Sylvia Mulinge to leave Safaricom in September, join MTN Uganda as new CEO

Safaricom has announced that Sylvia Mulinge, the telco’s Chief Consumer Business Officer,  will be leaving the company to take up a new role outside the firm. Ms Mulinge’s last working day at the telco will be September 30, 2022, three months from now.

Mulinge joined Safaricom in 2006 and has held various senior roles. She has previously served as the General Manager for the telco’s Enterprise Business Unit and Director Consumer Business Unit, before assuming the role of Chief Customer Officer in 2018. In July 2021, she took up the role of Chief Consumer Business Officer.

Ms Mulinge is among three new CEOs named by MTN Group in new management changes in the group’s subsidiaries  in Uganda, Rwanda and Cameroon effective from September 1, 2022.

“Sylvia Mulinge becomes MTN Uganda CEO, joining from Safaricom, where she served as Chief Consumer Business Officer for the Group. A seasoned executive, she brings with her a passion for transforming customers’ lives using technology,” stated MTN Group in a statement.

“Mulinge replaces Wim Vanhelleputte, who will take on the new MTN Group role of Operations Executive: Markets. In this position, he will leverage his experience in furthering financial inclusion and strengthening MTN’s position as a market leader. Vanhelleputte is a former MTN Côte d’Ivoire CEO and has extensive operational experience across Africa.”

As part of the changes, MTN Rwanda CEO Mitwa Ng’ambi becomes CEO of MTN Cameroon, replacing Stephen Blewett, who is leaving the Group. Ng’ambi oversaw the listing of MTN Rwanda as well as the establishment of its fintech subsidiary. She was instrumental in strengthening the business’s stakeholder engagement and has also worked in MTN’s Benin and Zambian operations.

“My thanks to Stephen for his valuable contribution to the MTN Group over the years and wish him well as he journeys to new opportunities outside of the African continent. I welcome Sylvia to the Y’ello family and look forward to working with her, as well as with Mitwa, Mapula and Wim in their new roles, as we continue to execute on our Ambition 2025 strategy,” said MTN Group President and CEO Ralph Mupita

MTN South Africa Chief Consumer Officer Mapula Bodibe takes the helm at MTN Rwanda, bringing with her more than 15 years’ experience with MTN, including in Uganda. She has a strong background in commercial strategy, consumer marketing, customer strategy, brand management and communications, product management and customer analytics.

MTN also announced the creation of a new senior MTN Group post: the position of Operations Executive for Liberia, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, and Congo-Brazzaville effective 1 August 2022, reporting to the Senior VP for Markets, Ebenezer Asante-Twum.

“The appointment of these executives, all with strong track records of execution and results, adds to our confidence on delivery of our Ambition 2025 strategy,” said  Mupita.

In April 2018, Ms Mulinge – who has been arguably one of the most visible faces at Safaricom – it was reportedly  set to leave the telco to assume a bigger role as the MD of Vodacom Tanzania, replacing the then MD, Ian Ferrao. However, the transition never materialised as she was unable to secure a work permit from the Tanzanian government, leading her to resume her role at Safaricom in September of the same year.

In late September 2018, it was reported that Vodacom Tanzania confirmed that the work permit application for Sylvia Mulinge was declined by the Labour Commissioner, and that the telco had decided to renew the search for Ms Mulinge’s replacement (even though she never took over the position formally).

“Vodacom Tanzania remains fully committed to identifying a candidate that will not only inspire confidence in investors but also have the requisite governance capability as CEO of a listed company… Naturally, we are disappointed, and we regret the Labour Commissioner’s decision. We will be engaging with the authorities. We are confident that Vodacom Tanzania has a strong management team in place to lead the company effectively until the search for a suitable candidate is finalised,” Vodacom Tanzania chairman Ali Mufuruki said in the statement.

Coincidently and amidst the developments at Vodacom Tanzania, Safaricom announced via an internal memo to its staff that Ms Mulinge had been reappointed to the firm in a new role as the Director of Special Projects.

Ms Mulinge was for a long time among the only three women in Safaricom’s C-Suite (or senior management ranks), with the others being Rita Okuthe, the Director of Enterprise Business Unit and Jannet Atika, the Director for Operations. At the moment, she’s the only woman in the telco’s C-Suite, as can be seen here. – joined Safaricom in 2006 from Unilever as the Prepay product manager.

Currently the Director for Consumer Business, where she’s been in charge of a huge portfolio of services and products including MPESA, Ms Mulinge leaves Safaricom on a high note considering the suite of products and services which have been introduced to the market during her tenure – including Lipa Na Pesa, the BLAZE youth sub-brand and subsequent BYOB youth entrepreneurship TV show, FLEX pre-paid bundles and most recently, the Platinum bundles.

“She has been an Executive Committee member (EXCO) for the last 9 years, where she has offered leadership and been part of many of Safaricom’s successes. More recently, she has been instrumental in steering the agile transformation of the commercial units. She is instrumental in setting up two key businesses within Safaricom – the Enterprise and Fixed Data units,” said Peter Ndegwa, the Safaricom CEO in statement.

“A champion of Digital Transformation, Sylvia is a purpose-led and impact driven business leader. She has lived the Safaricom Purpose of Transforming Lives of our customers using technology as an enabler of positive change… As she embarks on the next phase of her career, I would like to congratulate Sylvia and thank her for her leadership and contribution to Safaricom over the years.”


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