The Eagle in a storm (Part 2a)

__Changing our “wealth creation model.”

Ever since I started school, my teachers taught me that our country was “rich” because we had many minerals, and we’d recite the list of minerals. By the time I finished secondary school, I not only knew my country was “rich,” but that Africa itself was “rich” because we had so many natural resources.

Even though I didn’t study geology, I could almost tell you where all these precious minerals and other resources were found: oil, diamonds, platinum, gold, copper… in places like Congo, there were names of some things I couldn’t even pronounce.

__Yes, Africa is so rich!!!

As a young student, if I thought about what the global buyers of Africa’s natural resources then did with them, it was only ever a superficial thought. But I soon realized something didn’t add up…

__Sometimes it almost seemed that the “richer” a country, the poorer the people! But how could this be?

“1+1=2″! My primary school teacher drummed it into my head, right?

Then I got to secondary school and one day the teacher came in and said, “You know, there are situations when 1+1 does not always add up to 2.”  ?!

“I’m here to talk about mathematics,” the teacher said. “It’s time to put away the arithmetic; this is senior school!”

“Senior school!”

I didn’t end my study of mathematics in secondary school. I also studied it at university where I majored in engineering.

What was it the Apostle Paul said about putting away childish things?!

Let me return to the wealth of our nations:  I left university in the early 1980’s. In those days, it was not China that was rising into an economic giant, it was Japan! It was rising and overtaking every European country, until Japan was second only to America… It was so spectacular!

I first met a Japanese person when I was in my twenties and already working, yet I read every single book I could find about their prowess.

“Tell me about the minerals of your country?” I asked my Japanese friend.

“We have no minerals to talk of,” he said emphatically and proudly.

“What do you mean you have no minerals?”

As we talked about the Japanese rise, I was reminded of my lessons in mathematics!

And so I had discovered it was possible for a nation to be “rich” without minerals!

“We buy your minerals as cheaply as we can, and then we turn them into high-value products.”

“You mean you exploit us?”

“That’s not the way we see it. After all, what would you do with them if we didn’t buy them? Do you know what we do with your platinum or your oil?”

Then he added:

# “Our wealth creation model as a nation is not based on raw materials and minerals.”


Deeply troubled (even insulted) initially, I knew there was something more to learn if I avoided becoming emotional.  The conclusions I reached changed the way I look at wealth, and totally empowered me. It changed my mindset.

The Tentmaker once said that our greatest battle is always in our minds… changing the way see things, particularly if we have held on to a certain perspective for a long time.

I hope it will do the same for you.

See my next post.

To be continued. . .

by 23 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.

23 thoughts on “The Eagle in a storm (Part 2a)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1. There’s a story told about a young Christian who was praying one day, and he asked God, “Why did you create the Universe?” And in his heart he heard God say to him, “Son, your mind is too small to contain my answer.” He’d ask the question again and again, making the subject of his interest ever smaller: “What about an ant?” Again the Lord answered him, saying, “Your mind is too small to contain my answer.” Finally frustrated, he picked up a peanut. Then (as the story goes) the Lord said to him, “let me give you a list of just 100 applications of the peanut that are yet to come!”

    What do you know of the cocoa bean and its uses today? There are billion-dollar industries waiting to be created with the raw materials of your country, that the world doesn’t even know about today.

    • Chris Ugo

      Great Article sir, I have been blessed by your articles just within a short time of following you on social media. The wealth of Africa is highly dependent on how we exploitatively utilise our untapped natural resources. Truly Sir, our wealth would only emerge when we decide to think outside the box. God bless you sir.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2. If you’re a school teacher, why not ask your students today to draw up lists of all the innovative things that are made from your country’s raw material exports.

    __In just this alone, you will have taken the first step to changing our wealth creation model. If they’re in high school, ask them to draw up a list of nations that are very successful and yet do not have natural resources. In this you will change their mindsets about wealth creation.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3. If you’re a policymaker, ask yourself what incentives your country has put in place to encourage entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors to develop exciting new products and services, and to invest in industries that use your raw materials? What policies encourage investors to come in and set up industries that rely on those raw materials? What tax breaks will you give me if I set up a manufacturing business that uses the oil, platinum or cocoa of your country?

    • tafadzwa beloved sithole

      this is the greatest message i ever herd……..
      yes its real but never thought about it, a country without raw material is reacher than a country with raw material.
      Africa we can do it
      thank you Dr. Strive Masiyiwa

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4. The late Shah of Iran once famously said that oil was too valuable to burn as petrol. One day we’ll find that platinum is too valuable to export as platinum, even when processed. We will not solve the problem by telling miners to process; we must give incentives to entrepreneurs and investors to develop products. We should be seeking to export watches, dental equipment, computer parts… and emerging technologies “made in Africa!”

  5. Hardlife Mucheka

    Thank you very much for continuously enlightening us on such important issues.Your advise can move mountains.Im always inspired by every post of yours.Keep the fire burning.

  6. Tentmaker263

    Dr. Masiyiwa, thank you for these wonderful life-lessons and for being a mentor to the youths of the world, the knowledge you have imparted on us is more valuable than gold! Regarding your article above, I would like to add that many Africans in the diaspora now have the know-how and personal capital to make Africa a dominant economic force but are hesitant to make a move because of moribund national policies in some African countries. I know this because I am an engineer and like many others in the diaspora, am uncertain about the feasibility of projects. It is difficult to forecast sales and create budgets in a volatile environment. As you often say, show me the numbers!

  7. Andrew Bonani Kamanga

    I commend the Executive Chairman, Mr Masiyiwa, for leading by example and sharing information on life and business. I trust that he will continue to be a role model not only for us but even our children and grandchildren. May God continue to prosper his businesses so that he can open the eyes and minds of children and youth in Africa and beyond. I have two sons, who are IT students and I always use the Executive Chairman’s life as an example that, with God , anything and everything is possible.

  8. Leonard Katamba

    I am very much blessed with your posts since I started following you in this January 2016. I am from ICT backgroung especially in Software development, but I have always thought of getting into business. However, I recall one your advise for successful running entrepreneur business is to make sure I develop key business skills.
    My request from you Sir, is guidance on the books list that you recommend to get me on track quickly.

    My passion is investing in Agriculture, Cattle Farming, Diary Products and Electricity from Bio gas.
    Currently, we (the family) own a piece of land around 3000 hectares, with around 700 hundred cows (but locally kept). The land is crossed by permanent river tributary with the flow of water 24/7 through out the year.

    My ambition is to formalize this business through capital mobilization for cattle fattening, diary products and bio gas electricity.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Leonard Katamba
    Dar es Salaam Tanzania, East Africa.

  9. Isaac

    Hello Mr Masiyiwa,
    Hope this finds you well. I have over the years admired your accomplishments together with your business principles that embody empowering the community & forming trustworthy partnerships. Further to the above, your work around educating the youth is beyond admirable.
    I write to you as I am currently a London based Uganda having spent 9 years in banking and now looking to go back to Africa to establish the above business. As a result, I am looking to learn from individuals such as yourself as a mentor to share your knowledge and expertise in whichever capacity suits you best.
    Unfortunately I can’t write fully to you on here however I would relish the opportunity to speak to you and share my vision and perhaps have fruitful conversation.

    Kind regards

  10. Kagondo Brian T

    Indeed there is a storm brewing VaMasiyiwa. Perhaps in the way you refer to the elementary mathematics lesson, I am searching for the answer to a few possibly simple questions: Why was I created? How do I know what minerals are within me that I can extract value from? And even more importantly, How do I gather the guts to start exploring “the minerals”.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Yemi Sanni,
    Thank you for drawing attention to the Wikipedia reference to George Washington Carver. He is indeed the person I was referring to in my afterthought about the young Christian.
    He is one of my great heroes. Here is what he said about his faith:

    “I was just a mere boy when converted, hardly ten years old. There isn’t much of a story to it. God just came into my heart one afternoon while I was alone in the ‘loft’ of our big barn while I was shelling corn to carry to the mill to be ground into meal.
    A dear little white boy, one of our neighbors, about my age came by one Saturday morning, and in talking and playing he told me he was going to Sunday school tomorrow morning. I was eager to know what a Sunday school was. He said they sang hymns and prayed. I asked him what prayer was and what they said. I do not remember what he said; only remember that as soon as he left I climbed up into the ‘loft,’ knelt down by the barrel of corn and prayed as best I could. I do not remember what I said. I only recall that I felt so good that I prayed several times before I quit.
    My brother and myself were the only colored children in that neighborhood and of course, we could not go to church or Sunday school, or school of any kind.
    That was my simple conversion, and I have tried to keep the faith.”

    — G. W. Carver; Letter to Isabelle Coleman; July 24, 1931

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Chiedza Vivian,

    I got really emotional after reading your comment sir.I relate to what you said in this comment,one year ago I gave birth to Kenzey a company precisely walking towards those steps.Growing up my father always sat me down and taught me his views of this world.I follow your page because you sound like my father whom I only see less frequently now because he is miles away.Thanx Dad for teaching me the best is in Africa and it is my duty to make Mama Africa shine.

    My reply:
    Thank you, I feel honored.
    Kenzey will be a great success!
    Stay blessed.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Hafeez writes,

    Dr , you need to organize development seminar for our leaders. God bless you.

    My reply,
    First of all this is (in substance) a development seminar.
    Secondly and perhaps most importantly the people who follow this platform are the most important leaders in Africa, and you are one of them. The day I think I’m not addressing the people who are shaping Africa’s future, I will stop immediately!

  14. Admire

    (personal response)
    Boss, I hereby respond to you. May you make it possible for me to start something in my life. I am at home and I can’t do anything. With $2000 I will be able to buy things that I will sell in South Africa. This is the business I have learnt over the years. May you help me Sir so that I may start doing something inorder to earn a living.
    I am at home. I will be turning 33years of age soon but I am suffering yet I am someone that came to you with viable business proposals.
    May you please assist me Sir.

  15. Suzanne

    It reminds me of this : God has put within each of us, some natural resources. We need to tap into them to improve our lives, improve our continent. Just like he put in Moses’ hand, a stick. With God’s help, Moses used it to create a seemingly impossible path for the israelites. One day He will come back and ask us what we have done with the natural resources he put within us.

  16. Ruva

    Thank you for giving me courage .Now i have something to do in my .May you contiue the good works you’re doing .

  17. Nisbert Makora

    Thank you Boss Masiyiwa i myself i first describe you as a messenger from the living God to show us light&path youths of Africa as myself iam blessed with your teachings may God bless you & your entire business.


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