Entrepreneur Says Econet (Cassava) Stole His Idea About Sasai, To Sue Next Week

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From Zuckerberg to Google to MTN, stories of idea stealing by corporations like these are a staple in the business world. Perhaps those countries are too distant from you so let me bring you closer to home-Econet is a familiar name that some of you know to have been accused of stealing entrepreneurs’ ideas – one time for ConnectedHome and another for Vaya.

Artwell Makumbe is another entrepreneur who, according to his own words (rants, to be specific), has been defrauded of his idea/project by Econet (which once owned Cassava Smartech). Artwell Makumbe who is the CEO of Hiclicker is claiming that the recently launched Sasai is his brainchild which Econet (where Cassava Smartech once belonged) stole from him. He goes on to say that, not only did Econet steal the idea of Sasai but it also embarrassingly stole the name (which is Sasai) as well. Peruse the screenshots of Artwell’s Sasai User interface:

Artwell’s Sasai wasn’t on Google Play store so if you wanted to download it you had to download the app at non-Google Playstore sites which hosted the App’s apk. But at the moment you can’t download Artwell’s Sasai  because he has removed the apks following the advice of his lawyer.

Artwell’s Story

We got in touch with Artwel Makumbe to tell us what really happened. He said that he launched Sasai back in August 2015. He tyhen started discussions with Econet to partner with them on this idea/project. In his engagements with Econet, he contacted Econet’s South Africa offices to set up a meeting with Strive Masiyiwa, Econet’s Founder. The meeting didn’t come into fruition but Strive Masiyiwa called him and they spent over 20 minutes discussing his idea of Sasai.

From that conversation, Hiclicker’s CEO was then referred to a Mr James Gibson who was Econet’s head of e-commerce and that paved the way for him to have meetings with Econet’s risk department and commercial team. The meetings led him to be invited by Econet team to do a presentation of “Hiclickers family of apps, products and services, which included Sasai.” Econet’s team at the presentation was headed by its Chief Commercial Officer, Navdeep Kumar. As Artwell puts it “they were amazed” by Hiclicker’s products.

To prove this claim (of engaging with Econet), Artwell sent me his ‘V11s’ (proof) in the form of pictures of PowerPoint slides which he used to present Sasai (and other Hiclicker’s products in its ecosystem) to Econet. Some of the pictures he sent me are shown below:

Despite ‘impressing’ the Econet team, no deal was ever reached as ‘there were a lot of delays on Econet’s part.’ So Hiclicker proceeded to launch Sasai and the other products on its own under the single name of Hiclicker. Around that time that’s when Hiclicker did interviews with ZBC and Radio Zimbabwe promoting their products and services. Check out when Artwell and his Sasai were featued on ZBC’s 8 o’clock news:

But after sometime, Hiclicker went back again to Econet to present them with fresh terms so that they could re-launch the Hiclicker ecosystem (all of its apps and services) under Econet’s name. In its response, Econet offered these terms:

1 – share revenue in the ratio of 70:30 (70% to Econet and 30% to Hiclicker)
2 – Lock the Hiclicker platform only to Econet numbers or users
3 – Give Econet exclusive rights over Hiclicker and all products, including server access
4 – I (Artwell) get 4% shareholding in Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and they get 60% shares in Hiclicker
5 – All Hiclicker employees by then they were 17 and they would get fixed job under Econet-Hiclicker department
6 – Econet to do branding and marketing
7 – Econet to maintain an uptime of 99.9%
8 – Econet to open Econet-Hiclicker joint bank accounts and hire external auditors, law firms , consultants to do the rest of work
9 – Econet to pay 50% of converged licence
10 – Econet to localise Hiclicker ecosystem into local languages wherever Econet is established across africa and the world

About the above, Artwell says:

We (Hiclicker) denied points number 1,2,3,4,5,9

The deal fell through. And then fast forward to 24 July, 2019, Cassava Smartech (the child of Econet) launches Sasai.

What’s next?

Artwell has decided to take the matter before the courts. And this coming Monday that’s when he will sue Econet about stealing his idea of Sasai. We are awaiting comment from Econet and Cassava and we will publish when it comes.


  1. Anashe

    I’m not surprised given Econet’s history of allegedly stealing ideas!

    1. broslado

      Read the article and actually try the app don’t just make ignorant comments. This guy is just seeking attention. Sasai in its current form doesn’t offer any of the features in his slides e-learning etc …not does it talk about features the app has payments etc.

  2. Pride Mwapamba (@pridemw)

    Can you clarify point #4 is it 4% shareholding in Econet Zimbabwe which currently has a market cap of $4,4b ??

    1. The Insider

      It doesn’t add up.

  3. Munya

    He should have taken the deal. It was okay all things considered. What he had was vision but the actual product featurea and product Dev was still far off. He will be bled out in court.

  4. Anonymous

    He is real.( i personally have and use that application. Stand guided.

  5. Tafadzwa Shaninga

    Artwel Makumbe’s SASAI actually has a facebook page which has been running for more than a month now. Downloaded his SASAI App about 3 or so weeks ago & my first reaction when I saw the CASSAVA FINTECH post was,h “Wow,gone Artwell big”, only to be disappointed by news that his idea had been stolen.

    1. Tafadzwa Shaninga

      Artwel Makumbe’s SASAI actually has a facebook page which has been running for more than a month now. Downloaded his SASAI App about 3 or so weeks ago & my first reaction when I saw the CASSAVA FINTECH post was,h “Wow, Artwell has gone big”, only to be disappointed by news that his idea had been stolen.

  6. Situpeti

    Let me get this straight, Econet’s alternative to WhatsApp, which is based on WeChat is a stolen idea?

  7. Mukanya

    Who ever is using Artwell has to think twice before getting muddied!! Are his Sasai ideas patented? No!

  8. Tongai

    Better to have 100% of an elephant than 10% of a rat

  9. Takura

    If true then this Makumbe guy needs mentorship. He would be a cool 320 million dollar richer by now ( considering this was before the share split)

  10. Joseph

    I don’t even know Sasai but I can tell you right now that there is no case here. And besides – everything from his slides is stolen from existing apps…

  11. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    Econet will just drag on the case in the courts till he’s broke. Amazingly, have never heard of his app despite it being in existence since 2015. His messenger app just seems to be plain messenger, with all the core features being in the social network.

  12. Citizen

    if you don’t sign an NDA don’t ever pitch a thing to anyone, ever!!!!

    1. Chips

      Very true, no NDA no sharing of any ideas! Entrepreneurs need to learn how business is done. There are very cruel people out there. You need to patent your ideas first before going public and sharing those ideas. Without patents you gave nothing.

  13. Lang

    Let justice prevail, all the best to all the parties involved.

    1. Zim 1

      if i was econet i will do out of court settlement with this guy, offer him a permanent job post in Econet and buy him out on all his Hiclicker projects, this is over whelming evidence. I dont thingka a non-corrupt judge will argue with ZBC video V11’s. In Zimbabwean courts , a video is considered as overwhelming. Strive direct call, the Gibson guy and Navdeep and people present on the presentation at Livinstone has a lot to answer. From what i see Artwell will win this case. We will support him. Let justice takes its course. If he looses, the judges bank acc will be oiled with econet.

  14. Anonymous

    No way econet can offer anyone 4% of their business, offer to buy 66% of a business for a VAS solution.

    1. The Insider

      True, it doesn’t add up.

      1. Anonymous

        too good to be true kkk…4% of what!!!

  15. Interest

    Wechat which is also a payment platform needs to sue as well. Lol

  16. The Insider

    His ‘idea’ can easily be replicated. We need to move from selling ideas to selling high tech that’s not easy to replicate. This guy stood to gain a lot from Econet. His products lacked uptake. Even if he had not pitched to Econet, they would still have easily replicated his idea given the massive resources they have.

  17. tiki

    Looked at the article, checking whatsapp, wechat and many other messaging platforms; wondering what this noise is about… Is it about the name Sasai, was the discussion about a name or concept? If concept seems all quite strange and meaningless as really anyone can do these things hashing together material already in public domain. Let’s have serious entrepreneurship that breaks new ground to address challenges faced back home.

  18. Anonymous

    100’s of entrepreneurs & businesses freely pitch their ideas to Cassava/Econet every month. Only a handful eventually agree a partnership. Makumbe should view this as a valuable learning experience. There’s nothing original about Sasai when you look outside of Zim & unless a trademark has been successfully registered, anyone can legally use the “Sasai” name [although it does seem rather odd for Cassava to launch under the same brand name = unnecessary confusion for consumers & understandable resentment from budding entrepreneurs like Makumbe]

  19. xyz

    it all sounds nice and gravy but lets not defend Econet, they have a track record they would rather not have spoken about… we could talk about Ecosure and that fiasco 1. (a budding entrepreneur did what
    Artwell did and they took the idea ran with it for a while and dumped the actual entrepreneur/ developer/programmer/brainchild and visionary of the concept. Inevitably Ecosure died a salient death, trust me Econets closet is full of skeltons and cobwebs).

    2. What of the guy who created a pabx utilising all the MNO’s and managed to make free calls across networks and the world, did Econet hire him and say this is the knowledge we need. Why did’nt they fire their risk department and their ICT department staff because clearly they where all heads in the clouds? Food for thought, instead they push to get the innovator arrested, crude as he was with limited years of experience he was the best guy to become ICT director.

    3. We have Kwese. I am sorry to say that a company as big as Econet failed to do due diligence on their “lets challenge
    DSTV mantras”, it leaves alot to be desired when an entity uses excuses like the economy is not doing well to fleece money from citizens who have put their trust and hard earned money into their products and services. Kwese failed and what did the loyal subscribers get or wait what if anything will they get. POTRAZ we invite you to this fiasco please.

    4. When Econet tariffs became exhorbitant and POTRAZ had to enforce prices did econet comply or they begrudgingly went after their vendors and suppliers and said if you want us to supply us product x,y,z then either you supply at a price we will stipulate without your consent or we stop dealing with you.

    Econet has fooled many, continues to fool many and its deplorable, we will leave the Steward bank story for another day. (RBZ we invite you)

    Don’t treat econet with kid gloves when they bully everyone else with impunity