Learn to make the hard choices in life (Part 1)


As entrepreneurs, the decisions we make define who we are and whether we (and our businesses) will prosper. Important decisions that we choose NOT to make determine our futures even more! Beware if you hear a struggling business owner or manager say, “This time it will be different!” clinging fondly to a #product#process or #peoplethat must change to grow… Either you make hard choices, or hard choices will happen TO you. That’s just the way it is.

Over the years, time-tested #processes(“models”) have been developed to help people make the right decisions. In this new series, I am going to mention a few of them (it will be up to you to do your own research to look deeper) as well as some of the #processes I went through in making some decisions in my own life.

Let’s get started.

When I decided to return to Africa after studying and then working briefly in the UK, I was still a bachelor. I had a good life, and could have gone on to build a great career there, working in an industry that would soon dominate the world, computer engineering.

Living in Cambridge, England, I was also in a great city with a fine university. Each day I interacted with some of the smartest people on the planet. I had an idea to return home one day, and spoke about it in coffee bars and pubs with African friends, but I cannot say I was deeply serious about it.

A letter from my sister who had just returned to Zimbabwe from Zambia, as well as a chance encounter with a Zimbabwean physics professor, changed all that in a matter of weeks. Initially, my biggest concern was giving up my career trajectory in an exciting new field.

Zimbabwe back then was hopelessly behind from a technological perspective. I would literally have to walk away from my world of microcomputers, and try and fit myself in somehow. I made the call, and decided to do the nearest thing possible. The job I accepted was based on a minor subject I had pursued at university. I did my best with energy and gusto with no regrets or complaints.

What I wanted to share with you today, however, was another big decision for me at the time. In my little UK apartment, I cherished two things: I had probably the most advanced stereo system you could imagine. Being an engineer, I had put it together with extraordinary passion and skill. People used to come and see this thing! It came along with a beautiful music collection of the most contemporary artists of my day.

I also had a “color TV.” I know some of you are probably laughing right now, but at the time having a color TV was like owning a Tesla electric car!

I was a really cool guy to hang out with, and I could also party!

Once I decided that I was going back to a country I had not been to since I was six years old, I moved quickly. I sold the music system and the color TV. I then drew up a list of books which I thought I may not easily find once I was back in Africa. Remember there was no Amazon or Internet in those days.

I put all my money into books, even selling collections of boots (back then I wore cowboy boots!) and I had an Afro!

I packed all my books in a huge wooden crate, put them on a ship and headed home with just a backpack, and a few pairs of jeans. My uncle who accompanied me to collect my crate was astounded at this “reckless young man who came home with nothing but books!”

Which strategic thinking matrix, model, rule, or type of analysis (if any) do you think I used in this decision #process? Which ones do you use?

Let’s talk.

To be continued. . .

by 15 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.

15 thoughts on “Learn to make the hard choices in life (Part 1)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    One day almost 20 years after we had been married, I surprised my wife by installing a beautiful stereo system.

    “I had no idea you had such a deep interest in music systems?” she said.

    “It was always there,” I smiled. “I had just suppressed it, to allow myself to focus on more urgent issues in life.”

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    Some of you will be interested in this new report on artificial intelligence (AI) by the Brookings Institution. Note well the challenges, and imagine the opportunities. https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-artificial-intelligence-is-transforming-the-world

    While a lot of us are very excited about the potential of AI in many areas, there are some key things we need to keep a close eye on for sure, and try to understand, like how human #values and traits like love, compassion, courage and forgiveness are factored into the #DecisionMakingProcesses of a computer?

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Many, many years ago when my business was still small but flourishing, a friend of mine who was a successful CEO of a bank imported a brand new model of an E-Class Mercedes Benz. It was unbelievably beautiful; I just had to have one!
    I ordered one directly from Germany, and carefully selected every aspect of it. This was to be my statement to all my peers!
    #It was the ultimate status symbol.

    This was right at the beginning of our legal battles in Zimbabwe. I needed to hire an international legal advisor, who could undertake a detailed analysis of the telecoms regulations, to see if there was an opening for me to challenge it in court. This type of expertise was not available locally.
    The money the expert quoted me for the work was almost the same as what I had saved for my new car!

    No hesitation!

    To this day I have never owned a Mercedes Benz, but I did buy one years later [when I could afford it] as a gift to my Pastor and his family.

    #Be wise, don’t go for status!

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Loretta writes,

    Each day comes with choices. We are responsible for the choices we make and we should weigh it carefully before it forms our decision. When we are connected to a vision, oneday something or someone will spark inspiration that will ignite a process.

    We really need to wake up from our slumber in Africa to achieve a great feat. If the factors are not available, we can come together and build the resources. We may be called a dark continet but we can shine.

    Thank you Dr. Strive for awakening something deep in me once again.

    My reply,
    You have captured what is in my spirit.
    It’s time to move on from fixation in things like luxury cars and big houses. We are marked for greater things than that.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Dken Chijioke writes,

    One day sir.one day u ll undstand wat u ar doin here.thank u

    My reply,
    I know exactly what I’m doing… I know exactly what I’m doing…believe me.

    Surely you have heard it said”
    Let those who have ears to hear, hear…”
    We are not going to transform Africa unless we change the paradigm of wealth creation in Africa.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Charles Prince writes,

    If we get People like Strive Masiyiwa in each Country in Africa, we would have done a lot.sharing experience and giving a lot of information to the young generation .

    My reply,
    That is exactly what this platform has accomplished!
    You are one of these people!

    We have almost 3,2m and over 10m people read each post.
    Every time I get statistics from Facebook I’m just amazed. For instance they recently revealed that the North African country of Algeria has quietly built up an impressive following. Now I must really visit because it is one of only two countries in that region I have never visited. The other being Libya.

    Remember they are Africans too!

    By the way I’m excited that Mo Salah, an African from Egypt is now on his way to being one of the greatest soccer players in the world.

    All I’m saying there are many friends from every single country in Africa on this platform. Not to mention our friends from across the globe.

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Last week I wrote this!

    #We need strategic nations!

    #The Strategic Advantage of a nation:
    Singapore is a tiny nation both in terms of population (5,8m) and physical size (it’s essentially just a city). And yet it’s economic size GDP ($307bn) is bigger than every African country except Nigeria ($568bn) and South Africa ($450bn).

    And when we consider what is called “GDP per capita” our countries are a disaster compared to Singapore $52,O00. (Nigeria $2000, South Africa $5000, Zimbabwe $1000). For those of you who don’t understand economics, this is saying we have very poor people compared to Singapore!

    Singapore has no minerals whatsoever…none! No oil, no gold, no platform…none!
    My favorite book by the founding leader of Singapore [and one of my favorite books of all time] is called “From Third World To First”. I used to carry it around everywhere. It changed the way I look at the wealth of nations, and their people.
    I’m always fascinated by nations that become extremely wealthy without minerals or even large populations.
    Places like Dubai, Israel, Switzerland, Mauritius, Hong Kong.
    Today I want to challenge you to think of your country’s wealth away from minerals and natural resources. Perhaps there is something else there, that no one has noticed…
    What is your strategic advantage?

    # Take the second city of Zimbabwe, called Bulawayo… Do you know the strategic advantage that could make it into an economic powerhouse?
    That city could become Singapore!

    # What of Lake Malawi? I once spent an entire evening with the CEO of a big German industrial corporation discussing Lake Malawi. We both agreed that its strategic location is phenomenal, and could turn Malawi into one of the richest countries in Africa.

    # Ghana and Togo have what real estate agents call “location, location, location!” I see them as I see Switzerland and Singapore.

    # Surely one day we shall have an interesting discussion…
    The “vision is not for today grasshopper…” said the Chinese sage.
    Have a great week!

    • Xolani

      Hi Strive,
      First allow me to say this to you , you truly are an inspiration to all aspiring young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs, you have set the pace for all of us.Thank you grately , may the Lord continue to bless you. I am co- founder of an( NGO) entity that seeks to transform the the city of Bulawayo through robust engage with relavent stakeholders ensure the city reaches its potential. With a group of like minded progressive entrepreneurial friends we established the Bulawayo development forum. A think-tank and high-level network for business, technology & policy experts, and academia. We provide platforms for collaboration, publish the latest thinking, and facilitate public-private dialogue, to advance the potential in technology, business , policy and ,innovation to ensure development and sustainable growth in the city of Bulawayo.
      I was humbled when you mentioned my city, expressing your confidence in the potential it has. This gives Bulawayo development forum the impetus to work hard on the development of our beloved Great City.

      Kinds Regards
      Xolani Ndlovu

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author


    Imagine what would happen to intra African trade, if we accepted each other’s currencies (would even be better if we had one currency, just like the CFA).
    This type of deal [which I fully endorse] should occur between African countries more widely:

    Bloomberg – Nigeria and China agreed on a currency-swap worth $2.4 billion to boost commercial ties and reduce the need to use the dollar in bilateral trade. Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, and Godwin Emefiele, his Nigerian counterpart, signed a three-year swap of 15 billion yuan or 720 billion naira in Beijing, the Chinese central bank said in a statement Thursday. The transaction can be renewed if both parties want, it said.
    The deal, more than two years in the making, will “provide naira liquidity to Chinese businesses and provide renminbi liquidity to Nigerian businesses respectively, thereby improving the speed, convenience and volume of transactions between the two countries,” the Central Bank of Nigeria said.


  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Elvis writes,

    Bulawayo was once Zimbabwes industrial hub, from manufacturing of shoes, tyres, cosmetics etc. Our biggest problem in Africa is not that we don’t have the raw material, but that we don’t process it to the finished product. Most of our minerals, including diamonds, go to other countries and then after processing, we have to buy them for more than we sold them. If this industry we’re to be developed, I believe Bulawayo would awaken a sleeping giant. And we wouldn’t just depend on minerals and agriculture as Zimbabweans. Bulawayo and the Matebeleland region as a whole used to produce a lot of the beef that was exported to Europe. Anything I’ve missed Strive Masiyiwa? Bulawayo is my hometown so I take keen interest in it’s potential future development.

    My reply,
    With respect Elvis, I really don’t care for what Bulawayo used to be, I am more excited about what it COULD BE!
    This city could be an incredible “Gateway City” connecting Zambia, Botswana, DRC, to Ports like Durban and Maputo.
    This can be done with carefully designed legislative instruments, to attract developers, entrepreneurs and investors.

    Everything you need is already there…everything!
    [including water, by the way…!].

    I once thought of setting up the Bulawayo Inland Port, and even hired experts to help me put it together. Then I remembered my problems with the one that shall “remain unnamed” and I thought better of it!

    So I just left it for you!

    You say:
    “Our biggest problem in Africa is not that we don’t have the raw material, but that we don’t process it to the finished product…”

    This is not “our biggest problem”!
    We need a new generation of entrepreneurs supported by entrepreneurial leaders willing to empower them to exploit the entrepreneurial opportunities around them.

    # Go start a business using all these opportunities that YOU see, because if you don’t nothing will happen there, except wistful nostalgia which does not feed anyone.

    What you see as a “problem” is also an entrepreneurial opportunity!
    Will you take up my challenge?

  10. Mike Idagiza

    Good day Mr. Strive Masiyiwa,

    I trust you are well.

    I think one of the tools you used was a cost-benefit analysis. I am intrigued, which books did you take with you back to Zimbabwe?

    Could I please ask to you to be my mentor? Do you perhaps have a formal mentorship program and how can one go about becoming your mentee?

    Thank you.
    Yours sincerely
    Mike Idagiza

  11. Xolani

    You said…
    “I once thought of setting up the Bulawayo Inland Port, and even hired experts to help me put it together. Then I remembered my problems with the one that shall “remain unnamed” and I thought better of it!

    So I just left it for you! ”

    Am happy to say am taking up the challenge, am already involved in the initiation of several startup in the city and look forward to contributing to the city’s development and country. One challenge we face as entrepreneurs is lack of exposure but with your thread am finding alot of inspiration. Thank you again

  12. Ellen Grant-Orji

    Dear Mr. Masiyiwa,
    I know this sounds very opportunistic but please hear me out. I am the founder and CEO of TMS; a financial technology firm with a revolutionary bank deposit service offering to enable users make deposits into any bank account and mobile wallet in Nigeria from the comfort of their mobile phones using codes similar to airtime recharge codes while enabling the vendors of these codes make money.
    I was excited to learn that you have interests in financial technology. The TMS team has over 25years relevant experience in the areas of business development, IT product development, software programming, Android and iOS development, database development amongst others. We are seeking funding to enable us build, market-test, improve and eventually launch and operate this service offering. Could I send you a short business plan to help you learn more about the business? I will be glad to receive and promptly answer any questions you may have.
    Ellen Grant-Orji

  13. kuziva

    Am inspired with such a way of thinking and seeing opportunities. Whole new perspective of what it could be.


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