Econet head of e-commerce quits. Here’s the group’s CEO of e-commerce

Econet Wireless HQ

Remember Econet Wireless’s Head of e-commerce, James Gibson? We wrote about his arrival at Econet last year. Coming from a Rocket Internet e-commerce startup, he appeared to have been recruited to lead Econet’s e-commerce efforts in the region starting with Zimbabwe’s Tengai.

We have received information from sources telling us that even though his Linkedin says he’s still at Econet, Gibson  left last week. It’s not clear where he’s headed to but some suggestion are he’s joining a company in the Middle East. Gibson was generally seen as the guy leading the Ownai operation, which was launched, relaunched and relaunched yet again during the second half of 2015.

Information we have is that Gibson was the man on the ground in Zimbabwe, but the the executive actually in charge of the group’s e-commerce operations is Cape Town based Neil Schwartzman, whose LinkedIn confirms he has been CEO E-Commerce at Econet Wireless International since as early as October 2014. This likely means that Gibson’s departure has minimum disruption on Ownai.

We asked Econet about Gibson’s departure and possible replacement and this what they shared:

We confirm that Mr James Gibson has left to pursue other interests and we wish him well. His replacement will be notified if and when it becomes appropriate.

On who Schwartzman is, his e-commerce experience includes being General Manager at Naspers’s classifieds operation, OLX, and before that Chief product Officer at the now defunct Kenya based Mocality, a Naspers company.

As for Ownai, it’s been about 3 months now since the stable launch of the marketplace. It will be interesting to see how it is growing so far in terms of people discovering and actually buying stuff through it. The generous SMS promotion to Econet’s huge subscriber base locally, and the data zero rating has likely contributed a great deal to the growth as it’s been proven to do. However it is faring, we hope to know in about two months when Econet releases its annual financials.


  1. Anonymous

    Gibson is a mercenary!

    1. E

      Well its either the challenge . Movement in posts. Or the money either way hes acting in a clever manner you never know with econet mangwana unomuka usina basa.

    2. BYOcoder

      Probably a smart move for him. All our telcos are struggling and I can’t see how it will improve before 2018. I think they must focus on providing reliable network coverage rather than all these new services. Get the basics right before you ask us to use Ecommerce when half of us struggle to access the Internet.

      1. kuzai

        Econet have a bad record of retaining expat employees in zim – don’t think they have any left. I wonder what the company’s local staff would do if they had the luxury to pack their bags and leave? I’m sure a lot would jump.

    3. Marunda


      1. Oby

        Kana ashaya kwauri rega kutaurira vamwe. Lets push this online community with necessary criticism, please.

        1. Mazvikokota

          Even Iwe washaya because mercenary yapinda papi?

      2. Anonymous

        he probably realised zim wasnt quite ready for e-commerce. its all very well creating a useful website and even zero-rating it, but if the network doesn’t give you relaible access to the internet, whats the point. i wish econet invested more in making sure i can use data whereever i am and not just the middle of harare. alls operators must fix the basics before thy promote services that I can’t take full advantage of!

  2. Stop It!!!!!

    Econet head of e-commerce quits. Here’s the group’s CEO of e-commerce
    hehehehe natives ……..English never loved us

  3. Anonymus

    Well, nothing changes really

  4. Tatenda

    Shame. Met him a few times and seemed to be good guy with lots of ideas on how to grow ecommerce here in zim. I wonder what will now happen to ownai…

    1. Anonymous

      you’re right. I contacted him last year for some advice on an online shoping idea He agreed to meet up and he spent over an hour helping me draft a business plan. was so great an experience,

  5. Marunda

    Pa Econet Hapashandike nana Magaya vaye vanobva vaita se tuck shop yake. This guy can only be off to something better.

  6. kchimwanda

    I personally think they gave it a wrong name in the first place. I don’t know why Ownai sounds Chinese?

    My question is, what do you relate Ownai with, assuming its your first time hearing the name?

    1. Mazvikokota

      I have no idea what that is! You are so right! Thought it had to do with sight under Econet health!!

  7. Paul.d

    gibson was in charge of Econet’s ecommerce retail projects such as Ownai and ecoshopper. Schwartzman Is focused on ecoschool, muzinda hub and a some other online projects from what I understand. Not sure what that means for ownai now but I guess now that they’ve launched the website it can just carry on.

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      Thanks for the information.

  8. ecommerce

    How is ownai ecommerce? Have they said they allowing online selling or is it just going to be a classifieds?

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