There is something about Strive Masiyiwa that just makes you pay attention to the man. When Cyclone Idai hit Zimbabwe and neighbouring Mozambique and Malawi, his company, the Econet Group was one of the first to mobilise assistance to help the needy. They came with food, search and rescue teams, bulldozers and a whole lot more. Other corporates and individuals chipped in too, but, it is Econet who continue to cover the most ground. Strive Masiyiwa has now revealed a comprehensive six-phase plan that his company will use to deal with the effects of the cyclone. This is corporate social responsibility at its best.

Initial efforts

In a Facebook post, Strive Masiyiwa has explained how his companies reacted to Cyclone Idai from the onset. Search and rescue efforts were their first port of call. They also provided relief. ”We actually delivered 150 tonnes by helicopter before the likes of World Food Programme arrived,“ says the Econet Founder. Through some of its companies like Ecosure and Cassava, the Econet Group delivered more than 100 coffins and used drones, boats and canoes to help locate survivors and the deceased. They also hired bulldozers to clear roads and ensure certain areas were accessible. Again, this is not to play down the efforts of other partners who assisted in various ways but the Econet Group has had its hands dirty in most fronts.

Clean up activities

As if the above is not enough, Strive Masiyiwa revealed that their next phase is that of cleaning up the affected areas. Dead animals and livestock will be removed and destroyed in order to avoid the spread of diseases. With 74 full-time staff and more than 100 local and international volunteers working on the ground, the Econet Group already has considerable numbers to work with. But, for this phase, they will hire and pay youths to help clean debris. Vaya Tractors will also be deployed to assist where necessary. Talk of employment creation even in the middle of a crisis.

Reboot livelihoods

According to Strive Masiyiwa, this phase will take them about 12 months to complete. It is a life changing one indeed as it will involve building homes, drilling boreholes, rebuilding schools and more. The Econet Group will also provide loans to small businesses so that they can get back on their feet. One would imagine that this is where Steward Bank will come in. Remember, they already have the $100 million Rural Entrepreneurship fund. More importantly, affected families will get cash payments to help them survive until the next harvest. This is something which Masiyiwa says has already started happening. It is evident that crops were badly destroyed by the cyclone. Businesses lost a lot of their stock and infrastructure as well. By lending a helping hand in those areas, Econet is surely rebooting livelihoods.

Reimagine the future

The last phase of Econet’s intervention will certainly accelerate their entry into affected areas. This will involve providing loans to new entrepreneurs to start businesses in the area. Ten Ugesi mini-grids will be built. These are solar installations which will power clinics, schools, shops and other businesses. With power, infrastructure and connectivity, this will ensure communities are better prepared for similar disasters in future.

Team effort

Econet is not trying to take all the glory by doing everything alone. They are calling on others to partner with them. Donations through Ecocash Biller Code 320041 had reached RTGS $222 803.94 at 5 pm on 29th March 2019. The Go Fund Me campaign #The Next Mile Higherlife Foundation had also raised £16 265 at 10 am on 30th March 2019. The Econet Group has pledged to match these donations dollar for dollar. Look at it this way, Strive Masiyiwa has more than 3 million followers on Facebook. This is where some of the donations will come from. If we add Ecocash, Steward Bank, Ecosure and others’ market share, we have a company that has a large reach and whose efforts will find willing partners. It is the way Econet has pooled together all its resources through all its companies that deserves special mention here. No other company in the country is better positioned to do this.

Without ignoring the contribution made by others in the efforts to deal with the effects of Cyclone Idai, we need to give credit where it’s due. The Econet Group has surely led the way. If this will translate into profits in the years to come, surely no one can begrudge them. They would have earned it by being a solid foundation in times of need.