Strive Masiyiwa, Ajaz Ahmed, and Wagatha Christie-lawyer Paul Lunt were among the winners as Spear’s celebrated entrepreneurs, philanthropists and leaders of the private client world with a ceremony hosted by Nicholas Owen.

Strive Masiyiwa was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2022 Spear’s Awards, in recognition of his work with two pan-African technology companies (Econet and Cassava Technologies) and his philanthropic endeavours.

Dubbed ‘Britain’s first black billionaire’ by The Sunday Times, Masiyiwa is executive chairman of Cassava Technologies which, through its business Liquid Intelligent Technologies, is now the largest data centre provider across Africa.

The entrepreneur was also recognised by Spear’s, the media brand for high-net-worth individuals, for his work as a co-founder of the Higherlife Foundation and Delta Philanthropies, a UK-registered impact investment charity promoting development initiatives across Africa. In addition, Masiyiwa is a signatory of the Giving Pledge, an initiative backed by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett through which the world’s wealthiest people commit to give the majority of their wealth away. During the pandemic, Masiyiwa also chaired the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.

Masiyiwa said: ‘It’s a real honour for me to receive this award — I’m truly humbled.’

‘I trained as an engineer in the United Kingdom, and then returned to Africa where I worked first in telecommunications, and then decided that I was going to be an entrepreneur.’

‘I was truly blessed that the revolution in telecommunications […] happened on my watch as they might say. And I threw myself into ensuring that Africans got access to telecommunications, so I was very much part of that revolution that took place in Africa, where today we have more than 800 million people in Africa that have mobile phones.’

‘This was an entrepreneurial revolution, led by entrepreneurs, and I was really humbled to be part of that.’

Masiyiwa added: ‘At a very early stage in my entrepreneurial journey, I realised that as an entrepreneur you must always be part of providing solutions within your community, which go beyond your profit motive.’

The Spear’s Awards ceremony was attended by 400 people and co-hosted by broadcaster and journalist Nicholas Owen. It took place at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House on Park Lane in London. Attendees included leading figures from the worlds of wealth management, law, property, business and philanthropy, including a host of advisers to high-net-worth individuals.

The annual ceremony has been running for over a decade, earning a reputation as ‘the Oscars of the private client world’. (The awards were previously known as the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards, but have been renamed for 2022 to ‘the Spear’s Awards’ to reflect the full breadth of Spear’s coverage.)

At the 2022 Spear’s Awards, Ajaz Ahmed was the recipient of the Impact Award, in recognition of his support of disadvantaged families and children across the UK through

Ahmed founded digital advertising agency AKQA when he was 21. In 2012 the business was acquired by Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP in a $500 million deal.

Ahmed has worked closely with Nicola Brentnall, former chief executive of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, to hone his philanthropy.

Announcing Ahmed’s award, Spear’s editor-in-chief Edwin Smith said: ‘Having started his business from nothing as a young man and achieved a highly successful exit, our winner has recently established a vehicle to substantially increase and target his giving.’

‘He took the time and effort to seek good advice and decided he could be most effective by containing his philanthropy in the UK. With a laser-like focus on children and families in crisis, he has created a portfolio of local, direct, superbly effective charities working around the UK… he has provided an example and a source of genuine thought leadership for British philanthropy.

Ajaz Ahmed said: ‘A mother diluting her milk with water, so there’s enough to feed her small children. A family sharing bathwater because they can’t afford to heat it. A 10-year-old child asked if she can exchange the previously-owned toy that’s just been handed to her for a bag of rice she’s just spotted in the corner of the room to make her mum happier at home. These are not stories from a faraway and ancient land — these are the truths from the children and families in the UK today, the world’s fifth largest economy.’

‘We live in a remarkable, inspiring country, with a wealth of wisdom and treasured knowledge, but sometimes a poverty of distribution. All too often, greater awareness does not equal greater understanding. Sir Winston Churchill said, we make a living by what we get — we make a life by what we give. Everyone in this room is a trustee: a trustee for humanity and a trustee for our planet. If the meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away. This award will encourage me to redouble our efforts for the many causes we are privileged to serve.’

‘And there’s no point in any wealth managers approaching me because I’ve given it all away,’ he joked to the crowd.

Meanwhile, in recognition of his work in the high-profile ‘Wagatha Christie’ case earlier this year, supporting Coleen Rooney in her High Court libel battle against Rebekah Vardy, Brabners’ Paul Lunt was named Reputation Lawyer of the Year.

Other awards went to Catherine Bedford, who represented Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum in his divorce from Princess Haya, and Goldman Sachs, which took home the award for International Private Bank of the Year. The judges said the bank was ‘truly, a cut above’, and that ‘its consistency, the calibre of the team, and the quality of communication with clients was second to none’.

Spear’s editor-in-chief Edwin Smith said of the awards: ‘At Spear’s we see the positive consequences of an industry, which creates a virtuous cycle of high-skilled jobs that service entrepreneurs who, in turn, create value, tax receipts, and an environment conducive to economic growth and shared prosperity.’

‘This industry must evolve in a truly sustainable manner, so its benefits are both far-reaching and long-lasting. That is the lens through which we approach these awards – as a chance to celebrate excellence and shine the spotlight on the people whose work helps to realise those aims.’

The Spear’s Awards were sponsored by Aero, Blackstone, Calculus Capital, McDowell Properties, Risk Assured Life Insurance Specialists, Stewardship, Thuso, and The Royal Mint.

Image: Strive Masiyiwa