Image caption: Sam Nkusi (red tie), Group Executive, Liquid Telecom, East Africa; Dr. Ben Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Afreximbank shaking hands with me. In the middle is Eng. Ahmed El Beheiry, CEO and Managing Director of Telecom Egypt. 

Pause: Every African has the right to be connected…

__“Cape to Cairo” nears completion!

As many of you probably heard, I was in Abuja on Friday for the signing of a historic agreement between Liquid Telecom and Telecom Egypt. The agreement paves the way for Liquid to connect its fibre optic network to Egypt. In just a matter of weeks, we’ll be able to offer service within and into Egypt, in partnership with Telecom Egypt. This is quite historic, because for the first time there is a direct land-based communication link between Cape Town and Cairo…

In 2013 when I first wrote on this FB platform about our vision to build from “Cape to Cairo,” we had deployed about 15,000 km of cable after 10 years. Now 5 years later, we have deployed over 60,000 km. Although the distance between Cape Town to Cairo is only about 13,000 km (by road), our network is almost 5x as long because in each country that it passes through, we have an ancillary network connecting businesses and homes. We will continue to expand the reach of this network.

Our focus will soon shift to building the network into Central and Western Africa. We plan to cross Chad into Cameroon and Nigeria from the East. We are also moving from DRC along the West African coast as we work to connect “Cape to Dakar”.

Why is this important? Liquid Telecom already serves some of the largest global companies with some of the fastest network speeds on the African continent. More efficient and prosperous companies mean more jobs and growth throughout Africa! That’s our vision…

__And we believe every individual on the African continent has the right to be connected! By now you know I see this as key to building Africa’s century!

We chose to do the signing ceremony on the sidelines of conference to celebrate 25 years of one of Africa’s most important institutions: The African Export-Import Bank, better known as the Afreximbank. For those of you who dream of building big businesses that will expand across Africa, this is the bank that helps those who have such a vision.

There is no serious Pan African player from the continent who has not at one time or another dealt with this particular bank which was started by African governments to help African companies that export and import from within Africa. They also partner companies like Econet and its subsidiaries (such as Liquid) to expand their operations.

As a budding entrepreneur, you may not yet be at the stage in your business to engage directly with a bank like “AXB” (as we call them at Econet) but you need to understand how they operate and the work they do.

The guys in the “senior class” by now know that there is more a bank does beyond simply lending money. The banks also help promote relationships between business players. Let me give you an example: Both Telecom Egypt and Liquid are clients of AXB. Telecom Egypt wanted to expand into the rest of Africa, and Liquid Telecom wanted to expand into Egypt.

Then AXB stepped in! They brought us together, organized the meetings, arranging everything!

Surprised?

Then maybe you don’t know everything that banks do…

The key business relationships around the world are brokered by banks. For instance, if I want to know someone in business, I call a banker:

“Is Aliko Dangote your client?” I asked AXB many years ago.

“Yes, we know him very well. We can arrange a meeting for you.”

The current President of AXB is Dr Ben Oramah. I have known him and most of his predecessors. “Dr Oramah”, as he is popularly known in the business world, is probably the best known banker in Africa, period!

There is no head of state in Africa or top business leader who will not take his call. Now guys like him may not be on the front pages of your political news, but they are important.

This did not start when I became big. It started when my business was very, very small and I was dealing with a small bank branch. It was then I realized that the bank could connect me with potential customers, suppliers and other key players necessary for my business. It is also good business for a bank if they are connecting their best customers.

I have known the AXB guys now for over 20 years. When the idea of such a bank as AXB was first mooted I followed the discussion closely, even though I knew at the time I was not yet big enough to approach them for support.

I always try to remain engaged in issues that relate to business and entrepreneurship, even if it does not immediately benefit me… Anything to do with business is my business!

__I promised to tell you “how this game is really played”!

Understanding how banks operate is critical for you and your business. There is nothing more frustrating than when the cause of a problem is something you actually don’t understand!

If you have to start learning about how something works when you need to use it, then it might be too late…

Make it your business to be constantly learning and paying attention to what is happening that could one day be very helpful to you.

End.

Many of you will be interested to take a quick look at our new (30 sec) video. You can see how together we’re building Africa’s century. Let me know what you think! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAxD9qy9rPM

 

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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.

8 thoughts on “Pause: Every African has the right to be connected…

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    We are already advanced in our next phases:

    # “Cape To Tangier via Dakar” and
    # “Port Sudan to Port Lagos via N’djamena”.

    It is much harder to build fibre networks on land than in the oceans. This is not a technological issue but one of politics and economics. Imagine the challenge of putting fibre from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa across the Congo forest, or even from the Sudan border, across Chad, to the Nigerian and Cameroon borders. Liquid Telecom and its contractors now have extensive experience for this type of work, built over 15 years.

    It is important to be determined, persistent and consistent to realize any vision. Our #People at Liquid across Africa (and beyond) are all of that and more.

    Reply
  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    AXB is part of a group of strategic financial institutions that help African governments and large businesses interact with the outside world, as well as with each other. Others include Trade and Development Bank of Africa (TDB) and African Development Bank (AfDB). There are also many similar banks that operate regionally and locally that you need to make it your business to learn about.

    Reply
  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    A fibre optic network linking African countries to one another, the “One Africa” network, has been discussed in the telecoms sector for a long time. For us, it is within reach and will be completed easily within 5 years. We need to do the same with our national electricity grids as well as railways networks.

    I hope I have shown that these are not necessarily government initiatives (even though government support at crucial stages matters). They can be done by the enterprise sector. There is no reason why the entrepreneurs in Africa cannot build huge dams, national power networks, continental railways, airlines, and airports. We can build new towns and even cities. Anything is possible through effective entrepreneurship.

    Reply
  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    Did you say you know how a bank works? What do you make of this then… When I was asked to raise money to finance the African Union’s urgent response for the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, I first called Dr Donald Kaberuka head of the African Development Bank, and Dr Jean-Louis Ekra then head of Afreximbank. The three of us met in Cairo and we flew together to Addis Ababa the same day on a private plane. There we met a small group of key business leaders from across the continent including Patrice Motsepe and Aliko Dangote’s board members. Calling that kind of group together can only be done by the top bankers!

    Reply
  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Caleb writes,

    Dr. Strive please why have you made this plan open (east to west one)? I thought it was suppose to be a covered move i.e for business purposes or is it because you are in a speciality market?

    My reply,
    Good question. Here is my answer:
    #1. Liquid Telecom is not an idea anymore. It was an idea in 1998, and I did not talk about it. I just went about it quietly.
    #2. As I write we have now arrived in Cairo.
    #3. You might not know much about this business but my competitors already know it is there. They have known for years, and their efforts to fight in the market have come to naught!
    #4. Even then, there are many secrets which I will not share in public!

    Reply
  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Strategic Partnerships!
    Building this network required many strategic partnerships. This partnership with Telecom Egypt is just one such partnerships.
    In every single country from SA to Egypt there is a partnership, with different types of players. Some of our partners are electrical power companies!

    Reply
  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Breaking News!
    Former US President Obama’s African speeches!
    If you get a chance go on YouTube and listen to the speeches President Obama
    made in Kenya and South Africa. They are very inspiring speeches.

    Reply

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