Entrepreneur Writes To Strive Masiyiwa And POTRAZ, Says Econet Stole His Idea

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar
Strive Masiyiwa, Forbes Net worth

When startups pitch to big companies there is usually some fear on their end as they are afraid of getting their ideas stolen and them being left in the dust. One such person who claims they were affected by this is Ignatius Munengwa. He claims Econet stole an idea he pitched to them back in 2011.

Last year, he took the telecommunications giant to court over the issue (the issue is not yet resolved in court) and it seems now he is back! He has sent a letter of complaint to POTRAZ (the regulator for all telecommunication companies in the country) over the same issue and seems to be fighting his battle on two fronts now.

A quick recap…

In 2011 M Comm pitched a security response product called ‘Panic Button.’ This product was supposed to be linked to security companies’ rapid response to Econet’s mobile network.

M Comm say they had already secured a partnership with one of the largest security companies to deal with the response side of things and were now just waiting on a mobile network operator (MNO) to provide the interface with the security companies. This is why they approached Econet and Ignatius Munengwa signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Munengwa also said Econet did not sign the non-disclosure agreement due to a restructuring exercise. After this, he provided more information on how the business would work including information such as cash flow projections and profit sharing between Econet and M Comm.

According to Munengwa, in 2012 he was informed that the project had been suspended. After following up on the progress of the project for 3 years, in 2015 he was informed that the project was no longer viable due to its potential in terms of revenue and subscriber growth or retention impact.

In November of 2015, the same year Munengwa’s idea was rejected, Econet launched Connected Home. The connected home was designed to offer home surveillance and security, automated services for some domestic features. The service featured a rapid response system and Munengwa felt his idea was being implemented and he was not getting his dues.

To Mr Strive…

He posted on one of Strive Masiyiwa’s mentorship posts (from April 12) on Facebook. He was questioning the values held by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s management and why his company did not seem to follow the words he (Masiyiwa) spreads on Facebook. Here’s what Munengwa wrote to Masiyiwa:

I genuinely believed in your mantra of youth empowerment, innovation, integrity and fighting to protect your ideas and grow business in Africa through smart partnerships and therefore approached Econet to launch a unique product and discussed this with your management team here in Zimbabwe. To my dismay, I later learned that this unique product was going to be launched through the Econet Services without my involvement.

After trying several times to appeal to your management team, we ended up going to court to resolve this. My issue on this matter is how different your posts are to the ethos and ethical values represented by your organisation. The message you convey on various social media platforms is amazing but the integrity of the brand and team Econet in Zimbabwe is suffering under the reality that your company is seen to disempower young entrepreneurs like myself. A commonly held view among others that have tried to partner with Econet is this: you approach Econet for a strategic alliance and you work towards a solution and soon after exchanging information, Econet in bad faith, launches the idea or business model.

If your integrity and the values you promote on this platform are the core values driving your companies, then why is the management culture of your companies so divergent? I hope that you will take time to attend to what I am highlighting, if not for me, then for the sake of improving congruence of your well known personal values with the brands your name is synonymous with.

To the regulator…

He has also now taken his issue to POTRAZ and wrote a letter of complaint to them hoping they can also help him resolve his issue. In the letter he detailed what happened and went on to express his disappointment in Econet:

Econet has not acted in good faith and displayed a lack of integrity in the manner in which they have dealt with me. It is evident that Econet will disempower young entrepreneurs like myself for their own gain, rather than reward those who have genuinely engaged with them ideas that develop their business. I am therefore appealing for your intervention to review this matter as I seek equitable recompense for the utilisation of my business innovation which has been launched by Econet

Can POTRAZ actually resolve this issue?

Well, we are not really sure how exactly POTRAZ can resolve this issue since it’s already in the courts but we did reach out to some legal practitioners and we will be looking at how and if POTRAZ can actually influence this situation.

Also read: Why Would An Entrepreneur Report Econet To POTRAZ Over A Stolen Idea?



  1. James

    Not the first time @Econet and another MNO has been fingered in such activities.

  2. Tiki

    “Panic buttons are standard security products used in home security systems as well as business security systems.” http://www.zela-tech.co.za/articles/article-panic-buttons.html
    Anyone please google “panic button” and see what comes out. Been seeing these all my long life. Security and medical services companies do these things all the time using whichever medium is convenient and have no need to tie down a particular telco. Maybe there is more to it than what the article says.

  3. Tapiwa✓

    Munengwa also said Econet did not sign the non-disclosure agreement due to a restructuring exercise

    Oh oh.

  4. Dave

    Sounds like munengwas tryna get a quick buck from Econet, it was his full responsibility to sign the NDA if the idea was so innovative and original why didn’t he jus go and present it to another MNO?? 🤔

    1. Dori

      Indeed, the other beyond help ones with less that 15% market share, good plan B. Econet should not be allowed to retain such a majority – that’s the bottom line. Strive has become the very thing he was fighting back in the 90′. Sadly the rest of the MNO’s are so spectacularly hopeless it’s actually hard to even suggest how a regulator could go about regulating their grossly abused monopoly –

  5. mhofu

    Are there realy new ideas out there right now, like new new inventions or its jus perfecting of already existing technologies and products, the panic button idea was there so many years before Munengwa even thought of it or googled on it, now he wants to own it like its a new idea. nowadays goodle knows everything, if you want a new business idea google, u will get it, but it wont mean its the first in the world…

  6. Chineke Oga

    This habit of exploitation is not OK. There are a lot of ideas that are not patentable but still ground breaking in their nature. As usual this place is filled with comments from the usual dimwitted morons with a superficial understanding of business ethics. Monopolies are a dangerous thing not something to be celebrated. If you cannot learn from others you will eventually learn by experience that will the knock some of the smugness out of the sadists justifying this serial abuse of dominance

    1. Sagitarr

      How about sharing your “superior wealth of knowledge” on this ….? Calling others dimwitted and morons without differentiating yourself from them basically puts you at the same level….in my view. I’m also against monopolies btw.

  7. Worried

    Question is was it really a new idea… Cause Econet home was eventually coming with out without him… They would have just copied like mpesa and ecocash… Secondly you can do this straight off your phone… Set up the panic button off your phone and sent to the security company… Without the need for Econet. You don’t really need Econet to do anything. Your argument is invalid

  8. Worried

    Why did he not get them to sign the NDA… Also why did he even need Econet in the first place… Just have an app linked to a security company and done… Why did he need Econet in the first place

  9. $$$

    Why did he not get them to sign the NDA… Also why did he even need Econet in the first place… Just have an app linked to a security company and done… Why did he need Econet in the first place

  10. Clinton Dale Mutambo

    Connected Home is actually from Cumii. The same Cumii “Connected” suite which Mr Masiyiwa has mentioned on his own blog is licensed from a US co. http://www.cumii.net/

  11. Darren

    An NDA is not an appropriate protection for intellectual property. If an invention is a true invention and not just a replica of existing technology then it will be possible to patent it. That alone will give adequate protection for new ideas and inventions.

  12. Van Lee Chigwada

    Ah ideas. Ideas are worthless and can’t be defended in court.

    An implementation of an idea is the one that is copyrightable. If he claims Econet stole a patented implementation of his feature, then we have a case.

    Maybe Zim courts will handle it different but in most IP battles, that’s the ruling.

    Nobody signs NDAs on pitch. Nobody to date has been able to have me sign one.

  13. tip

    Oral agreements should be admissible in any court.
    Just google the Vodacom/call me back case

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