The Faith of Strive Masiyiwa

It can sometimes seem difficult to find ways to marry your faith with your business. In a predominately secular business world, being open about your faith can sometimes feel like a liability. But there are numerous examples of successful businesspeople all around us that show how powerfully faith can lift up a business.

Look no further than Zimbabwean Telecom billionaire, Strive Masiyiwa, who started his first business with just $75 and a belief that hard work, and a desire to do right by his fellow man was enough to build something valuable. From the beginning he took a Biblical approach to operating his business, though it would be years before he came to a personal relationship with Christ. 

Masiyiwa was educated and began his construction business in the UK, then moved his product offering to telecom when he realized the revolutionary potential of mobile technology for Africa. 

Like most business owners Masiyiwa faced hardships along the way. Case in point –  he requested a license to cellular frequencies from the Robert Mugabe government. Mugabe refused to grant a license, claiming he had potential for becoming a monopoly. Masiyiwa sued the government. Almost immediately, Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court ruled against him, leaving seemingly no chance for appeal. It appeared his dreams of a pan-African mobile network were doomed. 

It was then that his wife convinced him to go to church with her. 

Masiyiwa recalls, ‘It seemed as though everyone in the room except me was so happy! The young American pastor was preaching about Jesus Christ, whom I thought I had known all my life. Now I realized that I did not know Him; I only knew of Him.” That moment changed everything for him. He borrowed a second-hand Bible, and read the entire thing in two weeks, committing his life (and business) fully to Christ. 

With renewed determination, he dove back into the fight against the Mugabe government. Five years, and thousands of prayers later, Masiyiwa was granted the license and the means to grow a mobile technology company. 

Today, Econet Wireless, operates in more than 15 countries and enjoys a majority share of Zimbabwe users. The company began offering mobile banking, and within 18 months, some 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s GDP was passing through its networks.

If his story ended here, it would be a powerful testament to the strength of Christ in the lives of businesspeople who are fully committed. But over the years Masiyiwa has grown into one of the most prolific philanthropists in Africa and around the world. As part of the The Giving Pledge, Masiyiwa spends nearly as much time and money giving back as he does growing Econet Wireless. He is the co-founder of the Capernaum Trust, a Christian charity that sponsors the education of over 28,000 Zimbabwean orphans, he founded the environmental group the Carbon War Room with Sir Richard Branson, and sits on countless boards from Grow Africa to organizations leading the charge against HIV/AIDS and Ebola.

Throughout his career and philanthropic activities, Strive Masiyiwa has demonstrated Christ’s teachings, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” focusing his prodigious business talents on those activities that serve to lift others and spread the goodness of God’s riches. 

What lessons from Masiyiwa’s life could you apply in your own business? What are 3 ways you could help others in your community, country or around the world?

If these are the types of topics that keep you up at night, you’re the type of entrepreneur we’d like to see in February for the 2020 Arrow Entrepreneur cohort in Toronto. Arrow Entrepreneur is a fast-paced, highly interactive, professionally facilitated encounter for Christian business owners just like you. Set up your interview today to join a generation of Jesus-centered entrepreneurs as we build a better world, one business at a time.