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Netflix adds Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to its board

Reuters/Gus Ruelas
Econet Wireless chairman and founder Strive Masiyiwa
  • Yinka Adegoke
By Yinka Adegoke

Africa editor

Published

Netflix says it has appointed Zimbabwean telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to its board.

Masiyiwa is the founder of Econet Group which has operations and investments in 29 countries in Africa and beyond  includes Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s leading mobile operator; Liquid Telecom, the pan-African broadband company and its subsidiary Africa Data Centres, the fast-growing data center company, which just raised $300 million from the US government’s development finance arm.

“Netflix is at the forefront of bringing great entertainment from anywhere in the world to everyone in the world, and I look forward to working with the board and all stakeholders to continue its traditions of innovation and growth,” said Strive Masiyiwa in the statement.

Like other big tech corporates in the US, Netflix would have been keen to add or retain some diversity on its board. In March 2018 it appointed former US ambassador to the United Nations and national security advisor, Susan Rice to its board, but last week she stepped down to join president-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration.

Masiyiwa is effectively replacing Rice and as it currently stands would be the only recognized person of color on the board along with four women and seven other men, including co-chief executives Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos.

In July 2018, Twitter added former Nigeria finance minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala to its board.

Netflix has been expanding its influence across Africa rapidly in the last year as it rolls out a haul of original African shows and movies led by talent and producers from South Africa and Nigeria. It has been trying to figure out ways to make its service more accessible and affordable particularly in most African countries where watching video over internet usage is sometimes discouraged by costs or poor quality.

“I’m thrilled to have Strive join our board as we expand more across Africa and the world,” said Sarandos.

Despite his success in corporate life and entrepreneurship, Masiyiwa, who also sits on board of  Unilever and the global advisory board of Bank of America, has run into conflict with his country’s government several times. Zimbabwe’s regulators have effectively shut down his company’s operations with internet shutdowns to curb political activists or curtailed the dominant mobile money operations of its Econet Wireless during its currency crises.

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