, saying he did not have many staff. (Notice he didn’t ask me to come and see him… He came and sat in my office. I was so honored because my business was really not that big!) He wasted no time in trying to get me to do business with Mauritius. I later learnt from other business leaders that he’d visited them as well… the guy was basically going through the entire business directory! That was the best Ambassador I ever met!

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    When I arrived in South Africa 17 years ago, I was just “one person.” Today we employ more than 2 000 people directly, and we have made investments of over R15bn. I have plans to invest even more. It’s a humble contribution in the development of Africa, because South Africa is part of Africa. In the same time, I’ve led investment of more than R20bn into my homeland Zimbabwe. I’ll never stop no matter the conditions. This is not to forget investment in over 15 other African countries. I was born an entrepreneur… I eat, sleep and think development through entrepreneurship. One person can make a difference… “You know that, don’t you?”

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 5.
    “Why are you here?” The immigration officer asked the elderly Chinese businessman standing in front of him. “I want to look around your country to see if there are any business opportunities.” The official then asked coldly and suspiciously: “Are there no opportunities in your own country?” And with that the elderly gentleman was denied entry. It turned out he was chairman of one of the largest companies in the world. Had he been allowed in, it could have resulted in one of the most transformative investments ever for the African country. Let’s be smart.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Kwese Update:
    We are adding 10 new channels this coming week!
    Keep an eye out if you are a Kwese customer.

    For the entrepreneurs we have now got exclusive rights to Shark Tank.

  7. Zenaida Morrison

    Exceptional piece and a well articulated narrative, Particularly love the Afterthoughts. More must read this blog, there will certainly be a change in African mindsets!


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