Econet success earns chairman billionaire status

15 January 2018


Forbes has listed founder and chairman of Econet Wireless Strive Masiyiwa as the 14th richest person in Africa with a net worth of US$1.7 billion.

The Econet Group, established in 1993, incorporates multiple companies including Econet Global, Econet Wireless Africa, Econet Wireless International, Econet Media, Econet Entreprises, Kwesé TV and Liquid Telecom Group.

The company also has investments in financial services, insurance, e-commerce, payment gateway solutions, among others.

According to Forbes, Masiyiwa owns part of fibre optic and satellite services provider Liquid Telecom and has stakes in mobile phone networks in Burundi and Lesotho, as well as investments in FinTech and power distribution firms in Africa.
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Strive Masiyiwa

George Kalebaila, senior research manager at IDC, for telecommunications and media in Africa, said, "Most of Masiyiwa's background comes from telecoms and TV, with Econet, which has got investments in in a wide variety of companies, and the flagship, which is Econet Zimbabwe, is one of the leaders of the mobile telecoms market in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and also in Burundi."

Kalebaila adds that Liquid Telecoms' recent acquisition of Neotel has fuelled growth within Econet.

"Econet has demonstrated stern power in becoming one of the biggest players in the telecoms industry and also diversification into other services such as EcoCash, which is doing well in Lesotho as well as in Zimbabwe and recently Kwese and the like."

According to Kalebaila, given the current scale of the current telecoms players in Zimbabwe, which have done well in the midst of a crumbling economy, it won't be easy for any new players seeking a share of the country's market - despite a new political shift.

"I'm sure that the big players in Africa, like Vodacom and MTN, have been looking for opportunities in Zimbabwe but I don't see that happening in the short-to-medium term. Maybe they can start coming in as the economy bounces back through acquisitions."

In Zimbabwe, data revenue of mobile operators NetOne, Telecel and Econet increased by 3,2% to US$185,6 million in Q2 of 2017, boosted by the launch of 3G services three years ago and more recently, LTE services.

Based on internet and data traffic per operator, Econet gained 2.1% market share in terms of mobile internet and data usage, whereas NetOne lost 1.9%. Telecel's market share remained unchanged at 7.6%.

Last year, Bloomberg reported that Econet was considering selling shares on the London Stock Exchange at a valuation of approximately US$8 billion in 2018, after combining new and existing assets.