Tsitsi Masiyiwa

Tsitsi Masiyiwa has enough money to never need to work yet she doesn’t spend her time decorating herself with designer clothes and expensive jewelry, rather she is more often either found in one of her offices working or meeting with current and potential students and other beneficiaries of her education philanthropy foundation.

Tsitsi Masiyiwa is a Zimbabwean philanthropist and social entrepreneur who has devoted much of her life to empowering disadvantaged children through education and harnessing technology to create employment opportunities for young people.

She is founder and executive chairperson of the Higherlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has invested time, money and resources over the past 18 years in sending over 40,000 thousand of children to school; overseeing five trusts that together fund thousands of scholarships for medical students and disadvantaged children across Southern Africa. Masiyiwa is also the co-founder of Muzinda Hub, an incubator lab for youth digital skills development and business mentorship that leverages technology to promote youth empowerment based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

She is happily married to Strive Masiyiwa, one of the richest men in Africa.

4 Practical lessons we can learn from Tsitsi Masiyiwa

Give God a reason to bless you

According to Tsitsi, the idea to launch the Higherlife foundation was paradoxical and came to her when she and her husband were struggling financially in the mid- to-late nineties. “My husband had applied for a license to operate a mobile phone company in Zimbabwe,” she says. “But for reasons that were not clear to us, the application for the license was rejected. My husband then sued the government and that is when our problems started. Tsitsi says they lost everything during this period and could not even offer their visitors tea.

“In trying to understand what was going on around me, I began to do an intensive soul searching. I prayed to God and made a deal with him. I told God that if he granted us the license to operate the mobile phone company in Zimbabwe- and he made us successful, then I will help support as many poor people as possible for as long as I lived,” Tsitsi Masiyiwa recalls.

God certainly answered her prayer because in December 1997 the Zimbabwean Supreme Court awarded Econet Wireless a license to set up a mobile telecoms company in Zimbabwe. Econet launched its services in Zimbabwe in 1998. Growth was rapid. Within a few months of setting up in Zimbabwe, Econet became the leading mobile telecoms company in the country. It has maintained that trajectory in the last 15 years and has grown to amass about 10 million subscribers spread across Africa. Her husband Strive Masiyiwa is now one of the richest men in Africa.

It is what you have in your heart that determines what God will put in your hand. God will not entrust a certain level of wealth, influence and power to someone he isn’t assured will be a blessing to others. Proverbs 11:25 says “The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” Notice the scripture says “soul”, not “hands” and “fat” comes after. It’s not about what you hold in your hand, it is the state of your heart/soul that will determine your stature in life. Tsitsi’s heart/soul was right and then she was made fat. Ladies, let’s start from within.

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Do unreasonable things

After Tsitsi and her husband, lost all they had to a law suit against the government of Zimbabwe, they took a step of faith. “We went ahead and registered Capernaum Trust, a charity that we decided would give scholarships to needy children. It was an unpractical thing to do at the time, especially considering the fact that we had nothing. But as a Christian, you do unreasonable things,” she enthuses.

“As a Christian you do unreasonable things”… need money? Don’t go around begging for some, give from the little you have. Need Investment for your business? Sow into another man’s own. It’s simple and extremely unpractical yet the only way to get God to fund your dreams.

We need to do the unreasonable things so you can get the uncommon result you desire. Show God how serious you are in your commitment to his channel of blessing on earth.   

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Stay true to your word

As Econet began spitting out handsome dividends for her family holding company (which owns the chunk of Econet shares), Tsitsi kept her promise to God. “I gathered as many orphans as I could find from all over Zimbabwe and I threw a party for them,” Tsitsi says. Tsitsi regularly held party-like events in her home for orphans in which the children always ate to their fill. Many times, she visited the children in their orphanages, offering them food and personal mentorship. It was an exhilarating experience for her.

Never forget the promises and commitments you make in your time of need. Follow through. Be it a promise to God, friends, family, and charities. Whoever your promise may have been to, follow through! Successful women keep their word. That’s how to show God that you are trustworthy and you can be sure that with every trust-test passed, a new level is opened for your access.

Push your vision to the next level

“I spent time with these children and I came to love them. I wanted to keep doing more for them, but I realized that it was not just enough to keep giving them fish. I had to teach them how to fish. I wanted them to grow up and fend for themselves and become successful people. I wanted them educated,” she says.

A wise man once said, destiny is not a destination but an adventure. Constantly push your vision to the next level. That is what will keep you on top, if you read the stories of successful people; they are constantly reinventing themselves, products/initiatives. Let’s embrace forward thinking and constantly seek for better ways to execute our God-given visions and goals.

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Today, the Higher Life Foundation has five trusts, including; Capernaum Trust. In Zimbabwe, the foundation also funds the Christian Community Partnership Trust which supports evangelism in Zimbabwe as well as the Joshua Nkomo Scholarship Fund, which identifies future community leaders; and the National Healthcare Trust of Zimbabwe, which funds scholarships for medical students.

Under her leadership, in their largest programme; the Capernaum Trust, The Trust’s “History Makers,” as they are called, receive scholarships that take them through tertiary education, along with food and medical assistance. Several Capernaum Trust students have been admitted to high-end, international institutions including Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge.

In Zimbabwe, the foundation has collaborated with the UK’s Council for Assisting Refugee Academics to set up a Virtual Learning Centre for medical students at the University of Zimbabwe, bringing excellent education to the politically troubled country.

Her relentless efforts in promoting the use of technology to provide access and empowering children through education led her to create Ruzivo, a free online learning resource covering the key primary school syllabus modules in Zimbabwe. Piloted in Zimbabwe, Ruzivo provides critical access to hundreds of thousands of children through Higherlife Foundation’s Learning Hubs spread around the country.

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Masiyiwa sits on a number international boards and foundations including

  • Higher Life Foundation (Founder/Co Chair)
  • PATH (Board Member)
  • The END Fund (Board Member)
  • African Philanthropy Forum (Founding Member)
  • The Giving Pledge (Member)

Tsitsi Masiyiwa is an intelligent, hardworking and inspiring woman who shows that at whatever level you find yourself, there is always something you can give to grow. She started by giving her word, then her work and now gives a little more with every stride. Little wonder why the Higherlife Foundation and Econet keep growing stronger.

This post was culled from the Thresh woman WCW Column. The ThreshWoman WCW is a column I manage with the goal to celebrate and encourage the successes of women all around the world while inspiring other women to chase their dreams fiercely. 

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