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Masiyiwa Econet funder to raise $500m to expand digital business

by Business News Report

Zimbabwe-born billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, who runs firms including Africa’s largest fiber-optic cable network, plans to raise as much as $500 million to expand his digital infrastructure and services businesses. The tycoon’s Cassava Technologies will tap investors including venture capital firm C5 Capital Management for the financing plan, Hardy Pemhiwa, chief executive officer at Cassava, said in an interview. The company on Friday signed a deal to raise $50 million from C5 Capital. Masiyiwa, who sits on Netflix Inc’s board, wants to tap the tech-savvy and young population in the world’s second-largest continent by expanding his businesses from providing cybersecurity to payment services in a region that lacks digital infrastructure. Demand for higher-speed internet and data storage is increasing in Africa as millions of people get connected, mostly using their mobile phones.

Cassava wants to “really ensure that Africa has got a technology company of continental scale that can stand up among, you know, the giants,” Pemhiwa said. That’s “something that Africa has never had,” he said. Masiyiwa, who founded telecommunications group Econet Global announced in November that certain assets including Econet’s fiber-broadband networks and data centers would be folded into a separate entity to form Cassava. The firm already generates almost $1 billion of revenue a year, said Pemhiwa. Cassava plans to use the funds to expand businesses such as the one that manage Econet’s 110,000 kilometers (68,350 miles) of fiber, cloud computing and nine data centers with another 10 coming over the next three years, said Pemhiwa. It also owns a renewable-energy unit. The company may consider an initial public offering in the future, but its current focus is on building a pan-African technology company of scale, said Pemhiwa. Bloomberg previously reported talks between Cassava and Fintech Acquisition Corp. VI , a blank-check company backed by serial dealmaker Betsy Cohen. Masiyiwa’s wealth is estimated at $2.7 billion by Forbes.

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