The late Miko Rwayitare, the father of mobile telecommunications in Africa, is arguably one of the biggest business tycoons of all time in Africa. If he lived in this day, he could easily be compared to the likes of Strive Masiyiwa, Aliko Dangote and Clear Mpoha among a few others – although it remains unclear if any of the comparisons would pin him down.
Born in 1942 in Rwanda, Miko was educated in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire and Germany. He later on became the vice president of marketing for Zaire’s Parastatal Mining Industry, before starting his own business as a distributor for Hewlett-Packard, e-mail (RTI Paris) and Rank-Xerox in Zaire, eventually rising to be a distributor in much of central Africa.
In 1986, Miko and his partner Joseph Gatt founded Telecel, and were granted the first ever private telecommunications license by President Mobutu Sese Seko. The company expanded from Zaire to 12 African countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Guinea, Madagascar, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Niger and Togo by 2000.
Later in the 1990s he joined the United Nations Advisory Panel on Poverty, where he worked to identify and combat root causes of poverty. He believed in addressing Africa’s poverty situation, African Governments needed to create a platform and market for Information and Communication Technology services to benefit governments, the rural poor, and the sellers of goods and services. Further, he also believed in an attempt to actualizing these endeavors, “African countries would need to deepen their rural development policy and structural reforms, promote good governance, and build the institutions that foster peace and security and mobilize the maximum support possible from development partners”
Year 2000, the founders of Telecel sold 80% of shares to various telecommunication companies, including Orascom in Egypt, MTN in the Ivory Coast and other smaller companies, for around $147 million. Miko continued to provide Telecel’s strategic direction and vision as the company’s president and chief executive officer, while Orascom Telecom was to hold the majority of directors on the board of the company. Later, he moved to South Africa.
While in South Africa, he bought the Mont Rochelle Mountain Winery in the Frankenschhoek Valley for 17 million rand (US$ 2.1 million) in 2001, to become the first man of African origin to own a wholly black-owned winery. Mont Rochelle is located in Franschhoek, South Africa and is just under an hours’ drive from Cape Town and is within 35 minutes’ drive from Stellenbosch, Paarl and Somerset West wine routes.
David Fick in his 2002 publication “Entrepreneurship in Africa – A study of successes” records that, “enthusiastic about export markets particularly in the United States, Miko was determined to develop the Mont Rochelle brand, with its 22 acres under vine and an additional 64 acres leased vineyards in the valley”. At the time, Mont Rochelle was producing up to 14,000 cases per year.
Today Miko’s legacy lives on and is still celebrated at the Mont Rochelle and many other places. In fact, at Mont Rochelle, expect to find the Miko Chardonnay produced in honor of the late Mr. Miko Rwayitare. The Miko whites are produced exceptionally vintage, ensuring that the best wine is bottled in Miko’s memory. In addition, to the Miko brand of Wines, Mont Rochelle has also named its largest restaurant after Mr. Miko Rwayitare.
The Miko Restaurant boasts of a prime location with a 180-degree view of the Franschhoek valley and surrounding vine yards and mountains. You cannot visit Cape Town and not start the evening with a refreshing cocktail from the bar, as you watch the beautiful sunset. Miko Rwayitare died in 2007, his life will continue to inspire many people for many years to come.
PHOTO CRED: Mont Rochelle South Africa & Chef Cecilia