Reflection: A disastrous cyclone hit Madagascar, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi
__What might you be able to do to help?
By now you will have realized that every now and again we interrupt our program on this platform to focus our attention on a major event in our communities, Africa or on a global scale. Last week, just as I was leaving Nairobi and about to embark on a long-planned visit to Japan, I learned that Cyclone Idai (called a hurricane in America) had built up high winds and rains, and was headed straight toward Madagascar and Mozambique. An expert told me he thought this one looked like a “monster," and it was, maybe the deadliest tropical cyclone that has ever hit Africa...
Sadly, we don't yet know the official numbers of lost lives and injuries because communications remain down in many places with some people still missing. May I take a moment to express my deep condolences to all affected by this tragedy. Our Econet and Higher Life teams are doing what we can to help support relief efforts, but a huge rebuilding effort will be required in all the countries affected.
Cyclone Idai caused not just loss of life, but also loss of livelihoods. March is harvest season and whole crops were wiped out with countless livestock drowned. Floods and winds destroyed businesses, schools, clinics, churches, roads and communications infrastructure. It is a shocking disaster with whole parts of towns in Mozambique under water! National GDP growth will obviously be affected in these countries.
When I heard of the arriving storm I immediately cancelled my trip and reached out to the type of people I know who have deep empathy. “What can I do to help?” soon became “What can WE do to help?”
I have mentioned a few days ago, but I want to share again just a few special heartwarming #actions, that I personally know about:
# As rivers flooded and bridges crashed down around them, Chimanimani Hotel management immediately opened its doors to to provide shelter and food for hundreds of nearby residents, appealing to others everywhere to help out with donated goods. A stabilization center was set up at the hotel. Donations continue to flow in.
# After receiving a report of people stuck in trees and on rooftops waiting to be rescued, someone on my team asked: “Does anyone know someone who knows how to rescue people from raging rivers?” Then someone had an idea. “Let’s ask the guys who do white water rafting in Victoria Falls…”
So we called them. Next they all packed their boats into a big truck and drove to use their skills plucking people from trees and rooftops. The company which organized the operation is called Shearwater Zimbabwe and they even added a helicopter to help with the rescue.
# We have farmers who sent tractors and donated piles of other goods like bottled water, food tins, clothes, blankets, medicines, buckets, and much more.
# A guy called me from a South Africa group called “Gift of the Givers”. In a deep Afrikaans accent, he asked, “Are you Strive Masiyiwa?”
“I have over 40 guys we have put together doctors, nurses, climbers, firefighters. We have experience in rescue missions. We are all kitted to go tomorrow. We just need some logistics support.”
“Thanks neighbor!” I shouted. They were heading from Cape Town to Chipinge where they were going to work with some of our Econet guys who had set up locally to provide support.
There are many many more such stories of heroism and generosity.
Now here are a few principles I was taught to follow when you #really WANT to ACT:
#1. Set aside everything else that you are doing. Focus your attention on that one thing.
#2. Set your mind initially on a real action that you can take that later on will enable you to say to yourself, “I helped save someone’s life”. It’s amazing how once you commit yourself in this way, doors just begin to open for you to do more and more.
#3. What is in your hand? What do you have in your house? It does not matter how small and insignificant it looks to you. It matters.
Some people have found themselves to have remarkable skills and talents simply because they stepped out to respond to a crisis.
#4. “Put aside differences with people”
Find common cause with people who want to act, even if you have differences with them. If a fire is burning at your house will you chase away someone who turns up with a water bowser because you have an existing fight with them?
I will start drawing up lists of people who can help, including those with the official responsibility to help (even if I’m critical of how they may have managed affairs before).
“How can I help you carry out your job?”
#5. Respond sacrificially of yourself and your resources. It is not a time to hold back. You will never suffer loss simply because you took time off to go and help a neighbor.
#6. Go the extra mile…
My grandfather was a rural entrepreneur and I learnt something from his life. He always kept a few things in his truck.
“These are to help a neighbor who might be in trouble” he would say, “so don’t touch them.”
As an entrepreneur, you are a citizen and a member of your community, both locally and globally. You are going to be called upon time and time again to respond to a crisis.
I hope that you create a #mindset of my grandfather: “It is a sacred thing to respond to the needs of those in difficulty”.
God bless you.
Image Credit: Highlands Presbyterian Church - Harare
If you have an idea, get started (Part 2)
__You need a co-founder.
In my last post, in which I talked about what you need to do when you have an idea, I said, “You must be honest in assessing your own capability, as well as weaknesses”... When I started Econet in 1993, I had already been in business for six years. I was running a successful engineering construction company, then I had this brilliant idea after learning about a new technology called GSM...
Every day after hours, I would read sometimes until 3am, doing research on this new industry. There was no Internet at the time so I could not do a “Google search”. I also travelled to trade shows to learn more. I was convinced this was the future.
Next I began to work on a business plan. It showed me that I would need US$10m. This was like a billion dollars in those days for someone in my position. The most I had ever raised was $300,000! When I talked to guys at the bank, they started using banking terminology I had never heard before!
It was beginning to sound like I was out of my league.
“You need about $5m in equity, and as the business grows, you will need even more equity. You are going to be diluted to maybe 5% or less, by the time this is off the ground,” a banker friend explained.
Yes, I had six years of experience. Yes, I had 700 employees in my existing business, and had already won both "Businessman of The Year," and "Industrialist of the Year" awards (the country’s highest awards for business), but I knew, listening to the advisors, that I did not have the capability, YET, to raise this kind of money.
__Next: I needed to find someone to advise me who had experience in raising big money.
My research turned to looking for the type of people who had the experience...
I approached the only banker I knew with this type of international exposure. He worked for one of the international banks. I was excited when my research showed me he had a degree in physics. That is how detailed I was in my research!
I made a very technical pitch to him, and he was excited.
“We will act as your advisors,” he agreed.
They were not cheap, but I knew it would add to my credibility, so I signed their mandate.
__Next: I knew my company accountant would not be able to handle this.
“We need someone on your team who understands Project Finance. This business of yours will need continuous financing.”
I started to search for someone who had banking experience.
“I want to hire a banker, as Finance Director,” I told a friend.
“Why would a banker want to come and work for you?" my friend asked. "They are highly paid!”
Then I heard that there was a banker who had just returned to the country and was looking to start his own bank... (This reminds me of a conversation I heard between PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman on one of his "Masters of Scale" podcasts. I really urge you to look up!)
This is what I said to Jeff Mzwimbi:
“Come and work with me for a few years. I will teach you how to be an entrepreneur, and you can teach me how to raise Project Finance.”
“I don’t really want to work for someone,” he protested.
“It’s not a job. You can be my partner," I said. "Free equity, 10%. You can leave as soon as the business is up and running.”
Initially, he agreed to come as my advisor to meetings with the banks. But after a few weeks, he was hooked!
Soon he took over all discussions with banks and financing partners. I returned to being an engineer, and Chief Entrepreneur!
We would be together for several years, and true to our agreement, when the company listed in 1998, he left to go and start his own business. I headed to South Africa for the next stage in my journey:
Notice how I addressed the problem of raising capital:
__I focused on getting knowledge. My own capability was being the "ideas guy" who had an engineering background. But I had a weakness: I did not know how to raise the kind of money needed to build a business.
How about you?
__What weaknesses do you have that needs to be addressed before you can move to the next level, and what are you willing to pay to deal with it?
Despite his extraordinary genius, Bill Gates needed Paul Allen and Steve Balmer; Mark Zuckerberg needed Sheryl Sandberg; Larry Page needed Sergey Brin, and soon they both realized they needed Eric Schmidt. The list is endless!
They are called “co-founders”! Some venture capital investors will not even consider investing in you, if they don’t see your co-founder. The co-founder is there to take risk with you, share your vision and also to plug a gap in one of the 3Ps! The best co-founder is not an employee, but an entrepreneur themselves.
__Sometimes they are looking to launch their own ventures but also recognize their own weaknesses which can only be solved by becoming someone else’s co-founder.
Some of you are trying to find some big company or established Big Man, when what you need right now is a co-founder!!
Let me close with this secret:
Some of you have been on this platform for as long as five years. By now you should already have used this platform to reach out to potential co-founders of your venture.
Image caption: Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at the Frankfurt BookFair in 2004.
Pause: From vision to action...
__#ReImaginingRural, starting at home!
I have a vision. I call them Rural Entrepreneurship Centers. Each one would be located at a business center in rural Africa, powered by a solar "mini-grid" providing enough electricity for any small business activity, plus Internet cafes, and eventually, clean water and sanitation. Last week we launched a new company to roll out these "mini-grids"! It is called Ugesi Energy. Here's the link: www.ugesienergy.com Let me know what you think!
My wife suggested and I agreed that we should start out in the Matabeleland provinces of Zimbabwe, where we will roll out the first 10 "mini-grids" over the next six months! Teams have already arrived in Bulawayo, the regional capital, and will start work within two weeks.
I want each Ugesi Energy-powered Rural Entrepreneurship Center (REC) to attract entrepreneurs and innovators of all kinds!
We know entrepreneurs need financial support to get started, so a couple of weeks ago we launched the $100m Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund in my home country of Zimbabwe. Through Steward Bank, loans of up to $10k will be disbursed at 5% interest, to entrepreneurs who show they can set up and scale their ventures in rural areas. The Masiyiwa Fund is an “impact investment” supported by our family foundation.
Anyone from Zimbabwe with an interesting business that can be based in or within a 5k radius of these RECs will be able to apply for a loan, without having to put up collateral. Applications will be processed using our AI platform called Kwenga.
At each REC, I want to see shared economy businesses like KariGo and HelloTractor offering contract ploughing services to local farmers. I want to see agritech and agrifood ventures. I want to see young people with their own visions launching amazing new #ReImagineRural businesses!
#AgripreneurAlert: What businesses might you set up in a REC, if you had access to electricity, Internet, and a loan of up to $10,000?
Already we have people planning to set up businesses such as poultry, cottage dairies, welding and sewing shops. Others are talking about food products such as tomatoes and fresh vegetables. Others have new innovations in mind...
What about the rest of Africa? If the Zimbabwe pilot is successful, I will encourage other African countries also to adopt this model. Already I have targeted Rwanda, Burundi, Lesotho and Botswana as potential countries for similar projects. Are you in?
Success for me is not just rural Zimbabwe. I want to scale this vision across Africa!
I have spoken to several global philanthropists about #ReImagineRural. The response has been remarkable, principally because I have “skin in the game” -- an African philanthropist putting his own money on the table.
But we cannot do it alone. I need you to succeed once an opportunity like this is opened. Don’t allow fraudsters and others to ruin it. Be vigilant even if you are not benefiting immediately. Help me to help you!
For instance, if people who get these loans from Steward Bank don't pay them back on time, it will hurt the community's ability to get future loans. When they do repay as promised, it will grow the fund for the community!
#SeniorClass, please share with others on the platform here about the Grameen Bank model and how it works.
Your generation must define the future. Who will take up my challenge?
What can you do #RightWhereYouAre?
I know times are very, very tough, in many places. Still like eagles in the storm, you must stay focused and keep your eyes open for opportunities. They are out there!
What is your own vision? What do you see?
This is how we begin (Part 2)
__Never stop listening and learning.
Last week I mentioned a favorite quote: #34;If you want to truly succeed, identify a human need, and reach out to solve it.#34; As an entrepreneur, let me add this: Don#39;t simply focus only on what you yourself see as the need; also do your homework to understand the problem from many different angles. You do this by never stopping the process of listening and learning from others, including customers and other credible experts who you respect.
As you all know, sometimes #really will share advice or ideas that you don#39;t agree with, or even that you don#39;t really want to hear at all. However, sometimes what you hear in that case can actually be the most helpful to your thinking, even if you still don#39;t agree with them!
__Listening and learning are a never-ending part of the entrepreneurial #ReImagineRural.
Now I#39;m leaving Singapore shortly and I have a lot to write you about (I have been reading your comments), but today let me first go ahead and finish the story I started in my last post. You will remember I was talking about Uber and Lyft, the two multibillion dollar App-based ride-hailing companies, one which was inspired by a (visionary) entrepreneurial tourist who got an idea whilst watching busy traffic in a certain African city...
Not long ago, I started talking to some of our innovative team about these two amazing businesses. As usual, they had some ideas:
Mr Masiyiwa, this works exactly like our mobile money. In fact, the coding structure is very similar. The revenue model is exactly the same,#34; said one of our innovators.
#34;In our mobile money business, like EcoCash, our entrepreneur is the guy who owns the shop (and the money) -- the EcoCash agent. We source customers using our platform, we create the exchange mechanism, and we are paid a commission,#34; he continued.
#34;70% of the money we get goes to the mobile money agent (entrepreneur) who provides the money.#34;
Uber does exactly the same thing: The vehicle is like a mobile money agents #34;shop#34;. The driver is like our own mobile money #34;agent#34;.
Uber sources customers for the entrepreneur and gets a commission. They use a highly sophisticated platform which the customer accesses using an App. Uber gives about 60% of the money to the driver.
#34;We could build this platform quite easily because we have the people at EcoCash.
Lets set up a project to develop our own transport platform, I finally ordered.
The project team was to look at all platforms that have sprung up around the world, and study their different models.
We chose a team leader.
Soon he came back with different ideas, and also suggestions for us to buy into some startups that had sprung up in Africa.
One of those startups is a company based in Nigeria called KariGo. They focus on delivery services of packages for large companies in Nigeria. We bought into them, and gave them capital. Now they are planning a pan African expansion.
Meanwhile development began in earnest.
Our own App was finally ready!
I want to see innovations that are not on any other platform, I began.
We have added a lot of special features to take on competition which could include Uber, too.
My team was beaming with excitement.
What shall we call it? I asked.
We have come up with a name: #39;VAYA#39; which means #39;Lets go!#39; in Ndebele.
I like that!
Harare, Zimbabwe. Econet Group has 5,000 employees in that city alone. We can test the platform through them before going to customers.
Good idea. But I want it across Africa within a year, I said.
We are on it. We hope to launch in a new country every month.
25th October 2018!
__This is how we start!
Congratulations to our growing Vaya team which is already recruiting drivers in Zimbabwe by the hundreds (growing to the thousands in the next three months), and will be expanding into several other African countries as soon as early December.
__If you have a small van, car, motor bike or even bicycle and would like to get started as an entrepreneur, why not join this new industry? You can find out more at https://www.vayaafrica.com
So many of the things I taught you are here... I want you to draw up a list of 5x entrepreneurial lessons from this post.
To be continued. . .