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Airtel Africa’s Chief Commercial Officer leaves the firm as it mulls sale of Africa unit

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Farhan Khan, Airtel Africa’s Chief Commercial Officer has left the telecom company to join Al-Yah Satellite Communications Company as its new Chief Commercial Officer with media reporting Airtel is mulling sale of its pan-African operations.

Airtel in June 2010 spent $9 billion to buy out Kuwait-based Zain Group out of 15 countries in Africa, taking $8.5 billion in debt targeting 100 million subscribers and $5 billion in revenue and move to profitability. The telco further added another $5 billion cash to reorganize its Africa operations but by March 2015 the firm was $585 million in losses and a subscriber base of 76.2 million.

These losses led the firm to sell off sell four subsidiaries Airtel Burkina Faso, Airtel Chad, Airtel Congo Brazzaville and Airtel Sierra Leone to Orange. The leaving of the telco’s COO might signal more danger for the telco than anticipated. The rest of the Airtel operations are not doing any good either.

Appointed in January 2015, Farhad Khan was plucked from MTN South Africa where he led the firm’s Sales and Distribution since August 2013.  He had been working at MTN IranCell and MTN Zambia before these roles. He took over from Andre Beyers, MTN’s former Chief Marketing Officer.

Farhad was expected to drive the telco’s commercial strategy for Africa and to build a strong marketing team to turn around Airtel Africa’s fortunes but things didn’t work as expected. Yahsat, might give him the chance he wants to grow professionally as well as apply his leadership knowledge unlike at Airtel Africa where major decisions are made in India and imposed on Africa.

According to  Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, CEO of Yahsat, ”After careful selection, we are pleased to have found the best individual for the job. Farhad has a proven record in the telecommunications industry combined with strong leadership skills and deep industry knowledge. I wish Farhad every success in his new role and have full confidence that with his leadership we will continue our growth trajectory.’’

Khan said he is delighted to be joining Yahsat at such an exciting time. Yahsat’s achievements in less than five years of operations, with the launch of two satellites and serving many communities across the Middle East, Africa, Central and South West Asia, shows the firm is growing faster than Airtel.

‘During this next critical growth phase, I will concentrate on establishing new partnerships, work on the launch of Yahsat’s third satellite Al Yah 3 and drive the business as we enter more than 20 additional markets,’’ Khan said.

Khan has over 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and has worked extensively across Africa and Asia.

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