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Netflix has appointed Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa to its board, becoming the firm’s first African director as it eyes new markets for future growth.
Masiyiwa is the founder and executive chairman of Econet Global, a telecommunications company that operates across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Econet offers phone broadband and satellite service, and is also a major provider of mobile payments.
Netflix has more than 190 million subscribers, and the streaming giant aims to acquire new subscribers beyond the U.S. and Europe. Asia accounted for the most new subscribers last quarter.
Masiyiwa will bring on board a fresh set of connections and experience as the first African and the third international media executive to join Netflix’s board in recent years. Already the firm has two directors from Europe, its fastest growing region in recent years.
Currently, Africa lags behind the rest of the world in the paid streaming video market. In a continent of more than 1.2 billion people, Netflix has just a couple million customers, according to Digital TV Research.
But the streaming giant has long argued that it would play the long game adding customers in Asia and Africa, home to the majority of the world’s people.
To achieve that goal, Netflix has started offering cheaper, mobile-only plans and has commission a slate of original movies and series.
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Masiyiwa is one of Africa’s richest businessmen. Earlier this year, he paid $10 million in cash and other assistance to more than 1,700 health-care workers.
“We are delighted to welcome Strive to the Netflix board,” Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said Wednesday in a statement. “His entrepreneurship and vision in building businesses across Africa and beyond will bring valuable insights and experience to our board as we work to improve and serve more members all around the world.”
Masiyiwa ensures Netflix will still have at least one Black director. Susan Rice, who became Netflix’s first Black board member in 2018, is leaving to join the presidential administration of Joe Biden.