I once wrote an article titled ‘Yes we love Strive Masiyiwa but he is not untouchable.’ Some liked the article but many accused me of ‘hating Strive Masiyiwa.’ The reaction of the latter proved the point of the article.
In that article I suggested that most probably Masiyiwa himself agreed with me. It’s good to say, I was right (well kind of)! Here’s what Strive said:
Why some people struggle to see a business beyond a person:
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.
Whilst there are more than 5000 people work at the company, I have never actually seen or met 98% of them, including many of the senior leadership people.
You will still find even media people saying of a public listed entity “the Strive Masiyiwa owned business.” They will even ask me to intervene on things I have no idea about, and should not be expected to even know.
The reason for this is quite simple:
Such people are still trapped in a mindset of the #BigMan I wrote about on this post. They never shook away the BigMan idea developed when they were young.
This is not unique to Zimbabwe, and happens all over Africa:
Many of us simply struggle to see Institutions and corporate structure and see only a person.
If we are to build businesses that expand continentally and even globally, we need to put away simplistic understanding of how businesses are structured, and the rules by which they operate.
In Africa we have a big problem of business founders who believe they must not be accountable to anyone. They think like so, “I started this thing, put in my sweat and tears so I can do whatever the hell I want.” By that they mean they can rob the business as much as they like. Hack, in Africa we have politicians who believe the nation state belongs to them because ‘they brought independence.’ Here’s an example:
It is important that private sector business people like Masiyiwa demonstrate the concept of fiduciary responsibility and accountability in organisations they started. Perhaps it may inspire our politicians to follow suit.
Econet themselves must learn the lesson
The words from Strive Masiyiwa there have a sharp contrast to the behaviour we have observed within Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and associated companies. Masiyiwa is definitely the big man in the organisation. Any view held in contradiction to Masiyiwa is considered an attack on him. I have been saddened to observe some officers fighting more to defend Masiyiwa than they do the business.
As much as Masiyiwa said this within the context of business structure and accountability, the words are still true when it comes to criticism. It should not be treated as a moral crime to criticise Strive. He is a businessman, that by definition means he makes a lot of mistakes. Bringing those to light is not an attack or ‘hating’ but it is essential to the rest of the business community. That way, we all become students of business.
It is my hope that Econet officers and employees listen to their founder and also my hope that Masiyiwa is not just saying nice words but actually believes them.
Mere nice words or not, I agree with Strive Masiyiwa: we should stop putting people on pedestals. No one needs criticism as much as those with such amounts of influence as Masiyiwa has. It keeps them in check and may just save them from the natural inclination to become the big man….
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