Reflection: Don’t look for someone else to act

__You yourself can do more than you know, right where you are.

Sometimes when we wait for someone else to act, including governments, it can become an excuse for doing nothing ourselves. Perhaps it is a fault I have, I don’t know, but whenever I see a problem, the first thing I think of is: “How can I (personally) do something, no matter how small, to help on this issue?”

In my own mind, I am really the small boy in the Bible story who offered Jesus Christ his lunch of five loaves and two fishes to feed 5,000 people! To those looking on, it may have seemed hopeless or even silly, but it opened the door to a miracle.

What about you? I myself find it very difficult to rail at someone else to do something about a problem that I see, unless I’m ready to offer a solution myself, or be part of the solution

I remember arriving at my grandparents’ village after returning from nearly 20 years of exile. The road to their homestead was difficult to navigate.

“Why is this little road so bad?” I asked my uncle who drove that way regularly himself.

He then railed at the local MP, saying he was lazy and never raised issues in parliament.

“But it is less than a kilometer long, and you and I are the only people who drive this way,” I said.

The next weekend I returned, hired a few guys and fixed it, maybe because I did not want my car damaged!

There are so many problems in Africa that it can be really overwhelming sometimes, but I will never forget the words of my grandmother, also when I returned to my homeland from exile:

“Our problems are over, because those whom we sent to school are back!”

We are not educated simply to be like football fans in a stadium (or, shall I say, “coaches from the stands”) or as the Americans say “armchair quarterbacks.”

Since this is one of my “reflections,” let me share another of my favorite spiritual dictums:

“If you cannot be faithful with solving just a small problem, why should you be given a bigger challenge?”

All too often, we dream of being given a bigger challenge when we will not be counted in the crafting of small solutions for problems we face every day.

By now you will have noticed that I rarely respond to someone on this platform who identifies a problem, and then suggests that I be the one to solve it.

__I will only join people who are solving problems themselves.

Not long ago, a young Zambian lady wrote here about how she was helping a young disabled boy. She never asked me for help, but I was amazed by her approach. I quietly reached out to her, and formed a small partnership with her.

Another person came to me to say there were no vaccines in a village because they could not store them properly.

“What is your solution?” I asked.

“Can we put a fridge at a nearby base station, since it has power all the time?”

“Great idea!”

We’ve now done it for more than 10 years, and that’s not the only place.

The miracle comes when we approach problems like the boy with the lunch who thought he could help feed 5,000.

There is a reason you keep thinking about that problem that no one else seems to notice, or care about like you do:

__It is because it is you who is marked to solve it, if only you will believe in yourself, instead of waiting for others.

Today is the day to begin to solve some problems. If you can get others to join you, even better, but be prepared to go it alone, because you can.

Sometimes the solution starts by redefining what the problem really is…

Let’s talk.


by 32 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.

32 thoughts on “Reflection: Don’t look for someone else to act

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.

    “We are facing a cholera epidemic,” a friend of mine (who is a doctor) told me on the phone.

    “What do you think you and I can do to help?”

    Before long, we had organized a local community response.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    One of my daughters who studied in America told me she would not be able to get a job with a top American company unless she could prove that she had once worked in the community on a project in which she had demonstrated leadership. We must encourage our children to set up small projects where they try to solve problems around them in whatever small way they can.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    My wife was complaining about the state of a small park opposite her late father’s house which had fallen into disrepair because the local council lacked resources.

    “So why don’t you hire some young people and clean it up?” I replied.

    If we want clean and safe neighbourhoods, we must come together and deal with it ourselves.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.

    Did you know that more than 10,000 people are killed every year by snakes in Africa? When I read this report on CNN, I was totally shocked. What solution could you offer? Please don’t start by saying, “Government should…” If you do that, nothing will necessarily be done.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 5.

    I want to challenge you and your colleagues at work to come together and identify a problem in your community that you can deal with. If you are running your own business, why not register a small foundation which becomes your passion outside of work.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 7.

    During my visit to Israel last week, I learnt about an amazing program they run in high schools. Young people are required to set up model companies, complete with boards and executive management, then they are required to run the company for a whole year! The outcome is obvious:

    “Teach a child in the way he should go…”

    You want a pipeline of global entrepreneurs for the future? This is how it is done. Their country has the highest concentration of tech startups and listings on the American Nasdaq exchange in the world!

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Bernard writes,

    Absolutely true Dr Masiyiwa. This year a friend introduced me two disadvantaged girls who have dropped out of school because the parents cannot afford to provide for them. The mother is aged and is the one taking care of the sick husband. Most heart breaking of all, one of the girls has diabetes and has to go for dialysis every morning. I asked what we can do to open doors to them and make them realize the disadvantage and that the diabetes is not a hopeless situation? The solution; putting them back to school and supporting them with all they need to feel they are cared for. Today they are in school and are catching up. We gave them the opportunity to experience our day during this terms vacation. Although the diabetic one has to go for dialysis every morning before going to school we are working to ensure if she can have a good support system to handle the diabetes. I know it’s a long journey but I also know it’s possible and we will get there.

    My reply,
    You are a great man!
    I will be in touch with you. Don’t worry I can reach anyone on this platform.

    • Wallace Mwapamba

      Dear Sir I am greatly inspired by you . I once met a young man in the streets of harare who was selling car accessories at a robot intersection he was in grade 4 and I asked him why? He narrated how he has to sell to pay his own fees because of what you taught me and others I reached out to him and helped him now he is form one at Harare high school and with the little resources we have we are solving the small problems at our level . I am grateful for all you have taught us Sir to the end of the world .

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Whenever I get angry about something that I see, a still small voice whispers to me:
    “The purpose of God is not established through the anger of man.”

    Then I dial back quickly from the anger, and start to work for a solution even if it is just something small and symbolic.

    Let me tell you, there are a lot of things around us which can make us angry, very angry, but we should train ourselves never to be motivated, or justified to respond by anger.
    Now you understand why I never get angry, or display anger.
    I will never associate myself with anyone given to rage, or public displays of anger. Or someone who uses insults or denigrations of another person in order to make a point.
    If ever I get angry, it leaves me feeling ashamed and embarrassed at myself.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Correspondence you would not normally see:

    I just saw a report in the news suggesting another cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe.
    If true, then we must urgently activate the procedures we used during the last outbreak. This included a campaign by Econet to get people to take precautions to stop the spread, and treatment centers financed by us and manned by volunteers and the churches. Also we moved medicines from outside the country.

    I have copied all involved in that previous campaign so they can appraise you on what we did.
    Always important to work closely with government in anything we do. Previously they appreciated our support, and we should quickly engage them, and express our availability to assist in any way possible.
    Group Chairman
    cc Mrs M, Mr Mboweni, Dr Wazara.

    Reply from Kennedy [He is a qualified Doctor]:

    Dear Mr M

    Thank you very much for the Cholera alert message.

    HLF & Econet with the leadership of Dr Wazara used the Chegutu outbreak (Jan 2018) as an opportunity to be ready for the greater Harare area.

    We secured Cholera response-emergency kits, placed some in Cholera hotspots and stocked up reserves. A dedicated HLF team has been working closely with the Ministry of Health and Harare Health Services and other like-minded organisations (UNICEF etc).

    Responses to date:
    · Econet has been sending SMSes as per the schedule provided by the Ministry.
    · Diagnostic & treatment centres have been set up in Chitungwiza, Stoneridge and Belvedere
    · Current kits at the centre are said to be adequate but all reserve resources have been mobilised.

    Our area of concern is the “Nurses-Strike” that has started today. There is a Health Cluster meeting scheduled to address this new development.

    Since Chegutu Hospital services the most dangerous hotspot, we have assisted in automating their borehole water supply system which will be commissioned next week.

    We shall continue to stay vigilant and provide medical and personnel support throughout the crisis period.


  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Last week I read a report in a Zimbabwean newspaper online which said there was an outbreak of cholera.
    As you can see from the correspondence, I immediately sent an email to the head of our foundation, which is headed by a medical doctor.
    I use this as an example to show that we must be proactive at all times to problems happening around us.
    This is a call to action for all of us.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Gideon Paul writes,

    I live in a place called Lokogoma in Abuja Nigeria, it is an estate residential area but the access roads are terrible despite the beautiful buildings in that area, i moved to this area with my family some 8yrs ago when i was still a teenager, now i am 24 although i don’t have a car but then i suffer on this road because during the dry season the dust is so much that its almost impossible to come out with a clean dress except you drive a car i feel it even more because i am a law student and i go to school everyday and as a law student we are required to wear white and black to lectures so just imagine how brown my white turns to on my way to school, during the dry season the road becomes so muddy with the mud constantly splashing on you as you move on the road, i was so disappointed with the grownups i saw who lived in the area who kept complaining and waiting for government to come and work on the road despite the fact that many of this inhabitants look well to do, so out of frustration and determination i started talking to people to see how we can raise funds to start something on the road, i even met an engineer to find out the cost of constructing the road, even though it might look like an herculean task, i am one of those people who believe in the impossible and i believe that God is going to use me in constructing that road its just a matter of when rather than how

    My reply,
    This is true leadership. You will succeed and the lessons you learn from it will make you a success in anything else in future.

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    When my business was still very small I used to advertise by installing branded waste disposal containers in public places. Later on when my business got bigger, I approached local councils and got permission to build branded bus shelters and park benches.
    Identifying communal problems and offering solutions is the way you promote your brand into what we call a “Love Brand”.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    As we drove through the streets of Jerusalem a few months ago, I saw a building written “Yad Sarah”.
    “What do they do?” I asked the driver.
    Then he explained that a woman set it up to ensure that no disabled child ever goes without a wheelchair.
    “It means the hands of Sarah [wife of the Patriarch Abraham]”.

    “Was she very rich?”
    “I don’t think so, she was just determined and went to raise the money. That’s what we do here, we look for problems to solve. Everyone must prove themselves by joining an initiative or starting one. We all do it.”

    His response really shook me, and my wife. As soon as she got back my wife started to organize a wheel chair initiative, but we cannot do it in every country.

    Who will be the ‘Yad Sarah person or group’ for your community?

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    As an entrepreneur [even social], there is actually nothing stopping you from approaching a school, and teaching a part time course on business, or any other professional subject.

    We all know that our kids are not being taught the way we would like, but how many of us parents are willing to set aside time to teach what we know in our schools and colleges?
    Imagine what would happen if every parent determined to teach at school about the job they do?!
    That is the revolution we want.

  15. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Tumza writes,

    In Lesotho there is no progress at all, our curriculum is a shame, high school pupils still taught and required to memorise life circle of a locust

    My reply,
    If it is true, what you say, then you [personally] must solve this problem that you see. That is my challenge to you.

  16. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Murithi writes,

    Wow! Thats amazing. Wish we could replicate in this parts of the world.

    My reply,
    If it has inspired you, then you [personally] must start your own initiative.
    I hope my confidence in you [as a member of this platform] is not misplaced.
    I know you won’t disappoint me.

  17. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Rakel from Kenya writes,

    My daughter has purposed to do entrepreneurship from September this year because she has been inspired by you.

    My reply,
    I like that!
    If you would like we can arrange for her to visit Liquid Telecom Kenya, and spend a week with our people. I don’t know how far you are from Nairobi.
    I have copied it to someone who will be in touch.

  18. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Charles writes,

    I have a team of 18 undergraduate students who have interest in entrepreneurship that I mentor, I don’t know much but I share with them the little I know.
    I take the challenge Sir. We will work together to create the Helping Hand of Sarah Association in Cameroon, I have already informed them and they are all excited to join the adventure.

    You will hear from us soon!

    My reply,
    Note to my wife:
    Hey mom!
    Looks like we have a livewire in Cameroon”!
    He is a leader and one to watch for sure.

  19. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ronny writes,

    I live in a small village of South Africa, Mpumalanga Province. Last week I saw an old disabled man on a wheelchair who was struggling to push his old damaged wheelchair, and I offered him help to push it from a road sandy area and continued to push until we reached his destination which happened to be where I was going also. So as we were walking I then asked him why was he not having a self driven wheelchair at least it will make things easier for him since he is already old. He replied about the government hospitals delay in dealing with his issue. And that touched me a lot, I then saw it as a good opportunity to offer hand by tackling such issues, mostly the ones that seems to be in the government’s waste disposals, the ones that are not attended. So what I’ve done so far, is to firstly form a non-profit organization which is yet unregistered. It’s an organization which will operate as the wisdom of the nation. In other words it will specialize in searching and finding the problems affecting the community and see how it can help eliminate & solving them in order to restore their dignity of our people.

    I am open handed for help from every side of the world. If willing to join me in this adventure you can message me direct, I’ll respond.
    Thank you

    My reply,
    Well done Ronny!
    #1. Solve the problem immediately in front of you, as best you can.
    #2. Stay the course by looking for a long term solution.

    Here is what I would do, if the Lord put this problem on my heart, and I was a young man like you:
    # research into wheelchairs, and get a quote for the type you think he should have.
    # work with friends to buy the wheelchair.
    Give this guy his wheelchair, as a surprise gift.

    Do it again for someone else!

  20. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Chemutai writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa..Compliments to you from Uganda Sir! 2 years ago, I discovered that my community was in great need of safe and clean water for drinking and was not in government plan.

    I decided to do something about it and started protecting natural water springs using blocks, cement, sand and pipes.

    As I speak today, I have personally protected 10 natural water springs that directly serve over 10,000 people in my rural community and there is still a lot more to do

    Few days ago, I started thinking of registering a foundation dedicated to solving shortage of Save and clean water in my community so I can reach out to friends to join so we do more together.

    Am deeply inspired to read from you about the same opinion of registering a foundation and I will therefore go ahead and register “Kalifani” Foundation very soon.

    Blessings to you my elder

    My reply,
    When I come to Uganda, I want to meet you “one on one”. Let’s see how we can extend this initiative of yours.
    Yes: Kalifani Foundation is a cool name!
    What does it mean?

  21. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    “Go and do likewise”!

    A young man who received a scholarship from our programs once came up to me, and thanked me, saying “I don’t know how I can ever repay you?”
    To which I answered:
    “I know how God would want you to repay Him for extending His love through me and my wife, because we are just conduits:
    Why don’t you find a young person (not related to you even by tribe), and assist them as well. You don’t need to help 200,000 [just yet]; just one will do.”

  22. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Franklin writes,

    No doubt, selfless service is what we need to get Africa to her feet. That patriotic spirit must return for there to be a change.

    As a young optometrist here in eastern part of Nigeria. Since I graduated in August 2016, I created a foundation that takes primary health vision screening program to deep rural areas. This involves general health talk, vision screening exercise, reading glasses and drugs depending on no my financial strength. I use my spare time for this and sometimes I try to involve others of like minds. And I must confess, I feel FULFILLED. Looking forward to register it full time.

    ALL THANKS TO Strive Masiyiwa for the inspiration.

    My reply,
    If every professional on this platform came up with a plan to “give” from what they do using your example, the impact would be phenomenal.
    I appreciate your inspiring example, and I just know that someone somewhere has been totally inspired to do something.

  23. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Adeyemi writes,

    Sir, your philanthropic gesture: did it start now or started then even when you seemed to have so little? Please, share with us your experience, sir.

    My reply,
    As I have written often on this platform, and also spoken about, it started when my business was tiny, and at time I did not even have any money at all.
    This is why I coined the phrase:
    “I do not give because I have, I have because I give.”

  24. Sharon Rapetswa

    You have challenged me and in my little heart you have given me a certain permission to address the problems that some of the communities i work in. i want to create a play centre in a rural community in Limpopo South Africa called Indermark, that is where i have spent the earliest years of my life growing up, we didnt have much but we were creative, but i feel that things have to get better. In every community there must be a place for everyone to enjoy and if you look there are churches and beer houses but no place for children to spend leisure time outside of their homes, far from the streets..but in urban areas there are parks and well maintained sporting facilities and arcades at their shopping malls while our rural kids just dream about such facilities and end up joining those at beer houses and experimenting on alcohol at a very early age and the next thing you know it they are parents…so i have a dream to create a place where African children can play in safe environments and not stress about things they should not be worrying about… and allow them to be children! i think children develop a lot of knowledge, creativity and skills through play… and most this is lost when they are not given a chance to be children and play and have fun with their peers right in the rural areas… my centre will promote active play and indoor play …. No more shall kids in my village get bored again as long as i live.

  25. Stephen Kamugasa

    I concur! Next month, on 14 May 2018, I will publish a blog entitled: “Though you are a lowly worm, O citizen, but you have teeth to thrash mountains, and beat them small.” In that blog, I will show how even the smallest amongst us may have a positive and disproportionate impact on society. The context of the blog may be a million miles away from Africa as it were, but the substance is highly relevant to Africa’s many problems. The challenges Africa is facing today are no doubt very considerable; but we have the power to thrash, and beat them small.

  26. Stephen Kamugasa

    I cross-publish my work on Medium, a month after publishing on my blog website. Today I cross-published “Please sir, do not belittle teachers; esteem them – 2018 Edition” and a reader in Canada replied adding a YouTube Video, whose contents made me think of you. I thought of you in particular with reference to your statement, namely, “You yourself can do more than you know right where you are.” Here is the video:
    It is worth watching…

  27. Milton

    I am so inspired, I never thought problem solving can be motivating you have alluded it so well that it made a mindset shift and a clear vision of the world we deserve.

  28. Sandisile

    Inspired and grateful for people like you who are not afraid to step out in faith and achieve great things. High time I stepped out too.


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