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Safaricom Ethiopia appoints Wim Vanhelleputte as new CEO

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MTN Group's Wim Vanhelleputte has been tapped to head Safaricom Ethiopia following the departure of Anwar Soussa.

This news comes after Safaricom Ethiopia announced the departure of its first CEO, Soussa, who will leave the carrier at the end of July.

Safaricom Ethiopia's parent company, Safaricom Kenya, said in a statement that Vanhelleputte will take over from Soussa starting September 1, 2023.

"Wim brings 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 said in a statement.

Vanhelleputte joins Safaricom from MTN Group, where, since last August, he served as operations executive: markets. In this role, he was tasked with the performance and governance of four operating companies in West and Central Africa.

Before his tenure at MTN Group, Vanhelleputte had been CEO of MTN Uganda since 2016. Furthermore, Vanhelleputte served as CEO of MTN Côte d’Ivoire from 2009 until 2015. He briefly joined Airtel Africa between 2015 and 2016, first as the regional director for francophone Africa, and later as the cluster CEO for Airtel DRC and Congo.

Vanhelleputte takes mantle from Soussa

When Vanhelleputte takes over from Soussa, he will be charged with building on the milestones achieved by the first CEO, which include setting up the team that launched commercial operations of the second telco operator in Ethiopia. Soussa was also at the helm when the telco rolled out the new network in the city of Dire Dawa in the eastern part of the country in August 2022. The company later switched on its mobile network and services in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, and ten other cities in October 2022.

Wim Vanhelleputte takes over from Anwar Soussa, who led the telco to gain more than 4 million customers with a network that covers 25% of the population across 50 cities and towns.   (Source: Safaricom Ethiopia.)
Wim Vanhelleputte takes over from Anwar Soussa, who led the telco to gain more than 4 million customers with a network that covers 25% of the population across 50 cities and towns.
(Source: Safaricom Ethiopia.)

Since his appointment in August 2021, Soussa has led the operator to gain more than 4 million customers with a network that covers 25% of the population across 50 cities and towns. He was also in charge when Safaricom Ethiopia was granted the license to operate mobile money services, paving the way for it to launch its popular platform M-Pesa in Ethiopia.

"As Vanhelleputte 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," the telco said in its statement.

Vanhelleputte replaced by Stephen Blewett

In joining Safaricom Ethiopia, Vanhelleputte will be replaced by Stephen Blewett as MTN Group's new operations executive: markets, effective July 1, 2023.

"In his new role, Stephen will assume executive responsibility for the WECA markets of Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau and Congo Brazzaville, and provide general operations support across the same region, reporting directly to Ebenezer Twum Asante, Senior Vice President: Markets," MTN Group's statement continued.

MTN Group added that Blewett will bring a wealth of experience to his new position, having most recently served as the group chief operating officer of Digicel, based in Kingston, Jamaica.

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*Top image is of Incoming Safaricom Ethiopia CEO Wim Vanhelleputte. (Source: Safaricom Ethiopia.)

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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