My decision to list the Zimbabwe business on the local stock exchange, was initially motivated by my desire to offer thousands of ordinary people, an opportunity to be shareholders with me, in the business.
Even today, our business in Zimbabwe, has about 10,000 shareholders, whilst many others, own shares through their pension funds, and insurance companies.
When I left Zimbabwe, in March 2000 to go and live in South Africa, I set up a new business, completely separate from the Zimbabwe business, called Econet Wireless Global, and this is the company, I used to expand into other countries around the world.
Today, we have operations, investments and offices, in not less than 17 countries, including, many African countries, Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Latin America, and even New Zealand, in Asia Pacific. It has been, and continues to be an amazing and enjoyable journey.
I have often been asked why I was so adamant that the Zimbabwe business, alone, should be listed as a start-up, when after that I never used a listing again, to raise money, even though I have gone on to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, for businesses elsewhere.
I could have waited for 3 or 4 years, before listing and still managed to keep my promise, to the investing public. There was another reason, why I listed the Zimbabwe company, with the urgency that I did; but I did not know it, at the time, and here it is:
Why We Listed our Zimbabwe Business (Final Part)
As I said in the last post, there was another reason, why we listed the Zimbabwe, company, when we did, but we did not know it, at the time:
Nearly 5 years after the listing, Zimbabwe had a massive political and economic crisis, and entered into one of the highest hyper inflations, ever recorded, in world history.
Some experts believe it went as high as 500bn percent!!! As a business it was the equivalent of being caught in a category 8 hurricane!
We had to stop, all expansion work, as the economy collapsed before us. We could not pay staff proper salaries and many of our most skilled people began to leave. We were prohibited from adjusting our tariffs, which meant the service, had become completely free.
Then one day, as I sat in my office, brooding on what to do, I noticed that the share price of the Zimbabwe company, was tracking the hyper inflation! I “knew” then what to do to save the company!
I called the board members, and we discussed my plan…. Some members threatened to resign, then Tawanda Nyambirai, who was chairman, looked at me, and saw something, only he knew, and said, “let’s do, it, my brother, its the only way to save this business. Do what you must”, and with that the whole board, agreed with my plan:
We started to use our share price as an “inflation proof” currency:
We paid for goods;
We paid salaries;
We bought businesses, everything from land and buildings, to insurance companies, banks, bottling companies, hotels etc!
We bought anything, that we could get our hands on. And as we did this, our share price rose, even higher, and more people came, and offered us, their businesses, for our shares!
We even minted our own coins, using “airtime”, as a denomination. These were totally “inflation proof”.
As soon, as the hyper inflation was over, we “monetized” (sold), most of the businesses, we had bought, and rebuilt our balance sheet. Between 2008 – 2014, we had invested over $1,2bn, in Zimbabwe. This is the largest single investment by any organization, in the country’s history. As a result of this investment, cell phone penetration in the country, rose from 14% (the second lowest in Africa), to one of the highest at 103%.
If the company had not been listed, we would not have been able to save it, from collapse. And we would not have been able to recover for many, many years:
So this is why we listed, even though I had not known at the time!
The Lord Jesus, said in John 3:8,
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
This ends the discussion relating to how I got into business. We shall now talk about other things, and other countries.
– Strive Masiyiwa
(Econet Wireless Founder and Chairman)