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Netflix’s strategic move – enter Strive Masiyiwa

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Africa , Zimbabwe , 21 Dec 2020
Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet.
Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet.

The appointment of Zimbabwean telecommunications entrepreneur, Strive Masiyiwa, to the Netflix board is part of the online video streaming platform’s strategy to tap into an African market that has less competition, is unique and requires solid understanding of each of the territories.

Masiyiwa, the founder of Econet Wireless (which has now expanded into internet services, data storage and mobile money across many African markets), is the first African to be appointed to this Board.

It also comes a few months after Masiyiwa launched Kwese TV to compete head-on with dominant pay TV service provider MultiChoice Africa. The launched offering incorporates content partnerships with Netflix, but was eventually cancelled owing to viability concerns.

Technology analyst, Paul Ugbede Godwin, said Masiyiwa’s appointment is “clear evidence that Netflix sees Africa as part of its future growth strategy.”

Africa’s population is expected to boom in the next few years and with the Africa Rising narrative taking root, its middle income class is also expected to grow.

This development has resulted in major international tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft invest in the region, viewed largely as the last frontier for telecommunication and tech growth because of the low base nature of the market.

“Besides buying movie rights and signing producers to produce more, having Masiyiwa on its board takes the playbook to a new level,” said Godwin.

Masiyiwa has vast knowledge of the African market and the unique cultures of each territory as companies in which he has interests (including Liquid, Africa Data Networks and Econet) already have a presence in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, Lesotho and Ghana among several others.

Netflix co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said: "His entrepreneurship and vision in building businesses across Africa and beyond will bring valuable insights and experience to our board as we work to improve and serve more members all around the world.”

Desmond Tapfuma, an analyst with Equity Axis, said Masiyiwa’s experience with Kwese TV will be a valuable ace up the sleeve for Netflix’s Africa strategies. He said in picking Masiyiwa, Netflix had cut out much of the work involved in studying the unique Sub Saharan Africa market.

“Netflix’s pick of Strive Masiyiwa, is therefore a very big win for the giant streaming service as the man’s experience with Kwese TV would help the Netflix craft a more informed strategy for the Sub Saharan market,” wrote Tapfuma in a blog on Equity Axis.

Masiyiwa touts technological innovation as a key strategy for company and market growth and also believes in value partnerships.

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