Netflix adds Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to board as part of Africa growth push

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Strive Masiyiwa, a London-based Zimbabwean telecoms businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
Strive Masiyiwa, a London-based Zimbabwean telecoms businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
Rodger Bosch / AFP

Netflix appointed Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to its board, adding its first African director as it looks to new markets for future growth.

Masiyiwa is the founder and executive chairperson of Econet Global, a telecommunications company that operates across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Econet offers phone, broadband and satellite service, and is also a major provider of mobile payments.

Masiyiwa brings a fresh set of connections and experience as the first African - and the third international media executive - to join Netflix’s board in recent years. The streaming giant already has two directors from Europe, which has been its fastest-growing region in recent years.

Netflix now has more than 190 million subscribers, and is looking to regions beyond the US and Europe for its next batch of customers. Asia accounted for the most new subscribers last quarter.

For now, Africa is a small market for paid streaming video. In a continent of more than a billion people, Netflix has just a couple million customers, according to Digital TV Research. But the company has long argued that it would play the long game adding customers in Asia and Africa, home to the majority of the world’s people. Toward that end, Netflix has started offering cheaper, mobile-only plans and has commissioned a slate of original series and movies.

Masiyiwa is one of Africa’s richest businessmen. Earlier this year, he paid $10 million in cash and other assistance to more than 1,700 health-care workers, which helped land him on Bloomberg’s list of the 50 most important people in business during 2020.

“We are delighted to welcome Strive to the Netflix board,” Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said Wednesday in a statement. “His entrepreneurship and vision in building businesses across Africa and beyond will bring valuable insights and experience to our board as we work to improve and serve more members all around the world.”

Masiyiwa ensures Netflix will still have at least one Black director. Susan Rice, who became Netflix’s first Black board member in 2018, is leaving  to join the presidential administration of Joe Biden. 

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