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We believe in the ‘can do spirit’ of Nigeria – Boye Olusanya, CEO 9mobile

Navigating telecom firms in stormy waters to safety seems to have become the forte of Boye Olusanya, the Chief Executive Officer of 9mobile. This piece reviews his stewardship at the telecom firm.

Tasks don’t come more onerous than the one Boye Olusanya got saddled with on July 4, 2017 when he was named as the new CEO of Etisalat Nigeria (later rebranded to 9mobile). His appointment alongside new board members, and management of the telcom made the headlines far and wide.

Olusanya’s antecedents in the telecoms industry, where he has put over 20 years, are unprecedented. Hence, his unanimous choice by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a banking consortium to stabilise the telco and steer its ship to profitability wasn’t a ruse.

While Boye, as he is fondly called, came on board as CEO, Deputy Governor of the CBN, Dr. Joseph Nnanna stepped in as Chairman of the Board to be supported by Oluseyi Bickersteth and Ken Igbokwe as Non-Executive Directors. Funke Ighodaro was named the Chief Finance Officer.

The appointments of Olusanya and others were in the aftermath of the crisis triggered by disagreement between Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Ltd (EMTS), then trading as Etisalat Nigeria, and a banking consortium over repayment of a seven-year medium-term syndicated loan facility obtained in 2013 for the purpose of network expansion and refinancing of an existing loan.

The Emirates Telecommunication Group (Etisalat Group) and Mubadala Development Company, the majority shareholders from the United Arab Emirates, thereafter withdrew their interests in the Nigerian subsidiary. This prompted the intervention of the CBN and NCC which also later appointed Barclays Africa to manage the process of getting new investors for the telco.

Olusanya’s brief, meanwhile, was to calm the stormy waters and ensure that the telco remained a viable business pending the arrival of new owners. Given all that has transpired since, and the successful acquisition of the telco by Teleology Holdings Limited, Olusanya’s choice has proved to be inspired, with his knowledge of the telecoms sector proving invaluable.

Prior to becoming CEO at Etisalat, Olusanya was initially Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Econet Wireless. He subsequently became Acting Chief Executive Officer, successfully managing the affairs of the company after the disengagement of the former operators and attendant challenges following the transition from Econet to Vodacom. Olusanya led the team that returned the company to profitability and earned the confidence of lenders and recorded a remarkable feat in the area of talent retention in the company during transitions years. Indeed, it could be said, experience was his armour!

As the new CEO, one of the issues he solved immediately he got to work was launch of a new name for then Etisalat Nigera, following the request of the previous owners that the Etisalat brand name should be dropped. Commendably, Olusanya didn’t drop the ball. He led the re-branding exercise from the front, resulting in a successful effort on July 19, 2017, when the new brand name, 9mobile and logo were unveiled.

“In our 9 years of operations, we have remained a prime driver and avid supporter of the Nigerian spirit of excellence and we will continue to stay true to our “Naijacentric identity” which is what the 9 actually represents in 9mobile. This notion is strongly reflected in our core messages and depicted in major projects and initiatives which we have been known to support,” the CEO began at the unveiling ceremony

He continued: “We believe in the ‘can do spirit’ of Nigeria and this led us to introduce 0809ja which is like a slogan now in the country with the response being ‘9ja for life’. This shows Nigerians do believe in the Nigerian project when given the opportunity which is one of the major reasons we are rebranding to 9mobile because it embodies the Nigerian spirit of never given up.”

The CEO explained further: “We live in a digitalised world and 9mobile is better positioned as the most innovative telecommunications company to take Nigerians to the future of high-tech telecommunications. So, if you are used to enjoying data, voice services, browsing, video gaming and other innovative and interactive packages; we say welcome to 9mobile, the most innovative telecommunications company.”

Fittingly, Olusanya and his team have lived up to their promise, ensuring that operations remain seamless while delighting customers with an array of innovative solutions and platforms that empower and support them to achieve more via technology. And in furtherance of its commitment to improved positive customer experience and innovative services even during the transition phase, 9mobile entered into several strategic partnerships that had the double benefit of improving the company’s cash flow and satisfying customers.

His dignified comportment during the acquisition process won him admirers among staff who were impressed by his confidence and refusal to compromise on quality. “Some of us did not fail to observe that, even during the investment marketing process; 9mobile never took its eyes off the ball by providing quality data, voice services, browsing, video gaming and other packages to our subscribers. The CEO and his entire team ensured that we kept working while also assuring us that all will be well once we play our part by keeping our subscribers happy. Well, things are certainly well now!” disclosed a staff of the company who spoke anonymously.

A holder of Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, with double M.Sc in Environmental Civil Engineering from Liverpool University and another MSc. in Computer Science from Manchester University, Olusanya boasts in-depth and time-tested capabilities in Business Process and Strategy Development; Pricing Strategies & Product Introduction/Innovation, Process Reengineering, Market Analysis, Penetration and Expansion, Corporate Finance and Business Funding Structures, Forecasting, Budgeting & Cost Controls. He had also previously handled high-level responsibilities for multi-million dollar projects at blue-chip companies including Dangote Industries Limited where he served as Chief Business Transformation Officer.

Appraising his time in the saddle as 9mobile’s CEO, there’s no disputing the fact that Olusanya has further burnished his already impressive credentials. There’s little doubt that a higher and bigger calling awaits him.

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