Wim Vanhelleputte, former MTN Uganda boss, succeeds Anwar Soussa as Safaricom Ethiopia CEO

Six days after announcing that Anwar Soussa would exit his position as the CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia at the end of July 2023, the telco has followed up with an update, stating that Wim Vanhelleputte has been picked to take over the role as from September this year, a month after the formal departure of Anwar.

Revealing the latest development via Twitter, Safaricom stated: “We are pleased to announce the appointment of Wim Vanhelleputte as the Chief Executive Officer of @SafaricomET  effective 1st September 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.”

(TOP: Wim Vanhelleputte, the incoming CEO, Safaricom Ethiopia).

Vanhelleputte joins Safaricom Ethiopia from MTN Group, where he has been the Operations Executive in charge of Markets since August 2022 with the responsibility for the performance and governance of four operating companies in West and Central Africa. Immediately before this, he served as the CEO of MTN Uganda, a role he held from 2016. Between 2009 to 2015, Wim was the CEO of MTN Cote d’Ivoire. He joined Airtel Africa briefly between 2015 and 2016, first as Regional Director for Francophone Africa, then as Cluster CEO for Airtel DRC and Congo. Wim has also held senior roles in various other telecom companies including CEO at Sentel GSM in Senegal, the MD of TchadMobile in Chad, and the GM at Telcel Gabon.

He began his career as an Associate Engineer at Westinghouse Energy Systems Europe in Czech Republic, before joining Siemens Atea as a Project Engineer in Zimbabwe, then as a Residential Project Manager in Gabon. Wim is a Belgian National. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in General Engineering and a Master’s degree in Nuclear and Solid-State Physics, both from the State University of Ghent. He also holds a Special degree in Power Plant Management from the Free University of Brussels.

“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. Please join us in extending a warm welcome to Wim, and once again thank @AnwarSoussa for his contribution as the first CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia,” said said Safaricom in the announcement.

Interestingly, Wim was replaced as CEO at MTN Uganda by Sylvia Mulinge in September 2022. Mulinge was a long serving Safaricom executive who joined the telco in 2006, a year before MPESA money transfer service was launched. During her stint at Safaricom, Mulionge held various roles, including serving as the GM 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 was 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.

A few day ago, Safaricom had announced that Anwar Soussa, the CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia would be leaving the business on July 31, 2023 once his secondment comes to an end. Anwar joined Safaricom Ethiopia in August 2021 to lead the establishment of the organisation, set-up business operations and roll out a high-quality network.

As the first CEO of Safaricom Ethiopia, Anwar has overseen 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.

Anwar has steered Safaricom Ethiopia to acquire over 4 million customers, with the network now covering more than 25% of the population and spread across 50 cities and towns. Under Anwar’s leadership, Safaricom Ethiopia also secured a mobile financial services licence, paving the way for the launch of M-PESA services.


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