The Oasis Reporters
January 6, 2024
The multinational telecommunications firm Airtel especially in their largest market in Africa has weathered a storm too many.
It started life when president Olusegun Obasanjo opened the gates for Africa-centric telecommunications firms to come and bid for licenses.
Econet of Zimbabwe threw its hat into the ring and successfully won to operate in Nigeria, a largely virgin and underserved market crying for GSM penetration. It could not thrust deep because as a nascent African firm from a largely poor country of Zimbabwe, it had no money for big investments in a huge country like Nigeria.
Those that had the deep pockets and could help Econet maintain a rock steady balance wanted a bigger pie. Perhaps to wrestle the company from the grip of Strive Masiyiwa, its Zimbabwean founder. The boardroom fights were bitter. But as they say, money rules.
From one court to the other, one arbitration to the other and from one hand to the other, the beautiful bride changed husbands and became Vodacom, Vmobile, Celtel and finally, Airtel.
Airtel is an Indian firm. To play this game, the owners played discretely from the sidelines and let Segun Ogunsanya run the show from the rocky level to stability as Africa’s own. Run by its people, albeit with Indian finance and backing.
But the gloves are off now. After all the market is very steady and also growing.
Airtel Africa Plc has announced the retirement of Segun Ogunsanya as the chief executive officer (CEO) with effect from July 1, 2024.
In a statement earlier this week, the telecommunications firm said Sunil Taldar will replace Ogunsanya as the new managing director and CEO.
According to Airtel Africa, Ogunsanya, who had joined the firm in 2012, ran the Nigerian operations of the telecommunications and mobile money company for nine years before he was appointed CEO of the Group in 2021.
Following his retirement, the firm said Ogunsanya will also be available to advise the chairman, the Airtel Africa board, and CEO for 12 months.
“With local knowledge of the African landscape and deep distribution experience he (Ogunsanya) led the company in maintaining double-digit revenue growth over many quarters and to deliver new, innovative products to its customers across the continent,” the statement reads.
“Building on the work undertaken during his time as CEO, including the launch of the company’s first sustainability strategy, and given his deep experience across Africa, Mr. Ogunsanya will become the Airtel Africa Charitable Foundation’s inaugural chair.
“The Charitable Foundation will accelerate the Company’s commitment to its sustainability initiatives and charitable operations across its locations in Africa.
“The Charitable Foundation’s objectives will focus on promoting digital inclusion, financial inclusion, access to education, and environmental protection.
“The Charitable Foundation will be a separate legal entity and be independent of the Airtel Africa Group.”
On the appointment of the new CEO, the company said Taldar joined Airtel Africa in October 2023 as “director-transformation” and will begin the transition to the CEO role, working alongside Ogunsanya.
“Following a transition period, Mr. Taldar will be appointed to the board as an executive director and assume the role of CEO on 1 July 2024, at which time Ogunsanya will step down from the board and retire from the company,” Airtel Africa added.
Commenting on the development, Sunil Mittal, chairman of Airtel Africa Plc, appreciated Ogunsanya for his commitment and significant contribution to the company.
“I am pleased Segun has agreed, following his retirement, to assume the new role as chair of the Airtel Africa Charitable Foundation, where he will bring his visionary leadership to this new philanthropic initiative to advance development and prosperity across Africa,” Mittal said.
“The board is delighted to appoint Taldar as the Group’s next CEO. His industry experience, strategic vision, constant customer focus and proven record of delivery will enable him to deliver our strategic objectives and to lead the Group in the next stages of its development.
“In respect of the transition period, Segun continues to lead the business very effectively as seen in our financial results. Given that Sunil Taldar has already joined the Group, we are confident that we will have an orderly leadership transition and handover of responsibilities.”
On his part, Ogunsanya said spending over 12 years of his career at Airtel Africa has been a privilege, adding that he looks forward to pursuing a renewed interest in the empowerment of Africans through digital and financial inclusion.
With Ogunsanya occupying the ceremonial chair of charity and adviser to Airtel, he won’t be available to join any other hungry for success firm in either his native Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa. He’ll be very busy helping to carve the charity pudding on the table for vulnerable groups all over Africa.