Part 2

I have often said that some of the most important qualities for running a business, I learnt from my mother. She was a businesswoman in the diaspora. When our family, like thousands of others, fled Ian Smith’s racist, supremacist government of Rhodesia in the nineteen sixties, to live in the newly independent African nation of Zambia; we were essentially refugees. Whilst we did not use the now popular term “diaspora”, that is what it was. The Zambians welcomed us with open arms, and allowed us to work or even start small businesses, to sustain our families. Then as now, locals, sometimes see people coming from outside as “crowding out”, their own opportunities for jobs, and even businesses. This can lead to resentment, and even outright legislative measures being put in place. If you think it is hard to raise capital to start a small business, spare a thought for those who are from the other countries; for them it Is impossible:You cannot go to even talk to a bank.Little has changed, even in 40 years.Now here are some lessons, I learnt from my mother, in those days:

There is nothing gained by complaining

She never, ever complained, and she never allowed us to complain, but always insisted that we show respect and gratitude to our hosts.The Tentmaker, says, “whatever is good, set your mind on that…”. We were taught to see “good”… Years, later I was to learn that she was teaching us to practice something she had been taught at a mission school.It was from her, that I first learnt that YOUR ATTITUDE SETS YOUR ALTITUDE.Never allow yourself, to feel bitter,or angry, because you feel, you are not being treated right, by others.

You must save

Because we did not have access to banks, or investors, we saved everything we laid our hands on. My mother was like a little ‘squirrel’, always hiding away small amounts of money. If she made a little money, she made sure that she saved as much of it as possible, for a “rainy day”.This capacity to save money, and live within one’s means, was always taken to the extreme in our household.When I got a scholarship to go to college. My mother told me to save some of it! She would always ask me, so how much did you save? Friends, you must develop a savings culture. Even when things, are good, don’t behave, as though there is no tomorrow. Have the discipline, to save from whatever little you get, even if it is a dollar! Whenever I have seen people fail in business, sadly I usually find that they were not disciplined, in this basic and foundational area, of success:Saving must be a culture.

Be frugal with your money

My mother would be quick to rebuke me, if I did anything that was “showy”, or an attempt to impress others.We never owned a new car, as all our cars were bought as used cars. Years later, I discovered that the old lady could easily have bought herself a Mercedes anytime; she was just frugal!

Avoid Borrowing money

Relationships were incredibly precious, because they were hard to come by. And one sure way of breaking a relationship is borrowing money, and failing to give it back. We just never borrowed money from people. If we could not do something with what we had, we either waited until we had saved enough, or we did not do it. It was that simple.If you do borrow money, at some point,then be quick to give it back, but don’t make borrowing a habit.

Spare no effort in the education of your children

The other day, I read an article in an American newspaper, about Nigerians living in America. It was full of amazing statistics, about how well they are educating their children. It was an amazing story, and would have made us all proud. And that is how it should be.I could easily recognise that story, because I saw my own upbringing:If you are living in the diaspora, spare no effort in the education of your children.

Stay out of local politics, and don’t insult your hosts

I lived in South Africa, for about 10 years, before moving to London. If you go through every interview I ever gave, you will not find a single comment, I ever made about local politics.
It is far better to focus your attention on things like being a member of a good church, which links you to others, in your community, particularly one which has a lot of local members, rather than just your own countrymen, or other foreigners.

Never stop reaching out to locals

My mother always insisted that we reach out to our local Zambian neighbours, and make friends. She did not want us just hanging out with people from our own country. We were also to reach out to people of other races. Now decades later, I find that some of my oldest and most trusted friends are Zambians, I met in my childhood…… Some have done rather well for themselves, I dare say!

By Strive Masiyiwa
(Facebook post)

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18 COMMENTS

    • Strive, Another Masterpiece from you. This is deep and rich stuff. Attendance chokwadi.

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    • Don’t be frugal with your money, Live your life. If you save everything you earn, when are you going to enjoy life? When you are 70 and retired and have athritis?

      Get an education, get a good job with a 401K and health insurance, paid vacations and relax! Save what you can not at the expense of cheating yourself out of a life!

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  1. Excellent educative article to share Strive. We will learn from it.Congratulations for your success and thanks for appreciating what we did for you as Zambians. For those who do not Strive owns Econet Wireless and he found Mascom in Botswana when I was there but he was short changed majority ownership! Some of struggling Entreprenuers are struggling and we could have done with your Mum’s advice.

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  2. Very educative, I am actually imagining you as a son/daughter of one of the ” magorogore” or “mazezulu” selling ma buffer or chair cloths in my old chilenje and marapodi in lusaka. Good to hear that you have gone so far! Titamande Mulungu pa zabwino zones anachita amai anu.

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  3. For information sake Econet Wireless is the biggest cell phone network in Zimbabwe and Mascom is biggest cell phone network in Botswana and strive started both of them! He is proper self made Entreprenuer and unlike the Tenderprenuers we have in Zambia and they boast about their “wealth”. Strive is a dollar millionaire but he never boasts like some of the Zambians especially those in politics! Humility is key to self made millionaires!

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    • I am not sure your comment ties in with the article. or are you trying to create another thread?

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  4. Warren Baffet says ” do not save what’s left after spending; spend what’s left after saving.

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  5. Excellent discourse, timeless lessons, Strive. I had and still have childhood friends who hailed from Zimbabwe and what you have stated sheds light on their behavioral patterns. Truly inspirational, I must say. Thank you for a witty article.

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  6. Dear Strive Masiyiwa,
    Great stuff. Good attitude.
    Actually, according to a study done by Harvard University, 85% of successful people in the World are successful because of their attitude. Only 15% are successful because of their aptitude alone. Now, if that does not speak volumes, then I don’t know what does.

    So as the famous saying goes “It is your attitude, and not your aptitude, that determines your altitude”.

    Well done, Strive and thanks for sharing your experience.

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  7. A lot of us reading this article are in the diaspora. While our circumstances may not allow us to practise all that the article advises as we are in employment and not self-employed there are some points that apply to all of us. The advice on saving, leaving within one’s means, not leaving in a bubble but interacting with locals and educating one’s children are points that the majority of us should be able to relate to. I am taking this advise all very personally…starting by revisiting my spending habits!!

    Where is part 1?

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  8. Atleast a fresh breathe of air. Not everyday lungu this, hh that, nyamasoya this, cartel that. Great stuff.

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  9. This is great!
    yet we have people who think us in the Diaspora do nothing..just sending our families money we help in Foreign exchange fimo fimo..
    walasa mudala

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