London-based telecoms tycoon, 60, Strive Masiyiwa who fled Zimbabwe is now trying to provide Africa with Covid vaccines while sitting on Netflix and Unilever boards. Mr Masiyiwa, considered as one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians, is currently the African Union’s special envoy on the pandemic. And the businessman, a father of six, has recently secured 400 million doses of the Covid vaccine for the continent – home to 1.3billion people.
He was born in the very racist apartheid country Rhodesia – now modern day Zimbabwe – in 1961. When he was seven his parents fled the country amid the unrest the country’s declaration of independence from Britain.
His family moved to Zambia, where Mr Masiyiwa attended primary school, before moving to the UK aged 12.
He attended a private secondary school in Scotland – paid for by his entrepreneur mother – before later earning an engineering degree from the University of Wales.
For a short time he worked in Cambridge in the computer industry, but later returned to Africa.
Upon returning to Zimbabwe in 1984, four years after it had gained independence from Britain, Mr Masiyiwa began working in telecoms. He set up his company Econet in 1993.
In 1998, despite opposition from then Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe – who died in 2019 – he launched a mobile phone network.
Mugabe refused to give him a license to operate his business. But Mr Masiyiwa took on the controversial leader to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe.
After a five year legal battle, which took him to the brink of bankruptcy, he won and was given the green light to set up the network.
Today the company, known as Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, is the second-largest by market capitalisation.
He later told Forbes that the launch of the network took place ‘at a time when 70 per cent of the country inhabitants had never heard a ringtone’.
Mr Masiyiwa is also known as one of the most prolific African philantropists, focusing in particular on young people.
He founded the Higherlife Foundation together with his wife Tsitsi, which pays school fees for some 40,000 students in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi and Lesotho who are either orphaned or from low-income families.
He has provided scholarships to more than 250,000 young Africans over the past 20 years through his family foundation.
The couple also established the Ambassador Andrew Young Scholarship, which enables African students to attend the Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, US.
In 2012, President Barack Obama invited Masiyiwa and four other business leaders to attend the 38th G8 summit at Camp David to address them on strategies on how to increase food production and end poverty in parts of Africa.
And in 2014, Fortune Magazine named Masiyiwa as one of the 50 most influential business leaders in the world.
He made the Forbes billionaire sheet in 2018, with his total worth then estimated to be around $2.3billion.