MTN Chief Financial Officer, Brett Goschen, Resigns

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Brett Goshen, MTN Group Chief Financial Officer since July 22, 2013, has resigned. His resignation, which was made when the company in the middle of a hunt for new revenue streams that include convincing its more than 200 million users to use their handsets for everything from storing money to paying bills, will take effect from September.

Brett Goschen has been with the group in various capacities for more than a decade, including a onetime CEO of MTN Nigeria.. Yet, where strong conversations around the company is be made, his name barely mentioned . And now that’s he’s gone, Gunter Engling, who has been the Chief Executive Officer at MTN Rwandacell Limited since July 1, 2015, will assume position of acting group CFO on Brett’s departure until a permanent CFO is appointed.

Not only that, he will also be losing his seat on the MTN board of directors as well. Although the report released to the company’s shareholders this morning attributes the resignation to Brett’s desire “to pursue other interest”, the move is rather overdue.

Stephen van Coller, former Barclays Africa investment banking chief, has been named as head of mergers, acquisitions and strategy. Coller’s appointment follows that of another banking veteran Rob Shuter as chief executive officer last month. Coller will take up his role in October while Shuter is expected to start by no later than July next year.

MTN has struggled to make money at a faster pace as years of price wars and regulation aimed at bringing tariffs down hit profitability and made it less attractive to spend on new networks. Investors are hoping Shuter and Coller will use their banking experience to shake off MTN’s reputation as a stock with a limited potential for growth and expect a move into financial services.

Africa‘s biggest telecoms operator has been embroiled in a long standoff with the Nigerian regulator, NCC.  Not to mention the recent the ₦16 Billion legal tussle with the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). No doubt, reshuffling their upper echelon in order to begin on a fresh slate is a welcome development.

The move will pit MTN against African rival Safaricom, whose mobile money business M-Pesa helped offset falling prices for basic telecoms and convinced some executive and investors that financial services is the industry’s next growth area.

That said, Nigeria arguably remains the one true ground where the company can seek to achieve its biggest dreams within the African continent. Seeing that Gunter’s appointment is only in a temporary capacity (until a permanent replacement is found), it’s high time we saw a Nigerian brought forward for the role when the time is ripe; the likes of Adekunle Awobodu.

In other lighter news, MTN Nigeria has won the frequency spectrum license for the 2.6 GHz band as the sole bidder in an auction exercise organized by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). This implies 4G LTE service is coming to MTN soon.

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