By Jacob Mutisi
DR STRIVE Masiyiwa, thank you for serving the telecommunications, financial services, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) with ultimate distinction. Some describe you as the son of the soil, are you really the son of soil?
Did we as a nation make you feel that you are indeed a son of the soil?
Zimbabwe’s national saying goes, “nyika inovakwa nevene vayo”, meaning “a nation is built by its owners”. Let us allow those capacitated intellectually and otherwise to give Zimbabwe a chance. Here is a son of the soil, born in Zambia because his parents suffered from colonial persecution from the colonisers. He is the first black Zimbabwean billionaire who has now opted to settle in the United Kingdom (UK), Zimbabwe’s colonial power that used to persecute and oppress the black majority in our motherland, Zimbabwe.
For an African, a former oppressed African to opt to reside in the land of colonialists speaks volumes of ills in his home country. Surely there is something wrong with Zimbabwe’s ruling elite.
It is on record and in the public domain that we had a government system that was constantly throwing spanners in the works, making it virtually impossible for his ICT business to operate. Masiyiwa overcame all the obstacles thwarting his efforts, yet the second republic has not rewarded him for such huge strides. Meanwhile, the Western world is celebrating this great man’s achievements by rewarding him with full British citizenship and broadcasting to the world that he is the first black BRITISH billionaire.
For God’s Sake, how do we then expect investors to come to Zimbabwe when our only black Zimbabwean billionaire finds our business environment not accommodative?
Zimbabwe has not given him the befitting recognition that he deserves and his only crime was to push for the establishment of his business and expand his business in Zimbabwe. We live in a country where ICT is one of the promising economic drivers and the biggest contributor to the fiscus. This was acknowledged by President Mnangagwa who said, “ICT is an enabler to grow GDP”. There have been numerous calls imploring upon the international business communities to come and invest under the “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” mantra, may the Presidium’s attention be drawn to the urgent need to give credit to such fine and outstanding business moguls and local entrepreneurs.
Surely, there must be something wrong. Zimbabwe’s billionaire has not set foot in Zimbabwe for close to 20 years. Zimbabwe’s country mantra says it all, “We are open for business”. Do we live in a democratic Zimbabwe? Masiyiwa is founder and former chairperson of the country’s main telecommunications group, Econet Wireless.
Econet Wireless over the last two decades has grown into a global telecommunications enterprise with a presence in more than 15 countries in Africa, Europe and the East Asia-Pacific region.
Masiyiwa sits on many international boards and is currently involved in many initiatives to promote entrepreneurship and social development in Africa which is vital for Zimbabwe’s young innovators.
The other sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy have been grappling with various challenges due to the economic turmoil. It is a fact that ICT remained an economic driver with Masiyiwa in the driving seat of Zimbabwe’s tremendous economic growth during the past two decades.
To ride on this impressive international profile and build international confidence, it is imperative for the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately consider engaging the likes of Masiyiwa.
The creation of an investor-friendly environment to lure and retain such need not be overemphasised. A conducive environment will enable the Strives of this world to unlock investment opportunities in Zimbabwe.
It is envisaged that the good news of Masiyiwa’s investing in his home on the international platforms and international media would lure investors to our great country.
Short of this, investors may continue to shun this destination. The time is long overdue for Zimbabwe as a country to honour its own blood, consider rolling out the red carpet for him and not just for the likes of Aliko Dangote, the Russians and the Chinese.
We need to acknowledge and appreciate our own blood the likes of Dr Strive Masiyiwa, Paul Maritz, James Manyika, Sifiso Dabengwa, to mention but a few.
Zimbabwe stands to benefit immensely from this worthy cause move.
There is hope of economic transformation. As ICT chairperson of the Zimbabwe Institution for Engineers (ZIE) and the Zimbabwe Internet Service Provider’s Association (ZISPA) we would like to remind our political leadership to remember that they were once in exile and Masiyiwa’s crime was to simply to run a business and is now in exile and exile was just for survival and many illustrious Zimbabweans did the same and are now leading this great nation.
Let us create a safe passage for our countrymen and women to return to the country of their birth and help drive the economic growth that the Government of Zimbabwe desires.
Remember, “nyika inovakwa nevene vayo” of whatever hue.
- Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers.