Former MTN Uganda CEO, Wim Vanhelleputte has been appointed as the new CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia and he assumes effective September 1st, 2023 — succeeding Anwar Soussa.
He joins Safaricom Ethiopia from MTN Group, where he was the Operating Executive for West and Central Africa (WECA) Markets of Liberia, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, and Congo-Brazzaville since August 2022 and he was responsible for the performance and governance.
Wim brings to Safaricom Ethiopia his extensive leadership experience and deep industry knowledge, having worked in the telecommunications industry across multiple markets in sub-Saharan Africa for over 25 years.
Safaricom PLC in a statement said, “As Wim joins us, we have planned for a seamless transition to ensure that we maintain our momentum so far in delivering our vision to transform lives through a digital future for all Ethiopians.”
Wim’s appointment comes a week after Safaricom Ethiopia expressed its appreciation to the Government of Ethiopia for its continuous support in undertaking telecom and financial services in the country.
“The first message we continue to give to the outside investment is the support that we are receiving from the government, first for the launch of the telecommunication services, and now for this investment in the area of financial services,” Safaricom Ethiopia Chief Enterprise Business Officer, Chris Lazarus told the Ethiopia News Agency at the time.
Kenya’s Safaricom PLC launched its mobile network in Ethiopia in October 2022, becoming the first private operator in one of Africa’s largest telecoms markets. It is reported that the network was supposed to launch in April 2022 but was delayed because of Covid-19 and logistical challenges. At the time of the launch, Safaricom Ethiopia switched on its network and services in the capital Addis Ababa following network pilots in 10 cities.
Prior state-owned Ethio Telecom had been operating as a sole telecommunication services operator in Ethiopia since 1894 until the government allowed Safaricom to start telecom operations in the country.
Safaricom Ethiopia is building a wholly-owned mobile network and also has infrastructure sharing and interconnection agreements in place with Ethio Telecom. The telco’s vision is to transform lives through a digital future for all Ethiopians — and it believes Wim Vanhelleputte in this.
The engagement of Safaricom Ethiopia in addition to Ethio Telecom and another “expected” third telecom operator is going to stir further competition and benefit their customers from affordable and meaningful connectivity which also aligns with the United Nations ITU target.
According to the Ethiopia News Agency, Ethiopia is already experiencing the benefits of competition, with many changes taking place in the country.
Safaricom Ethiopia Chief Enterprise Business Officer, Chris Lazarus noted before that their partner, the incumbent Ethio Telecom, is not seen as a competitor but rather an ally.
Anwar Soussa will depart ways with the telco effective July 31st, 2023 as confirmed by Safaricom PLC Kenya’s CEO Peter Ndegwa.
“Anwar Soussa, Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia PLC, will be leaving the business effective 31st July 2023 once his secondment comes to an end,” Ndegwa said in a statement — adding that “As the first CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia, Anwar has overseen the attainment of significant milestones in a highly dynamic environment, including onboarding the team and successfully launching commercial operations of the second telecommunications operator in Ethiopia.”
In his tenure, Safaricom Ethiopia has now boosted over 4 million customers with more than 25 percent network coverage of the population spread across 50 cities and towns. Under his leadership, Safaricom Ethiopia also secured a mobile financial services license, paving the way for the launch of M-PESA services.
Ndegwa expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Anwar for his leadership and contributions to Safaricom Ethiopia. Remarking that “Throughout his tenure, he has demonstrated unwavering passion and commitment, which have played a crucial role in our achievements thus far.”