Image credit: Jake Lyell - Children in Malawi at UNICEF center for orphaned and vulnerable children.

My week in New York

__Change begins with us, whoever and wherever we are. Let’s not wait around for #SomeoneElse.

As many of you know, each year in September, leaders of governments gather in New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Whilst big headlines are often reserved for the political gatherings at the UN headquarters, did you know that hundreds of other meetings also take place in the city that same week, amongst business leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, civil society, and media? They are also critically important!

My own focus at UNGA 2017 was on four things:

# Education for children who are not in school.
# Securing support for Africa’s smallholder farmers.
# Entrepreneurship and employment for Africa’s youth.
# Investment in Africa.

I arrived Saturday night to allow for some quality time with my family who live in the US. My wife arrived with her own delegation for meetings on issues she’s involved with. I do manage to have some business meetings or drop in to see business partners, but it’s not my main focus.

# Each day started with my daily “quiet time” around 4 am. (I’m never too busy to spend time on what matters most). This is followed by my daily 30 minutes in the gym. Exercise is important to ensuring high performance and concentration. Emails and phone calls with company executives are ongoing. I never allow my work to fall behind.

Here are some key highlights from my week at UNGA this year:

# Meetings with other UN Education Commissioners to review progress on our work. We all take this very seriously. Learn more at

# A working session with Richard Branson and a group of young global leaders doing amazing things around the world. Over the last 11 years, Richard Branson and I have collaborated on a number of global initiatives. Can you name at least three?

# Melinda Gates asked me to serve with her and another global leader, as co-chair of a new initiative called Pathways to Prosperity Partnership. The other co-Chair is the highly dynamic minister of Finance from Indonesia, Sri Mulyani Indrawati. I’ll tell you more about this soon.

# Issues around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their implementation are very important to me. My main involvement this year was with a Gates Foundation initiative called #Goalkeepers. Check out one of their reports here, “The stories behind the data” …

As the main driver of this initiative, Melinda Gates brought together some really impressive young leaders, and young at heart, to attend. Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Barack Obama and Bill Gates all made some great presentations.

# As Chair of AGRA, I attended many key meetings with African and global leaders. The highlight was a breakfast I helped organize along with Bill Gates and his team. It was hosted by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, and attended by several African leaders including President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Edgar Lungu of Zambia and others whose countries are recognized as champions of the African Green Revolution. This really well-attended event was hugely important, as we discussed ways of tracking progress in Africa’s agricultural transformation.

# Michael Bloomberg and Aliko Dangote invited me to participate in the newly-established Bloomberg Global Business Council. (Unfortunately, I had to juggle attendance at Goalkeepers meeting, both so important). I was a speaker at the inaugural summit, probably the biggest business event at UNGA’17. It was for the big guys in business, and also attended by some of the top political leaders in New York.

# Each day were numerous breakfast meetings (often intense intimate discussions). This is the business end of what goes on. Key leaders and their staff sometimes spend months arranging these meetings.

# There were also several dinners with key leaders and their delegations. A few times, I attended two dinners in the same evening. My highlight this year was a small dinner with President Barack Obama. I also spent time with old friends like Ambassador Andrew Young who has mentored me for 25 years.

It was quite a busy and intense four days. I hope my sharing it with you here gives you some ideas how not just governments, but also business, NGOs, and others in civil society can (and must) all come together to work for the good… Ready to join me? Let’s talk.



by 19 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.

19 thoughts on “My week in New York

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    “There is a rising tide of business leaders who see their role as putting their companies to the service of society, and not the other way around. But we need more and the task is urgent.” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. I also had an opportunity to go and support my good friend as he received one of the most prestigious awards in the world, from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. This is the next thing to a Nobel Peace Prize.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    This week’s quiz!
    I will give Kwesé Play streaming box to the first person to identify the most people in the new banner photo of the UN Education Commission on my Facebook homepage. If you don’t live in South Africa, you can choose to bless someone there with your prize. Go to if want to find out more.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Quiz winner announcement.
    In the next day I’ll be announcing winners of two Facebook quizzes. Please go to to find out if you’re a winner and then report back to me here, as usual, to let me know you won. If you’re busy in the #GoGettaz competition… I hope you finished the 4th and final quiz by 12 noon CAT today! NOTE: Stay tuned as we will soon share more info HERE on next steps. Also, if you were the winner or a runner-up in the July “Your Turn” contest (100-word pitch), we will also be in touch again soon regarding next steps.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Nwevo writes,

    Unfortunately, no mention is made of my country. Any wonder we have been “aspiring” to be “Giant of Africa” for decades!!!

    My reply,
    There is a saying which goes like this:
    “If a tree falls in the forest where no one is listening, does it make a noise?”
    The fact that your country is not mentioned in things I was involved with does not mean they were not doing something very important. As I mentioned there were hundreds of meetings taking place around the city.
    The President of Ghana [for instance] wanted to be at our Ag Transformation breakfast with Bill Gates, but the time clashed with his inaugural speech at the UNGA. It was the same for Nigeria, and Botswana.
    Unless I have all the facts at hand, I try myself not to jump to a negative conclusion about something.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Mercy asks,

    Thanks Dr. Strive Masiyiwa for this post. Please share with us how you keep your energy levels so high so as to attend to all this.

    My reply,
    I have a few simple things that I do:
    #1. Prayer and meditation at the start of each day.
    #2. Physical exercise: I go to the gym every single morning before I start my day.
    #3. I don’t drink alcohol because it makes you tired in the mornings.
    #4. I plan each day carefully to take out activities that are a distraction or waste time.
    When you do this you will find you have much more time on your hands than you appreciate.
    #5. Work with a small team of highly skilled and passionate support staff. They know my no nonsense habits and are committed to my pace.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Austin writes,

    In addition, there is room for all. Africa is not living any country behind in its movement.

    But you must also understand that some policies of some countries are anti progressive movement but we hope, the mainstream will pull such countries along.

    My reply,
    It is sometimes better to light a candle than to curse darkness.

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Victor writes,

    Thank you Dr Strive for this eye opening information and being an ambassador for African entrepreneurs at UNGA.But how can we participate in such events like those as young entrepreneurs or get involved just for learning ?

    My reply,
    You can get involved starting today right there in your community.
    Remember what I said recently:
    “Look for your own point of entry on any major opportunity or global challenge. There is always something you can do to help.”
    At the meeting with Richard Branson we had a young man also called Victor, who comes from South Sudan, and has been working to bring an end to armed conflict in his country.
    There was a young African woman who has been campaigning to end female genital mutilations.
    These young people are beginning to get global recognition but they started small, in their own communities, dealing with local challenges and needs.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    A friend of mine told me that there was a leading American university that wanted to donate hospital equipment through a church, but needed someone to discuss the logistics.
    I was in the middle of a major battle, and I had no money even for the air-tickets.

    I thought of the #JobPrinciple:
    Turn away from your own problems and focus on others first.
    I borrowed some money and flew to the US with some friends. It was whilst I was there that the Constitutional Court in Zimbabwe ruled in my favor …the rest is history.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #You will not solve your problems if you focus on yourself [first].

    There is a story told of a man who was going through a very tough time:
    His business had collapsed, all his children were killed in an accident, and he also fell ill. His relationship with his wife became very strained.

    Every day he cried out to God, “why me?! Why is this happening to me?!”
    He was almost inconsolable, as he cried and prayed bitterly before God, and in the presence of his friends.

    God did eventually get him out of his predicament, but it is what God FIRST directed him to do that is the key learning from the story of the biblical Job:
    “Before I help you, I want you to FIRST pray for your friends.” (Job42:10).

    All of us have challenges, even if they don’t have the intensity of the biblical Job.

    The lesson from Job is that we should not become so focused on praying for ourselves, and addressing our own problems (even in prayer) that we totally forget about all the troubles of others, including the poor and most vulnerable in our communities, country, and around the world.

    If you have done all you can in prayer, and still no answer [yet], maybe next time focus on praying for others and “see” what happens, even in your own problem. And equally important why not go out and simply try and do something to help someone who needs a helping hand. I call this the #JobPrinciple.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Adebimpe Ayodele writes,

    Reflections #Mr Strive Masiyiwa..If not the Christian virtue and character, how do you keep helping people that are so bent in destroying you?

    My reply,
    Simple: my faith has given me the Assurance that they cannot destroy me.

    I would laugh myself to tears if I did not at the same time know the harm they are doing to themselves in the process of trying to destroy me.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    A friend of mine has a wonderful job as a top company executive in Johannesburg. One weekend after listening to the complaints of his teenage daughter about her problems at school, he quietly asked her to go for a drive.
    He did not say anything but continued to listen to her lovingly.
    He went to a shopping center and she watched him buy food, clothes, blankets for a local orphanage. They went together to the orphanage, and he watched her totally transformed!
    As they drove back all she could talk about was how they could help the kids in that orphanage.

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Mercy writes,

    Wow! This Job principle isn’t easy but I’m adopting it from today. So how is it possible that you are able to integrate evangelization so easily into your entrepreneurial mentorship posts. That’s really enriching. Thank you Dr. Strive Masiyiwa for sharing this principle. This, I have to adopt.

    My reply,
    Here is another one that you can apply, this time from St. Francis of Assisi:
    “Preach the Gospel, and if you must, use words..”

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Borez writes,

    I have started an academy in my village. I want to introduce subjects such as financial literacy and entrepreneurship in 5th grade. I hope it is a good idea.

    My reply,
    I love this!
    You are going to change your country, if you stay the course.
    Well done.

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I had a great meeting with the Facebook Executive who oversees platforms like mine. They are really excited about our progress together. We are discussing ways to make the platform even more interactive, particularly during Town Hall Meetings.
    My list of top business leaders who will come on as guests in future, [some by a special video link] is growing.
    Let me know if there is anyone in particular you would like me to invite in future, and I will reach out to some of them.

  15. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    MacDonald writes,

    You are frantically correct Fatutu Ayomiposi.
    I believe alittle kindness usually go a very long way.

    Job principles; I see these school kids walk home through a business site I manage (located in a remote village in Abuja, Nigeria),some of them on bare foot. Only few of them wear sandals and slippers, sometimes some of them use leaf to cover their head because of sun.
    And i was told that the school is about 7km to the village but there is this eagerness in this kids. I see them almost everyday walk pass my site on bare foots and was “very rich”. It broke my heart when I observed that one of the kids had a wound on his toe and on bare foot and the same time, I was struggling financially because the biz is really doing badly.
    To cut the long story short, so far, I’ve bought school sandals for 20 kids even when i have not met my own needs and I don’t even know the parents of those kids till today.I’m happy because I was able to put smile on those kids faces and it won’t stop there.

    My reply,
    # And it shall come to pass that many in your country will one day speak of you as “that blessed man”.

    Just imagine what would happen across Africa if more of us did a little something like you have done.

  16. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Note which I sent to my kids today!

    Hey guys!
    I was just thinking of those kids in my FB picture from a center in Malawi.
    Have you seen the state of their clothes and that they have no toys?
    Someone needs to collect all the toys in our homes, since you are now all grown, and arrange to donate them. I have asked K to find out where the center is, and she can give you the details.
    You could also do the same with clothes.

    Coming to think of it, imagine if someone set up a charity that collects toys on campuses and sends them to orphanages like this one. Jo and Mo this is for you!

    I’m sure there is someone already doing it, but you could always partner.

    Sow love today!

  17. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Joy writes,

    Please keep us updated on findings. Definitely interested.

    My reply,
    As you know Joy, it is never about the bigs things that we do, it is about doing something [however small].
    Even our kids have the capacity to do something good for someone.
    Many people are waiting for God to help them do something big, but they did not respond when He tested them with something very small.
    Do you know the scripture which captures this principle?

  18. Davith [Dave]Kahwa

    Dear Strive

    I am amazed by your energy and passion for the work you do guided by the ethos of responsibility, accountability, transparency and fairness with the main goal of impacting people’s lives and leaving this world as better place for future generations.

    I would like to be part of what you in a small way.
    An opportunity to interact with you direct will be highly appreciated.

    Love + respect
    Dave Kahwa

  19. Oluseun

    Zechariah 4:10
    “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand…”


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