“If you want to succeed as a true entrepreneur, stay away from involvement in politics,’ Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa said through his Facebook page.
When the International Finance Corporation [part of the World Bank] made an investment in my business, under their Venture Capital Initiative for small businesses in Africa, they required me to have a mentor.
They chose a retired electrical engineer from Uganda. This guy was so special, and probably the most humble man, I had ever met. He was also the oldest African member of my engineering profession, I had ever met.
He came to Harare, and stayed at a small bed and breakfast for months. Every morning I picked him up, and the two of us went to work, sometimes traveling throughout Zimbabwe to see my projects.
Engineer Ibrahim Waligo did not talk much, and never cracked a joke. We discussed electrical engineering, and how to improve my operations.
One day he opened up, just a little:
“When our country ousted Idi Amin, I acted as interim Prime Minister.”
“Wow! I did not know about it. Please tell me about what it was like?”
“I got out as soon as I could. It was not for me.” Then he looked longingly and sadly at me:
“Strive, when I read your resume, I realized that you have the potential to give Africa one of its first big business leaders. We have lots of political leaders, but we need real business leaders as well. You can go very far, but you must promise me that your success will not draw you to politics.”
I kept the promise, and moved away wherever the situation threatened to introduce politics into the mix.
I’m still trying to realize the potential he saw in me as an entrepreneur. He remained a close friend, and mentor, until he died.
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