“Nothing turns on this” (Part 2)

__You can overcome adversity.

If you have just failed your exams, lost your job, or had a setback in your venture, I want you to declare: “#NothingTurnsOnThis. It will not change the outcome concerning my destiny.” Then get back into it, and don’t give up… Believe me, you are not alone.

Most of you know that in 2001, I set up a consortium to bid for one of Nigeria’s first two mobile licenses. We had 22 investors, including ourselves. Each held a stake between 1-10%. This was a huge project and the license alone cost us US$285m. I ran the entire project and provided over 200 people to help set it up.

After we launched the network within the required six months, I had the great privilege of making Nigeria’s first GSM phone call (to the regulator) to say, “We’re live!”

It was meant to be the crowning achievement of everything I yearned to see — so many Africans working together not just to build a network, but also help build a nation. Alas it was not to be.

After less than 12 months, our consortium had a major dispute, even though we had succeeded in setting up the country’s first mobile network. Today is not the day to re-litigate that dispute. For now, just accept that I didn’t agree with some of the shareholders, and they kicked me out of the business and changed the name of the company.

Not long after kicking us out, the majority of our partners decided to sell the business to a group from the Middle East. Although I offered them $1,5bn for their shares they refused. Under our agreement they were required to sell to me. (We call it the right of first refusal).

After failing to get an urgent hearing in Nigeria, we rushed to a court in the U.K. The judge there refused to entertain our request and referred us back to Nigeria! He went so far as to say we had no right to approach a British court: “This matter is for the Nigerian courts. You must go there!”

Our opponents were jubilant.

“See you in Nigeria,” they chimed, “in 10 years!”

“A case like this could take 20 years in most African courts,” said one of my lawyers quietly. “You should consider giving it up.”

As we left the court I did not say a thing. I just got into a cab and went back to my hotel. There I locked myself in my room for several hours, and prayed.

Afterwards I said to my team: “Nothing turns on this. Let’s go back to Nigeria. We shall win there, because the God I serve will give me justice anywhere on the face of this earth.”

It took several years to get judges in Nigeria to begin reviewing our case, but eventually we won, in every court, before Nigerian judges. In the end, after 10+ years in court, an international tribunal comprising a majority of Nigerian judges ordered we be compensated for hundreds of millions of US dollars for the refusal to sell us the company in the first place. It was the highest financial settlement in African business history.

We were paid our money and we invested it in other areas of our business including Kwesé TV, which now boasts Nigeria as its biggest market.

Remember I said: #NothingTurnsOnThis?

The battle in Nigeria, like the battle in Zimbabwe before it, is not the way I would have chosen for the best training for me as a business leader, but in the end, that is what it was. And as my Nigerian friends would loudly declare to me: “We thank God!”

What is happening in your life?

Can’t find a job?

Someone treated you really badly today?

Bank turned down your loan application?

You can get up from whatever situation you find yourself in. You can overcome adversity. You can “speak your truth, even if your voice shakes”…

In the final part of this series I will tell you how the issue returned to the British courts. What happened this time will blow your socks off!

To be continued. . .

Image Credit: Shetzers Photography

by 27 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.

27 thoughts on ““Nothing turns on this” (Part 2)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    Not all the Nigerian shareholders were against me. The shareholders who stood with me are my closest friends in the world. They stood with me every inch of the way. They taught me about faith, integrity and loyalty to a level I had never imagined possible.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    One of my mentors, Bishop Garlington, once said to me, “You are standing in the river of faith. Don’t be afraid. You are not going to be swept away, and you are not going under. Use your faith to go over…” Then he said: “Focus on integrity because one day, you will be the partner of choice for anyone wanting to do business in Africa, the right way…”

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    Knowing that the battle for Nigeria would be long and hard, I created a small team within the company who fought day and night for ten years. Let me pay them tribute here: Ayo Adeboye, Jerome Lombard, Craig Fitzgerald, Marlisa Harris, Zac Wazara, and Joe Esiso.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    My lawyer in Nigeria changed sides. One morning he was acting for me; the next day he was acting for my opponent. No explanation. I didn’t rail at it, or even raise the question, I just went to find someone else. I approached an esteemed elderly gentleman called Professor Alfred Kasunmu (SAN), an advocate who worked mostly with his daughters who were also lawyers. Now 83 years young, he is quiet, unassuming and probably the sharpest mind I’ve ever met anywhere in my entire life, in any sphere of life!

    After so many years, Prof Kasunmu doesn’t see very well, but he still practices. During our case, he would appear in court on our behalf along with his granddaughter (Tobi) who was also a lawyer. She would read him the papers, and he remembered everything! (We need a movie on this guy, let me tell you!)

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 5.
    Tosin Lewis and Seyi Ojo were two lawyers who were not in Prof’s family but members of his chambers assigned to the case. These two, like Prof’s daughters, are the future of Africa’s judiciary. Totally incorruptible and dedicated to the correct application of the law. And we have many like them. This, too, is a tribute and salute to them for being a shining light in the Nigerian judicial system.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 6.
    In London our legal team was led by a young Australian called James Kennedy. He had a Dutch counterpart, a younger version of Prof Kasunmu called Hub Hameling. If you are going to be cross-examined in a Dutch court (as I was) this is the lawyer you want on your side!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Breaking News from Kenya!

    If you want to follow these developments download the Kwese App, and use it to access live TV broadcasts on KTN News.
    This is how I was able to follow the elections on a daily basis, as I travelled across Africa. You can do the same.
    Kwese does not charge for this platform.
    For those of you with a decoder, there are 13 News Channels, and almost all of them are following these developments.

    Don’t forget to pray for Kenya. It’s important that there is peace, as they return to the polls.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Announcing our Kwesé Inc Africa Entrepreneur Town Hall Schedule!

    #AfripreneurTalk – As I promised, here is the schedule of my Town Halls in West Africa next week. I really look forward to meeting those of you who are able to attend! The events are free but you MUST register and have a ticket, either on your phone or a printed one, in order to get in the door. (You just need your email address to register). Seating is very limited so you need to be quick. Just click on the link below to register.

    Lomé, Togo Monday 4 September: 6 pm – 8 pm http://bit.ly/Togo_Townhall
    Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire Tuesday 5 September: 5 pm – 6:30 pm http://bit.ly/CIV_Townhall
    Accra, Ghana Thursday 7 September: 12 pm – 2 pm http://bit.ly/Ghana_Townhall
    Lagos, Nigeria Friday 8 September: 11 am – 1 pm http://bit.ly/Nigeria_Townhall

    #Afripreneur #AfripreneurTalk

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Uso writes,

    Brother, Strive has set the pace. We can pick it up & follow after his steps. Would you want us to partner on a project for Africa?

    My reply,
    Keep looking for opportunities to work with each other, and where possible reach out to Africans from other countries. This is what will actually build this continent from a practical point of you.
    It is important to “walk the talk”.
    I can honestly say that I probably have more partners today with Africans from other countries than anyone in business. Now how many people can say that? It did not happen by accident, I worked hard on it.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Babalola writes,

    Dr Strive you are such a great mentor to so many of us on this platform.
    The last two weeks was very tuff for me, it was like the heavens was coming down on my head and shoulders, it was as if nothing good works when you go in partnership with your fellow African brothers in business, is like nobody could be trusted anymore.
    …but just like you said I went to my hotel room and prayed for many hours, and when I was done I knew God will stand for me.
    On my wall I posted one of your after thought of your last post, that was the marpe (medicine) that healed the situation. My wife and everybody around me knew something was wrong, but I was not talking to anybody about it, it was me and God at this moment.
    And I said to myself, Nothing TurnsOn This. This was the victory that overcame what I was faced with last week. Now I can laugh and smile aloud, because if you turn to God, every thing will answer to your call.
    No medicine heals like a good advice. It does not matter what you are faced with, if you have the right people around you, you will receive solution to that challenge.
    I am so grateful that I know you personally and also follows you on this platform. Now I can smile again. Every battle in my way is a platform to showcase the victory Christ already won for me.
    Thank you Sir, I shall await the big one in the next post.

    My reply,
    What a beautiful testimony.
    May God’s grace go before you, even as a mighty angel, opening doors that no man can close.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Abshir writes,

    Dear Strive ; Can Kwese appe be able to access live from Somalia… Please resond to me if this is applucable!!

    My reply,
    Not sure. Allow me to check, and someone will respond directly to you.

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Togo visit:
    We arrive in Togo on Monday lunch time.
    I’m always excited when I visit a country for the first time.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Town Hall Update:
    I know that Lagos, Abidjan, and Accra are all oversubscribed 10x over! Don’t worry if you could not get in. We will stream them live on Facebook as we did in Tanzania. So make sure you are at a place where you have free wi-fi access on those days, because it is quite long.
    Thanks for all the support.
    I will be coming back to do other cities particularly in Nigeria.

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Update on Kwese TV in South Africa:

    I know some of you have seen billboards in South Africa on the new service we call Kwese Play. This is a huge development for us, and you will get more details on it soon.
    Meanwhile you can find out more about it on Kwese.Com (“get Kwese”).

  15. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Amazing Togo!
    What an amazing event we had yesterday in Togo!
    I want to thank the President of Togo who invited me, and all his officials who arranged The Town Hall Meeting for me to meet with young entrepreneurs from across the entire country.
    The organizing team which was led by a minister from government was exceptional in every detail of the arrangements.

    The questions were sharp, and well researched.
    This was really special guys.

    Im truly energized by this visit.
    Merci beaucoup!

  16. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Sibangani Dube writes,

    I love the Togo welcome, there is a hunger for success

    My reply,
    You have spoken from the Spirit Sibangani. There is such a hunger to learn, and find solutions.
    There is nothing small about this country, let me tell you!
    Everything about Togo reminds me of Singapore. In my discussion with the President and PM, we discussed its strategic location in the region including its deep natural port, rather like Singapore.
    Most of our discussions focused on agriculture and how to help rural farmers generate higher levels of income:
    “You are right, we must focus on raising incomes of the Small holder farmers”, The President said.

  17. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought from Togo:

    My dear friend Dr Donald Kaberuka (former President of the African Development Bank), said to me:
    “When I was at the bank, I was really impressed by what is happening in Togo, in terms of a focused leadership.”
    “Go there, one of these days.”
    Not long after I got an invitation from the President of the country, and it had nothing to do with Dr Kaberuka. When I told him however he urged me to go.
    Although short, it was well worth it.

    Dr Kaberuka was impressed, and he told his friend. I will also do the same with my friends. This is how good news spreads. And eventually big investments begin to flood in.

    This is why I came. My visit had nothing whatsoever to do with business. I came first and foremost as a philanthropist.

    Before I came, I took time to “read up” on history and economics of the country. Like everyone else they have their own share of challenges and problems, but the opportunities are immense, and hope springs eternal.

    Now I’m off to Côte d’Ivoire….

  18. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Tinashe writes,

    Tell us more about Togo after your visit.Bon Voyage

    My reply,
    The key takeaway for you here are:
    “#1. read up” on a country’s political history and economics, first. Make sure you look carefully at data. The absence of data, or data that looks “doctored” is not a good sign at all!

    [even though I was invited to come. I still went through certain economic data to “see what is happening”. I don’t look at pictures of buildings. I look at data. So do most serious investors.]
    #2. I talk to other independent people that I respect. If I was thinking of investing for instance, I would start talking to friends who I know have had some experience with the country, and the way they treat investors.
    [a country can put on a big show, but investors always talk to each other, and other independent observers before they act.
    Every single day, I field calls and emails from investor friends all over the world. The other day a group from China came to see me, because they were planning to invest big in a certain African country.
    The chairman of one of the biggest Indian groups called me last week, because he was reviewing an investment into another African country.
    I do exactly the same…].

  19. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Kwesé Inc ALERT: #GoGettaz! Quiz #2 – Don’t miss the deadline!

    You have less than THREE DAYS left to do your homework and complete Quiz #2 by Friday 8 September BEFORE 12 pm noon (CAT) . Remember you must take part in ALL FOUR QUIZZES to be eligible to move to Stage Two and win an opportunity to pitch for $100,000 (one woman and one man). Go to win.kwese.com

    #GoGettaz Competition
    You are everywhere and anywhere — entrepreneurs of all ages, small business people…

  20. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ghana and Nigeria Town Halls: A few more tickets available. Everyone else – please join the conversation on Facebook LIVE!

    Yesterday’s African Entrepreneur Town Hall in Togo (“Grande Rencontre des Jeunes Entrepreneurs”) was just amazing, a wonderful event and questions. Thanks to everyone involved.

    Although tickets sold out very quickly, my team has been able to open up a few more seats in Ghana and Nigeria to those who are quick… Remember you MUST bring your ticket to the door (either paper or on your phone).

    We’ll open up these links Wednesday 6 September at 10 am WAT, first come first serve:

    Accra, Ghana Thursday 7 September: 12 pm – 2 pm http://bit.ly/Ghana_Townhall
    Lagos, Nigeria Friday 8 September: 11 am – 1 pm http://bit.ly/Nigeria_Townhall

    If you miss out this time, please join the conversation LIVE on Facebook http://bit.ly/AfripreneurTalk I’ll be taking questions from my FB audience, too… Really looking forward! Now we’re just getting started at the Abidjan Town Hall.

  21. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ghana and Nigeria Africa Entrepreneur Town Hall tickets!

    Everything sold out very quickly but my team has managed to make some additional tickets available on a first come first serve basis!

    Accra, Ghana Thursday 7 September: 12 pm – 2 pm http://bit.ly/Ghana_Townhall
    Lagos, Nigeria Friday 8 September: 11 am – 1 pm http://bit.ly/Nigeria_Townhall

    Very limited room left, but if you miss out this time, please join the conversation LIVE on Facebook http://bit.ly/AfripreneurTalk. I’ll be taking questions from my Facebook audience, too.

    Don’t forget to bring your tickets in order to get in the door.

  22. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Côte d’Ivoire Townhall:
    I really enjoyed myself last night. I had no idea that we had so many friends here!
    I met some incredible entrepreneurs.

    I promised that we are going to start a simultaneous platform in French within two months.
    Now headed to Accra!
    We will stream Accra live on Facebook.

  23. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Update from Ghana:
    Thank you Ghana Afripreneurs for such a warm welcome and event.
    Out of this world!
    Someone reminded me that I have never been to Kumasi. I want to visit the market there, and meet those famous market women.
    Our next Ghana event will be in Kumasi next year.

  24. Joseph Gwaze

    Shalom Bro Strive,
    Your level of faith in the Lord God almighty and humility is absolutely amazingly beautiful! You are both a beacon of light and hope for those the enemy has blinded and frustrated. Your testimonies are a turning point and inspirational for those that are experiencing diverse challenges. With people like you being part of and leading Africa’s economic revolution/development and emancipation, this continent will never be the same again, glory be to God! Thank you for being such a blessing to your fellow Africans and God bless you! Best regards, Joseph


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