How billionaire Strive Masiyiwa built Kwesé Sports and signed a deal with ESPN

By Polycarp Kazaresam

Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa has made another huge business move. His African sports television company, Kwesé Sports, has struck a deal with US sports broadcaster ESPN.

Kwesé said the partnership with ESPN means that the African company can add NCAA American football and basketball to its present broadcast rights for the NFL, NHL and the NBA, making it “the home of American sports in Africa.”

The ESPN deal is the latest in a series of canny business moves made by Masiyiwa. We take a look at how Zimbabwe’s richest man amassed his fortune.

  • Born in Zimbabwe, Masiyiwa attended school in Zambia and Scotland before studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Wales.
  • Masiyiwa returned to Zimbabwe in the early 80s to work for phone company ZPTC. He then took a bank loan from Barclays to create his own engineering firm, Retrofit Engineering.
  • In the 90s, he propositioned ZPTC with a joint venture. ZPTC refused, adding that if Masiyiwa executed his idea alone, it would violate the phone company’s monopoly. ZPTC and Masiyiwa ended up having a five-year legal battle. Masiyiwa was eventually awarded the mobile telecoms license in 1998.
  • Masiyiwa sold his engineering company and set up Econet, a telecommunications group, in 1998. Within six weeks of its launch, Econet was the market leader.
  • Econet grew to become the largest mobile phone network in Zimbabwe, with 9 million subscribers. Econet expanded to Botswana, Lesotho and Burundi. The firm also has investments in telecom companies in New Zealand and the United States. 
  • Masiyiwa moved the company headquarters to South Africa in 2000, in order to create a more multinational African business.
  • Masiyiwa became the largest shareholder in Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. However, the publisher was shut down by the government in 2003 as part of a crackdown on independent media.
  • Earlier this year, Masiyiwa set up Kwesé Sports as a subsidiary of Econet Wireless. The company was rolled out across Africa on mobile, Internet and satellite-based free to air platforms.

 

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