TECHNOLOGY TIMES Analysis
Lagos. July 23, 2013: MTN Group’s announcement yesterday that Brett Goschen, the CEO of MTN Nigeria, has been appointed the new CFO of the South African mobile telephony group may have opened up a leadership vacuum and will again refocus on its money-spinning local operation in Nigeria.
Attention is also once again turned on Johannesburg, South Africa the operational command centre of the MTN Group where Goschen was asked to return from his Nigerian tour of duty after his appointment in 2011. Within the boardroom in Johannesburg will also be where his successor will be picked and named in the days ahead.
Goschen is being recalled following the announcement that Nazir Patel, the current Group CFO has resigned with immediate effect from MTN.
MTN Group said that Patel decided to leave so as not to prejudice an ongoing investigation into certain allegation levelled against him.
“The Board is confident that Goschen has the appropriate expertise and experience for his new role”, MTN said in a statement announcing the appointment of Goschen who joined the telecoms giant as CFO of MTN Nigeria in 2002.
MTN Nigeria, which will mark another milestone next month following the commercial roll out of GSM service in Nigeria in August 2001, has proved a veritable training ground for key executives of the mobile telephone company.
Sifiso Dabengwa, current Group President and CEO of the company, was once seconded from the Group headquarters to head the local operations because of the strategic place of the profitable Nigerian market.
MTN Nigeria, which remains the number one phone company in Nigeria by subscriber numbers, closed last year by creaming off over 51 million lines out of over 117.2million active phone connections in the local telecoms market according to official market information by the Nigerian government.
In its Nigerian evolution, Karel Piennar, who is now Group Chief Strategy and M&A Officer of MTN was CEO of MTN Nigeria at the outset in 2001. Piennar was to lead the company through the difficult days of network roll out to build an infrastructure that will meet the yearning of a people that have been deprived of basic telephony services.
During his brief leadership of MTN Nigeria, the lot fell on Piennar to navigate the difficult terrain of Nigeria to take dial tone across the nook and cranny of the country.
It was that period that built the network infrastructure foundation for the successful business for the company in Nigeria.
Adrian Wood, the more marketing savvy successor to Piennar as CEO of MTN Nigeria was to drive the market buzz that will make the mobile phone compete with rival Nitel, Econet Wireless Nigeria, Mtel and a few CDMA network including EMIS, Intercellular, Multi-Links, Starcomms, among others for the pent-up demand for telecoms services.
Wood was later to leave MTN Nigeria in 2004 after successfully ramping up subscriber numbers for the company causing the MTN Group to second Sifiso Dabengwa, who was at the time the MTN Group Chief Operating Officer, was to him in Nigeria.
The move also demonstrates that the Nigerian market continues to prove a key stronghold for the South African mobile telephony giant which at Q1, 2013 has more than 51 million coming from the country out of its 195 million subscribers spread across Africa.
MTN Nigeria’s solid performance has not come at a price for the South African company. Over the last few years, the mobile phone company has come under flaks locally over allegations of non-empowerment of its local workforce in Nigeria.
This has not been helped by the massive influx of expatriates within its local operations where Nigerians have shown demonstrable capacity to perform such responsibilities at the time.
These criticisms have seen the company taking steps to address some of those concerns by trimming down its expatriate workforce and placing Nigerians in strategic management positions locally and across its African operational footprints straddling the continent and the Middle East.
In the wake of this restructuring, Karl Toriola, the ex-CTO of MTN Nigeria was appointed the CEO of MTN Cameroon; Mike Ikpoki, the CMO of MTN Nigeria also became CEO of MTN Ghana as part of a strategic internal restructuring to address some of those concerns and be seen to be empowering its local workforce.
MTN now periodically showcases several CSR programmes undertaken by the company in Nigeria as part of giving back to its local operating environment through the MTN Foundation after coming under criticism of alleged capital flight from the Nigerian economy.
Meanwhile, success has its downside. MTN Nigeria recently came under regulatory clampdown and was asked to bring its on-net and off-net call rates at par after the industry regulator imposed sanctions over allegations that it was using its dominant market position to stifle competition in the telecoms market.
Which is why again, the news coming from South Africa about the opening up of a leadership space in MTN Nigeria has attracted more than passing interest among watchers of the successful company and raised the key question: Who becomes CEO of MTN Nigeria?