What is Strive Masiyiwa running away from?


Most Zimbabweans must have been shocked by headlines over the weekend that Econet boss Strive Masiyiwa does not own the country’s largest mobile phone company.

“Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is a public listed company, with tens of thousands of shareholders. Virtually every person who has a pension of any kind or insurance policy is an indirect shareholder as well.

“I have never personally held more than 50%, since it was listed. So I actually don’t own the company. I’m simply the largest single shareholder.”

Very true. But having followed Strive Masiyiwa since 1990 before he launched Econet but was the owner of Retrofit, I was a little dumbfounded.

It is common knowledge that Econet was listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange in 1998 and it has been linked to Masiyiwa since. So why is Masiyiwa telling us today that he does not own the company?

Is it not like Bill Gates saying he does now own Microsoft or Mark Zuckerberg saying he does not own Facebook?

I have therefore been asking myself: What prompted Masiyiwa to issue that statement?

Is it fair to say that every person who has a pension or insurance policy is an indirect shareholder of Econet?

If Strive Masiyiwa does not own Econet, then who does?

When Econet was listed on the ZSE in 1998 it was hailed as one of the biggest indigenous business successes, young black business entrepreneurs had made sure that the listing was a success in the face of a hostile government which had resisted the establishment of the company and its mobile phone network.

But over the years, Masiyiwa has sidelined the indigenous business people that helped him list the company which is now one of the biggest in the country.

Ownership of the company has also increasingly become opaque.

The company’s top 10 shareholders, as of last year, for example, own 87 percent of the company, and almost all are anonymous- that is they are either behind a company or are nominees.

Although Econet’s financial year ends in February, it has not yet released its annual report for 2019.

Econet Global Limited owns a whopping 42.62 percent of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.

Econet Global Limited is registered in Mauritius which is one of the world’s leading tax havens.

Records show that there are 21 registered companies under this corporate group.

Continued next page


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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