Safaricom appoints MTN’s Wim Vanhelleputte as its new Ethiopia CEO

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Safaricom has appointed Wim Vanhelleputte as the new CEO for its Ethiopia operations, effective September 1, days after the exit of Anwar Soussa, who lead the firm since its launch two years ago.

He joins Safaricom from South Africa’s MTN Group where he served in various capacities in East, West and Central Africa. He has been instrumental for MTN Group’s growth both in terms of subscriber numbers and revenue, not only in Uganda but in the West and Central African markets of Liberia, Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, and Congo-Brazzaville after he left MTN Uganda.

Vanhelleputte’s tenure at MTN Uganda saw the firm grow its subscriber base from 8.5million to 16million, doubled its network towers to 3000 sites countrywide and grew revenue by 75% during the period. MTN Uganda started operations in 1998 and Vanhelleputte steered the telco through its initial public offering.

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Wim Vanhelleputte as the chief executive officer of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia PLC effective September 1, 2023,” said CEO Peter Ndegwa in an internal communication to staff.

“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.”

Vanhelleputte holds a Bachelor’s Degree in General Engineering and a Master’s in Nuclear and Solid-State Physics, both from the State University of Ghent in Belgium and a Special Degree in Power Plant Management from the Free University of Brussels.

Before his 6-year stint as MTN Uganda CEO until August 2022 when Safaricom’ Sylvia Mulinge took the reigns, the Belgian national was an associate engineer at Westinghouse Energy Systems Europe in the Czech Republic, then joined Siemens Atea as a project engineer in Zimbabwe, and later as a residential project manager in Gabon.

He later served as the CEO for MTN Cote d’Ivoire, worked for Airtel Africa as the regional director for Francophone Africa and as cluster CEO for Airtel DRC and Congo Brazzaville.

Mr Vanhelleputte is expected to drive Safaricom Ethiopia to the biggest telco in the market. Safaricom Ethiopia now has over four million customers and covers more than 25 percent of Ethiopia’s population in 50 cities and towns. The telco is also rolling out its Safaricom M-PESA service in Ethiopia after it was licensed on May 11 to carry out mobile money operations.