The story of Strive Masiyiwa‘s fight against corruption in Africa is not new. In fact the phrase “business integrity” about sums up Strive’s empire building story. It only makes sense, therefore, for him to tell that story in the hopes it helps the continent learn from it and change.
In recent weeks Strive Masiyiwa has used his blog (and Facebook page) to tell in more detail than before how specific people corruptly tried to block his access to a licence network in Zimbabwe, and, in the case of Nigeria, demanded bribes from his business.
A fellow blogger and entrepreneur in Nigeria who got in touch this morning acknowledged that there are some “mean a** crazy people” in Nigeria. He could have of course substituted Nigeria for Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa etc… and the crazies in the picture wouldn’t change.
These crazy types have helped justify the stereotype of Africans that have no clue how to grow an economy, only knowing how to reap where they didn’t sow and loot an economy to its knees.
Interestingly though, this Nigerian contact, not knowing much of Strive’s story outside the Econet Wireless Nigeria chapter, wondered because of the level of detail in exposure, if Strive himself isn’t just “a hypocritical fraud”. Such is the risk of telling the story and I’m sure Strive’s is aware.
I don’t believe Strive is a fraud of course so I told him this and other parts of the bigger story that are not so apparent when just dealing with the Nigerian chapter. I had largely ignored these recent posts, but this conversation helped me realise how important such corruption fighting stories being told in detail is.
Any young business person will tell you how the reality of corruption in Zimbabwe has smacked them in the face numerous times in their quest to build a business along the straight and narrow. It happens even when working with private businesses, but it’s worse when politicians (or just the politically connected) are part of the equation.
These stories are told privately and you’ll hear how people have either given up and have resorted to bribing and rationalised it somehow as part of the journey, or how they’ve had enough and “have decided to leave this God forsaken continent!” These responses, of course, help the corruption continue unabated. It becomes the normal way of business in Africa!
This is why Strive Masiyiwa’s stories are important. He makes it clear that there actually is a viable alternative, and by looking at his amazing success – he’s one of Africa’s richest people – it’s easy to see that business integrity is actually the better way to do business.
The crazy thing about corruption is that few people challenge it because it usually attracts even more misery especially when politicians are involved – there’s a reason Strive had to flee Zimbabwe eventually. Witness stories like Strive’s not only help people understand how real corruption is, but they’re powerful in fighting it in the now and future.
They also, hopefully, inspire a generation of individuals – a Facebook generation that he speaks to, he now has a million followers! – to see corruption for the economic mess it creates for everyone in a country (and continent) as a whole.
Hopefully, people can see how they can, even individually, do their small part even when there’s risk in doing so. Because the bigger risk is an economy on its knees.