Millionaire entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa says Econet’s court battles in Zimbabwe and Nigeria tested the countries’ legal systems which are pivotal for the sustainability of real business.
Masiyiwa fought a five-year court battle for Econet to get an operating licence in Zimbabwe. His company also had to endure a gruelling court battle in Nigeria.
In an interview with Focus Magazine, Masiyiwa said businessmen want assurances that their investments would be protected.
“Because if you have property, you want to know that it can be protected. You shouldn’t be expecting to have it protected by the big man in office called the president. There has to be a system, there has to be a judiciaryand there has to be rule of law,” he said.
Masiyiwa said the five-year court battle for Econet Wireless Zimbabwe to get an operating licence was important “because one of the core things that came out was that everybody knew I was fighting a battle against corruption”.
“I could have solved that problem in one day by just agreeing to say, “Okay, I can accommodate this, I can accommodate that,” and it would have been over. And the people knew that. But I stuck it out,” Masiyiwa said.
“I went through the courts and fought the battle. It said to people, ‘Hey, you can stand up for what is right. You can say no to corruption.’ Africa needed to hear this message very loud — that it is possible to be in business, to do it with zero tolerance for corruption, and to be successful.”
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is now the country’s largest mobile operator with a market share of over 50%.
In Nigeria, Econet fought a bigger battle in the courts and won which Masiyiwa said was significant in that “people could see for themselves that you could go to court in Nigeria and win”.
“Yes, you can win! You can go to the judges. They are good judges, fair judges. There are legal systems in these countries that need to be tested. They are important to the sustainability of real business,” Masiyiwa said.
Masiyiwa said corruption was rife on the continent and there will always be ambitious people who want to cut corners.
“…as a leader, you must send the signal that, “Yes, there are big bonuses to be earned here if you are successful. But if you pay bribes or cut corners or do things that can hurt the brand, then you will also pay a big price,” he said.
“What people don’t appreciate about corruption is this: Corruption takes two. It is not a one-sided affair.”