In one country we had a contract on which we earned over US$30 million a year. It was very important for our business. Two very powerful politicians demanded that I pay them a bribe of US$8 million to keep the contract. I refused.
Sunday View by Strive Masiyiwa
They had our contract cancelled and we were thrown out. Then they replaced us with one of our largest global competitors from Europe, whose executives immediately paid the bribes. I reported them to the US Justice Department, as they are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
They admitted that their officials had paid the bribes and fired the officials. They left the country. One of the politicians was later indicted for corruption and is now serving a 13-year jail sentence. Years later we returned to the country and we are building our presence in that wonderful country again.
In another country, we submitted a tender on privatisation and we were recommended as the best by the international investment bankers advising the government of that country. The deal was worth hundreds of millions to us. We waited and waited for an announcement, but none came.
Then I was invited to the State House. The son of the President asked for a 20% stake in exchange for us being given the award. I refused and withdrew our bid. I have no regrets.
When the President had lost an election, we returned to that country and got an opportunity to set up and we are doing very well.
In yet another country, a retiring African President invited me to come and see him. He told me he had heard a lot of good things about our company. He said he wanted to issue one more licence before he left office and he felt that we should have it because we were an African company. He then suggested that I find a way to accommodate him quietly off shore, as he “needed something in retirement”. I politely told him that I was not interested in the licence.
We are yet to return to that country, but we will one day.
In one of Africa’s most respected countries, a policeman asked me for my driver’s licence as I drove to church one morning with my family.
I told him that I had forgotten it at home. He said that I had committed an offence, which I immediately accepted. Instead of giving me a ticket, he suggested that I pay him something.
I refused. He then threatened to arrest me and I said it was fine and he could go ahead. Several of his colleagues surrounded us, even verbally abusing me saying I would be deported because I was a foreigner.
I kept quiet. I never raised my voice, or was animated. I simply asked that they either arrest me, or issue me a ticket. After a while they said we could go. I refused and insisted they ticket me as they had an obligation to do so under the law. Now, they were totally terrified!
We have continued to prosper in that nation, but I never forget my licence when I drive a car!
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and chairman of global telecommunications group, Econet Wireless. He currently serves on a number of international boards including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Advisory Board of the Counsel on Foreign Relations, the Africa Progress Panel, Agra, the UN Sec General’s Advisory Boards for Sustainable Energy, and for Education. He is a juror of the Hilton Foundation’s Humanitarian Prize. He is also one of the founders, with Richard Branson of the global think tank, known as the Carbon War Room.