Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet Wireless, took to social media to narrate the early days at Econet Nigeria, and spilled the details on what eventually drove the Econet team out of the country.
The first GSM operator in Nigeria, Econet Nigeria usually gets the butt end of jokes due to the multiple name changes, changes to management as well as rebranding campaigns we’ve seen over the years but we had no idea it had such a storied beginning, the kind that would make Shakespeare envious.
Reading through Strive’s post, on the one hand, it’s not really surprising. We’ve always sort of known that things like that take place. On the other hand, reading about the events from a major player feels like reading a political thriller. This is the stuff good movies are made of.
Let me show you:
In screenwriting, there’s a thing called the three-act story structure which divides a story into three parts, ie the Setup, the Confrontation and the Resolution (my creative writing teacher would be proud I still remember). Using that model, I’m going to summarise the story so far in this promised quintology.
“I managed to assemble a consortium of 22 investors to put up the money needed to bid…. The license cost us $285m and was the most expensive license ever issued in Africa at the time. This was 2001.”
“We were one of the winning bidders and they gave us just six months to set up business and get our network operating. We were under a lot of pressure but our network was live two days before the others! Customers were pouring in. We were number one in the market with an estimated 57% market share.”
“Then came the fateful day when I was told that our company must pay a total of $9m in bribes to senior politicians (in state government) who had facilitated the raising of the money to pay for the license.”
“I refused to authorize the illegal payments.”
“James Ibori, the Governor of Delta State, was demanding $4,5m be paid to him in his personal capacity. He was one of the most powerful men in the country and had a reputation for violence. When he heard that I was refusing to approve payment he issued an ultimatum: ”Pay or I will chase you and your people out of the country.”
And the Resolution
I’d love to post that but maybe you should head on to Strive’s blog and find out for yourself.
Photo Credit: Ozy