Africa's Warren Buffett

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WARREN BUFFET is in a renowned investment guru, having made the bulk of his wealth on the stock markets. According to Wikipedia, Buffet is the most successful investor in the 20th century.

The “Oracle of Omaha” is one of the world’s most influential people and, when he speaks about investing, the world listens.

Every year, more than 40 000 people, including BizNews publisher Alec Hogg, attend Berkshire and Hathaway’s AGM, where Buffet is the chairperson, and CEO, just to listen to him speak his investment thoughts and ideas. 

I have no doubt that Buffet has also mentored knowingly or unknowingly thousands of investors around the world. His mail box must be full of requests by people requesting him to take them on board as their mentor.

I would like to believe he is not the only one receiving such requests. Zimbabwe’s telecoms magnate Strive Masiyiwa, I am sure, also gets thousands of these every day. It is, however, impossible for him or any other business leader to accept all the requests that they get.

It is against this background that I appreciate Strive Masiyiwa’s Facebook page. I call it “Masiyiwa’s Class of Love.” Love, because not many people as successful and busy as he is will find time to mentor thousands of people week-in and week-out. It can only be out of love for him to do that.

Although mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person, I would like to believe Masiyiwa, through his Facebook posts, has nonetheless mentored a lot of people, most of them people he doesn’t even know. 

Those in the know say mentoring is the most effective and most desired type of career development training that one can get and I think if only we had more Strive Masiyiwa’s, the world would be a much better place.

Before I am accused of trying to be Masiyiwa’s PR, let me highlight some of the important lessons that the almost 900 000 followers of his Facebook page are getting.

It takes courage and perseverance to succeed

In one of his postings, Masiyiwa shared the trials and tribulations that he had to go through in order for him to start operating Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile network, Econet Wireless.

I have written before about Masiyiwa’s persecution, including kidnapping and a planned attempt on his life in his bid to start Econet. To many, this is a true testimony that would inspire thousands of entrepreneurs across the globe, to take courage and never give up on their dreams, no matter how many obstacles enemies of progress might throw at you.

READ: Econet: Zim’s unwanted child...

Stick to what you know

Another important business lesson that many have learnt is not to invest in things that you do not understand simply because an opportunity has been presented to you. In this posting, Masiyiwa talks about how he has been offered businesses in dairy farming and oil blocks, but turned them down simply because he does not know anything about dairy farming.

He is a “telecoms guy” as he likes to put it. Nigeria's Folorunsho Alakija, with an estimated net-worth of $2.2bn, made her money in the oil business, but Masiyiwa was honest enough not to get involved in similar businesses.

How many of us would do the same? In Zimbabwe, many politicians, with no inkling on how farming is done, are now multiple “derelict” farm owners, just because an opportunity was presented to them.

We have seen some politically connected people, using their political clout to take over companies, only to run them down because they have no clue about running such companies.

Stay away from corrupt activities

The first time Strive talked about corruption, it was an encounter he had with the police on his way to church. A policeman asked him for his driver’s licence as he drove to church one morning.

On telling the officer that he had forgotten it at home, the officer suggested that he pay him something and he refused and even refused to leave without being issued a ticket. He also talked about how he refused to bribe powerful politicians in one country with $8m in exchange for a contract that could earn his company $30m. Now this I believe is an important lesson to many of us.

How many times have we agreed to pay $5 for a $20 fine? What will stop us from bribing $1m for a $10m deal? The Bible in Luke 6 vs 10 simply says “whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much”.

Change is coming to your business

One important lesson I learnt myself is that "all is subject to change." In his posting, Masiyiwa talked about how everything we do and how we do it is subject to change. He gave examples of what his nine-year-old daughter's teacher told her class one day; by the time we get to 25 years old, most of the jobs that will be available will be in companies that do not yet exist."

Masiyiwa talked about how 20 years ago, the internet barely existed; the big companies were resource owners like Anglo American, but today we now have Google or Facebook, a company with so little in terms of assets.

Masiyiwa's says "if you learn things like HTML coding and how to sell online, you will not need to fight for contracts, and tenders, or land, or mineral rights, or an oil block. Unfortunately, these are the things our political leaders in Africa are still fighting for.

"Just imagine what would happen to your country and Africa if you too could launch a business like Alibaba or Tencent? Each one of these businesses is worth more than all the diamonds in Zimbabwe and Botswana. Their combined value is almost the size of the Nigerian economy," wrote Masiyiwa.

There are so  many lessons that Masiyiwa’s facebook page has taught many people, but the point I am making is that Africa needs such mentors to inspire our young girls and women that they are just as good as their male counterparts.

We need the business leaders to always avail themselves and inspire our young boys that Africa can also have its Bill Gates at a tender age of seven, just like Anesi and his brother Osine, two remarkable young boys from Nigeria, who started their own business called "BluDoors"( when they were nine and seven years old.

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