MTN Group defends choice of white CEO following BMF’s criticism

South Africa-based MTN Group has defended the appointment of white CEO – Rob Shuter – to replace Sifiso Dabengwa who resigned following the dispute in the firm’s Nigeria subsidiary.

The telco, which has operations in 22 countries in Africa and Middle East, had come under criticism from business lobby Black Management Forum (BMF) which claimed that Shuter’s appointment “contributed to the steady decline in the number of black South Africans in leadership positions in the corporate sector.”

BMF president Mncane Mthunzi had said that thr forum’s position is “informed by the clear reversal of black representation in top JSE-listed companies adding that “there is a general unwillingness for transformation at top management level, which has resulted in the decline in the number of black South African CEOs,”


However in a statement, MTN said that its staff of about 21,000 is comprised of people from 60 different nationalities.

“MTN Group’s growth into a leading multinational telecommunications company has in itself been a story of shared growth within the economies we operate. From humble beginnings, as a local and regional company, MTN has propelled itself into an operation spanning 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East, with a diverse aggregate population of over 600 million under its footprint. Through our operations in countries as diverse as Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and indeed South Africa, the Group supports a subscriber base of over 230 million. This is serviced by a staff complement of approximately 21 000, which represents almost 60 different nationalities. South African staff comprise 22% of the total group staff complement, of which 85% of the South African staff are Historically Disadvantaged South Africans (HDSA),” stated MTN.

The statement further notes that “transformation and empowerment remain at the core of MTN’s ethos and culture” adding that “over the last 22 years, MTN has been one of the standard bearers of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and overall transformation amongst the top 10 JSE-listed companies.”

“Diversity is our key differentiator and is fundamental to our success. Consequently, our employee base has a strong bias toward local talent as evidenced in MTN South Africa where the CEO, board and executive committee are comprised of predominantly HDSA persons. In addition, of the 22 CEOs across our operations, 9 are South African, five of whom are HDSA. MTN is a magnet for young professional talent in all its markets. All positions in the Group are filled on the basis of the company’s needs and objectives without compromising the medium-term transformation imperative in South Africa or any of our operational markets,” states MTN.

The firm added that “whilst transformation will always be important, innovation and strategic flexibility are equally critical given the global nature of the firm and the disruptive technological changes that are sweeping through the telecoms sector.”

“To this end, the market has understood the changes made to the organisational structure as well as the appointment of key roles to address identified strategic gaps within the business. This includes the appointment of an internationally-seasoned Group CEO and President, who was chosen following an extensive global and local search. Ongoing empowerment and transformation will remain one of the key deliverables of the new Group CEO,” reads the statement.

“Notwithstanding significant efforts made in the spirit of transformation in South Africa, the Group remains sensitive to the diverse nature of its shareholding structure – 55% global funds and 45% domestic shareholders – and operations in order to achieve its long-term vision and objectives. The Group is proud of its transformation policy, record and trajectory, which, whilst varying in its depth from time to time, is informed by an emerging market vision and objective. Transformation is a broad process with many facets and not a single position or specific individual at a particular point and time, but a journey.”

MTN Group was launched in 1994. As of April 30, 2016, the telco had 230.3 million subscribers across its operations in Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Iran, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen, Afghanistan and Zambia.


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