Image caption: From right to left: Sam Nkusi, Managing Executive East Africa, Liquid Telecom; Dr Abdul-Rahman Dirar, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Sudatel Telecom Group and Sudan’s State Minister at the Ministry of Finance and National Economy; Nic Rudnick, Group CEO, Liquid Telecom; Eng. Tarig Hamza Zain Alabdeen, CEO of Sudatel Telecom Group; David Eurin, Group Chief Strategy Officer, Liquid Telecom; Eng. Michel Antoine Hebert, CCO, Sudatel Telecom Group; Eng. Nazar Gad Kareem Ali, Chief Strategy Officer, Sudatel Telecom Group; Asim Abdelwahab Abdorabo, Chief Planning Officer, Sudatel Telecom Group.

Pause: Our vision to #ConnectAfrica from Cape to Cairo…

__Yes, Afri-can! And for years, already is.

This week Liquid Telecom, one of our companies, has announced a joint venture with Sudatel, a company from Sudan, to build a fibre optic network (meaning high-speed broadband connectivity) and also to operate cloud computing data centers in that vast country.

Sudan is one of the last three countries remaining for us to complete our vision of a single network running on land, all the way from Cape to Cairo.

I’m so excited by this development because for more than 10 years we have been building this network which runs through the following countries: Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Lesotho, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This year we plan to connect Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Liquid Telecom is also currently completing its Central Africa route which connects Angola, Congo and DRC.

As an engineer, I actually consider our network running from Kolwezi (southern DRC) to Kinshasa, and then on to Matadi on the Atlantic as an engineering masterpiece when it’s finally completed. I relish the crossing of the Congo River with our cable, like a child at Christmas!

One of the most challenging legs is the one that runs from Port Sudan through Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria. This route not only links the East to West to the South to North route, but opens the way for our push into West Africa, which will begin in earnest this year.

We actually want to connect all the West African countries, and go right round back to Egypt!

The Liquid Telecom network has been recognized by African leadership in all these countries as a pivotal contribution to the development of the continent. It’s just amazing how much support we have received. Many presidents and prime ministers have called me to ask when we are going to complete or when we can get to their countries! We’re getting there…

Our network provides B2B (business-to-business) services to telecoms companies, banks, and large corporations, as well as big global companies like Microsoft and Google. We have been overwhelmed by global companies who want to invest in Africa because this infrastructure is now in place. The network is also the largest provider of wholesale infrastructure to internet service providers (ISPs) in all these countries.

Raising money for an undertaking this audacious has never been easy, but we have been able to do it every step of the way. Last year alone we raised over $1bn including launching our first global bond, which trades on the Dublin Stock Exchange.

As I have pointed out before, raising money is an ongoing process in a business. Right now we’re raising a lot of money in the global capital markets, and much of it will go to fulfilling our rollout in all these countries, as well as adding new services. We’re now moving to a place where some funds may actually come through a major public listing of this company.

There are some interesting lessons I want you to reflect on:

#VisionMatters!

I have often encouraged you with the question, “What do you see?”

#StrategyMatters!

Something I have not spoken about much before, but will in future, is the issue of strategy. This is a huge subject.

#Every lion was once a cub!

This was once a tiny little business. I once asked an investor to put some money in it, and they replied by saying I should really shut it down!

#Remember always the 3Ps: #product#people and #process… And of these three the most important is #People!

A successful business is not built simply because you got a license or tender. It’s built by #People and #Processes.

Liquid Telecom has an extraordinary talent pool drawn from all over the world. I congratulate the whole team working for years to #ConnectPeople throughout and across Africa!

This is just one of the ways we are working together to build Africa’s century!

End.

by 21 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.

21 thoughts on “Pause: Our vision to #ConnectAfrica from Cape to Cairo…

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    Before the war broke out in South Sudan, we sent several missions to that country to get approval. Even though we were planning to invest more than $50m and create thousands of jobs, we could not get anyone interested.
    Several African ambassadors who understood the benefits even tried to intervene (including my own country Zimbabwe, and The African Union).

    I’m patient. I shall return one day. I always do!

    Reply
  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    The other day I joined a discussion with some of our executives and engineers on how to cross areas of Chad and Sudan which are in the Sahara Desert. It did not seem too challenging to them. I guess nothing does when you have already crossed the forests of the DRC to get from Cape to Kinshasa.

    Reply
  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    I was discussing with the chairman of a big tech company from Silicon Valley whom you all know (hint: FB), and he asked me to show him a map of our network!

    Reply
  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    There are many Liquid-type projects that need to be done in Africa. Before building Liquid, I thought of building a railway line right around Africa. I once set up a working group to take up the Inga Dam project on the Congo River. David left the biggest projects to Solomon his son, because he knew that some things are best done by the next generation, so you are my Solomons; you must come up with bold projects to transform Africa, using my example.

    Reply
  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 5.

    When I first mooted the Liquid network project, I was told it could only be done by governments with the help of the World Bank. I then stopped talking about it because I did not want people to discourage me. I only talked about it once we had built most of it. Very few people understood what we were doing, even within our own company. Many great visions are destroyed because the person who has the vision shares it with people who specialize in the telling you the challenges you will face!

    Reply
  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 6.

    Liquid Telecom has a sister company that we spun out of it, called Distributed Power Africa (DPA Africa). I had an insight that this is how we could participate in Africa’s power sector. It is still a “cub” but you can look at its website and see what you can learn. https://www.dpaafrica.com/about/

    Reply
  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    If you take a map of Africa, you will see that Sudan is right next to Chad, which in turn borders with Nigeria, and Cameroon. This means we can build a fibre optic link from Sudan (Port Sudan) all the way to Nigeria (Port Lagos), as well as Cameroon (Duala). This will be the first ever link between East and Western Africa!
    We have already got a team going to Chad to start work on Liquid Chad. We already have Liquid Nigeria.

    Reply
  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    Our fibre runs along the road all the way from Cape Town in SA, to Zimbabwe, Zambia, DRC, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda. Now it will enter Sudan and proceed to Egypt, and West to Nigeria, and Cameroon through Chad.

    We have another link that goes from Cape Town to DRC (Kinshasa). It will soon connect Angola.

    Reply
  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Moise writes,

    I really appreciate learning about this great vision of Liquid-Telecom. I guess my country is among the remaining ones : Central African Republic. We (the next generation) greet this project with great excitement.

    My reply,
    We do have a future plan to go from Central African Republic into Chad. Our challenge is the security situation for our construction staff, and maintenance crews once it has been built.
    When peace returns fully, we and other investors shall also return. It is the same with South Sudan.
    God bless you, and stay safe.

    Reply
  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Nickson writes,

    For Inga Dam Project, I hope the Solomon is in our generation!

    My reply,
    I was once asked to lead a consortium to raise $50bn from private investors for it. Raising the money would have been quite easy, but the politics were insurmountable.
    So I declined.
    By now you know that I shy away from political issues. I’m an entrepreneur not a politician.

    It will certainly be built one day, even in my life time. I’m sure of that.

    Reply
  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Desiré writes,

    [edited]

    What about Liquid Cameroon?? Cameroon is always left out and I keep asking you why?
    I am from Cameroon and know the system.Always worried because we are always left out in project changing Africa

    My reply,
    Cameroon is a very important African country. I first visited Cameroon when I was just 15 years old, and it was the first West African country I ever visited. It is close to my heart.
    I’m sure we shall be there very soon.

    Reply
  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    Start thinking about the things you can do with this infrastructure that we can are putting in place. Of a truth there are huge businesses that are going to emerge that have not even been thought of today!
    If you are in Lagos, for instance what can you do with a network that connects every major city in Africa?
    This is my challenge to you as an entrepreneur!
    You don’t have to say anything today, just go away and start working on it.

    Reply
  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Malone writes,

    I want to build a solar plant in Niger to serve electricity to all of Africa by 2026. May it come true!!!!

    My reply,

    This is a good vision but what will make it a reality is your capacity to start small!
    That is what will make you an entrepreneur.

    Avoid setting dates to visions because getting to things done in Africa is often about patience and tenacity.
    For our fibre network we spent three years waiting for approval to cross the first border (SA to Zimbabwe). We had to wait 4 years for a license to build in DRC. In some countries we have been denied licenses because officials demanded bribes. Even now there are situations I don’t want to talk about here which involve efforts to stop this project in certain countries.

    Patience and tenacity!

    And a dose of humility to start small:
    When I started in the solar business I already had a vision to build huge solar power plants like we are now able to do, but I started small by selling solar lanterns (Solarway).

    Reply
  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Faustine writes,

    How is it possible you expose Your strategies and visions widely and openly that your competitors in the same field are able to read your strength and weaknesses and take some advantages but still No matter how long time passes your vision in something is the same and you get it and do better than them.

    My reply,
    Good question!
    Everything I’m telling you my competitors, and potential competitors already know, and have known for years.
    We all watch each other like Hawks, in any business!
    I was allowed to get away with it because no one believed it could be done.
    Being underestimated or dismissed is never a bad thing, even in business!

    A lot of this information is in public filings, if you know where to look.
    So there is always strategy, and “strategy”…if you know what I mean?
    #Deep speaks to deep..ehehe!

    Reply
  15. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Owen Black writes,

    Liquid-highway; I’ve always been fascinated by the US highway and interstate road system. It’ll be great to have a highway connecting Cape to Cairo.

    My reply,
    Phase 1, of our projects has always been known as “The Cape to Cairo”, Digital Highway.
    Phase 2. Is “Cape To Matadi” (DRC Port on the Atlantic Ocean).
    Phase 3. Is Port Sudan to Port Lagos, and Cameroon.
    Phase 4. Kinshasa to Luanda, Windhoek, and Cape.
    Phase 5. Port Lagos to Cairo.

    The entire network must be “terrestrial” (on land) linking major cities, and local networks to each other, in one seemless Pan African network.
    It already links to all the sea cables.

    Physical Roads are also important, but in our own world of Internet and Artificial Intelligence, this could ultimately be more important.

    Reply
  16. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Hezbon writes,

    How do you deal with cases of sabotage to your fibre lines??Are you scared of sabotage to your infrastructure, particularly in conflict areas?

    My reply,
    Once the network is complete it cannot be sabotaged!
    #1. It is designed to be “self healing”; which means our customer never experiences an actual outage because it keeps re-routing the traffic.
    If a customer is in Lusaka, and the cable is cut south of the city, we will route traffic through Tanzania, or DRC, or Angola!
    #2. We have back up cables running on High Voltage power lines in some key places. So if you dig and cut on the ground, we can re route through the power lines.

    Doing it properly is not as simple as digging a few cables into the ground. It requires capital investment.

    Reply
  17. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Launch of Continental Free Trade Area (CTA):
    In less than 2 weeks African leaders and business people will gather in Kigali Rwanda for the launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CTA).
    Last week I said that some of the most important events in history can often go unnoticed. Let me tell you that when it comes to Africa’s development, this is #BigDeal!
    If you do business across Africa, or are simply interested in seeing accelerated economic growth, jobs, and prosperity, this is a #BigDeal!!!
    I will definitely be there to witness it for myself.
    I would like to congratulate Africa’s leaders for getting this one done.
    We need a similar pact on Trade and Investment.

    Reply
  18. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    A friend writes,

    I oftentimes deeply admired the sheer size of Cecil John Rhodes vision and his quest and respected him for harbouring such a great vision, but when i see the likeness of Cecil’s vision in one of our own, in my generation. It really excites me and open that door of possiblities. Thank you Sir Masiyiwa, for dreaming, believing, doing and the sharing.

    God bless.

    My reply,
    Without wishing to spark a debate with political commentators (on an entrepreneurial platform for doers), let me venture to say something about Cecil John Rhodes:
    He represents everything I hate immensely as an entrepreneur, because he subscribed to the doctrine of “The End Justifies The Means”:
    He was a violent, corrupt, ruthless, murderous, racist bigot, driven by unbridled ambition nurtured by insatiable greed!

    The trail of death, and misery that followed the methods he used to carry out his ventures, remain an indelible stain on Southern Africa, even to this day.

    Whatever Cecil John Rhodes was, it was not an entrepreneur!

    The moment an entrepreneur or politician subscribes to the doctrine of “The End Justifies The Means”, the results are always tragic, and it delegitimizes any claim for greatness despite what else they may have achieved.

    #The “how” we achieve anything matters, always!

    Reply

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