HARARE - He grew up experiencing every child’s nightmare, hardly ever had enough food on his plate and was in and out of school due to fees problems.
But Mbare-raised Munyaradzi Gwatidzo, 32, promised himself it was not always going to be like that.
Even as he watched his father walk out on the family before his mother died as he approached his ninth birthday, Gwatidzo knew the sun would one day shine on him, he says.
Now, after nearly two decades, the Astro Mobile founder is playing the game he loves and driving information communication technology to the next level.
With his cellphone company “selling over four million units in five different countries every year”, the last born in a family of four is already counting himself among Zimbabwe’s millionaires.
But for the affable former Chibuwe Secondary School pupil, listing on Wall Street — the only place on earth singularly identified with money — is the ultimate goal.
“Globally, we are selling plus or minus four million cell phones a year. Obviously, if you just do the maths, even if one phone costs a dollar (it will translate into millions),” he says of his affluence.
“But to me the motivation is bigger than that, that’s why we are setting up a TV plant that will employ over a 1 000 people.
“The manufacturing equipment we are bringing in is worth over $4 million. It’s not about striving to be a billionaire but it’s also about impacting people’s lives.”
Gwatidzo feels his background has helped him remain grounded.
“I grew up without my parents, my mother died early in my life and my dad was never there, it was a difficult environment,” he says.
“Sometimes, we would go for a year without eating meat, we couldn’t afford. Going to school was a struggle. But those were the building blocks.
“Because of my situation, I couldn’t go to university after my high school, I had to find work. I found one in a bank as a filing clerk,” he says.
Not satisfied with his circumstances, Gwatidzo would, during his spare time, buy broken phones, fix and sell them for a profit.
“It was in Zambia where I really started my cellphone business. I would buy all these broken Nokia phones, travel to Zambia on Friday, sell them over the weekend and get back to work on Monday.
“Zambia was using United States currency at that time and getting $100 during that time was a lot of money. It got me started. I furthered my education, did computer science and pursued my dream.”
Fortunately for Gwatidzo, the cellphone industry in Zimbabwe had skyrocketed following the huge decrease in a cellphone lines price from $100 to close to a dollar.
Suddenly, every man and woman on the street wanted the mobile telephone that could make and receive calls over a radio frequency carrier.
Equipped with the skills of the trade, Gwatidzo took advantage of the phone boom, helping co-found G-tide, identified by its not so noise friendly speakers.
He later parted ways with the cellphone company going on to form Astro Mobile at the age of 27.
With technology becoming an indispensable tool, the local application and mobile solutions provider ventured into Zambia, Tanzania and Mauritius.
Gwatidzo, who runs a trust in his boyhood township of Mbare that pays fees for underprivileged children, says access to technology should be a right and not a privilege hence his company has set about hitting the market with a high-end device he believes will change the face of technology in Africa.
“We want the guy selling airtime on the street corner to be able to have a smart phone for as little as $20.
“We are going to be making some announcements in the next three months that will change the game,” he says.
“We want to give our customers the same features that will cost you $500 bundled in a $20 smartphone. We realise that technology is no longer a privilege, it has become a right.
“Our goal is to change people’s lives through access to technology. Our products are an answer to the calls of Zimbabweans,” he says.