Netflix says it has appointed Zimbabwean telecom billionaire Strive Masiyiwa as a board member.
Masiyiwa is the founder of Econet Group, which has operations and investments in 29 countries in Africa and beyond, including Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s leading mobile operator; Liquid Telecom, the pan-African broadband company and its subsidiary Africa Data Centers, the fast-growing data center company, which has just raised $ 300 million from the US government’s development funding arm.
“Netflix is at the forefront of bringing great entertainment from around the world to anyone 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 explanation.
Like other major tech companies in the US, Netflix would like to add or maintain some diversity on its board. In March 2018, it appointed former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser, Susan Rice, to the board, but last week she stepped down to join President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration.
Masiyiwa effectively replaces Rice, and as it 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 Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala to its board.
Netflix has rapidly expanded its influence across Africa over the past year with a range of original African shows and films led by talent and producers from South Africa and Nigeria. It has tried to find ways to make its service more accessible and affordable, especially in most African countries where viewing video over the Internet is sometimes discouraged by cost or poor quality.
“I am delighted to have Strive joining our board as we expand more into Africa and the world,” said Sarandos.
Despite his success in business and entrepreneurship, Masiyiwa, who is also on board Unilever and Bank of America’s global advisory board, has come into conflict with his country’s government on several occasions. Zimbabwe’s regulators have effectively shut down his company’s operations by shutting down the internet to curb political activists or curtail his Econet Wireless’s dominant mobile money operations during his currency crises.
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