MTN Nigeria this week made two changes to its senior management cadre. 

The local MTN unit has a predominantly Nigerian management team. However, both the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) positions have been previously held by expatriates since MTN Nigeria launched 20 years ago. 

In what is regarded as notable moves, the telecoms giant named Nigerian Adia Sowho as its first-ever female Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) while Shoyinka Shodunke was appointed as the first Nigerian Chief Information Officer (CIO).

“I didn’t realise I was the first female CMO at MTN or any telco in Nigeria,” Sowho told TechCabal after her appointment. “The love and support has been great. Kudos to MTN for taking the bold step and putting in the effort to identify more Nigerian talent for its executive team.”

In her new role, Sowho says she will be responsible for marketing the MTN brand and developing some of the product propositions offered to users. “It’s an interesting mix of things to do. I’m there to support the rest of the organisation.”

Who is Adia Sowho?

Adia Sowho is a graduate of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, where she obtained a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Electrical Engineering with a major in Communications.

She also has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Kellogg School of Management, with majors in Strategy, Analytical Consulting, Strategic Marketing, and Entrepreneurship.

For more than 20 years, Sowho has held different positions across several major companies in the telecoms and consulting industries.

Sowho kicked off her career in 2001 as a Radio Frequency Engineer at the U.S. Cellular Corporation in America. After this, she joined U.S.-based Deloitte Consulting LLP in Chicago as Management Consultant in 2007. 

Three years later, she moved to Nigeria, joining Etisalat Nigeria (now 9mobile), where she held several top positions until her departure in 2018. These include Head of Strategy and Business Development, Head of Digital Media, and then Director for Digital Business.

After Etisalat, Sowho was appointed to head as Managing Director, the Nigerian unit of San Francisco-based Migo, formerly Mines.io. At the company, she later became Vice President for Growth between 2018 and 2020.

Since last year, Sowho has been interim CEO at Thrive Agric. She was brought in to help turn the agricultural startup’s fortunes around after it defaulted on financial obligations to investors last year.

She is also a Non-Executive Director at Sankore Investments and Hover Developer Services Inc, based in Washington.

Sowho brings to MTN these many years of experience and expertise in commerce, strategic business planning and growth, and digital infrastructure. 

What major shifts have taken place since she last held a position in the Nigerian telecoms industry? She says one is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought sweeping changes to how people live, companies do business and industries function.

“One major thing that’s happened is the pandemic,” Sowho said. “In the wake of the global outbreak, people and businesses have become more aware of the opportunities that mobile and digital connectivity offers. Digital economies have grown across the world.”

MTN is the largest mobile network operator in Nigeria and the sheer scale of the company in itself is exciting for the new CMO. Sowho add she is also “excited” to join and work with her colleagues in figuring out what “MTN of the future” looks like.

Meet the first Nigerian CIO

Having previously worked at MTN Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, and Cameroon, Shodunke rejoins MTN with more than 20 years of experience in information technology (IT) management. In addition, he boasts knowledge and expertise in strategic business planning, fiscal controls, business & technology transformation, Cloud & SaaS Solutions and service delivery.

A graduate of Mathematics Statistic/Operations Research from the Federal University of Technology Yola in Nigeria with a Bachelor of Technology degree, Shodunke holds an MBA degree from the University of Northampton and a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Global Management from the University of Salford Manchester, both in the UK.

His career began as a Systems Analyst in 1995 at Texaco Overseas Petroleum Company (now Chevron Nigeria) and in 2001 joined MTN Nigeria, where he spent 7 years across various positions in the IT department.

At MTN Nigeria, Shodunke received the CIO’s “award for excellence” for the design and implementation of the postpaid credit and payment management process that was named best-in-class in Nigeria.

He later joined MTN Zambia as CIO for three years. In 2011, he moved to the telco’s Uganda unit, where he served as General Manager and managed the Architecture and Planning Function in MTN South-East Africa IT Shared Services Hub.

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Shodunke returned to MTN Nigeria in 2012 as General Manager for IT Service Delivery and went on to become Acting CIO. Over a four-year period, he successfully managed and stabilised the newly required SIM Registration process in Nigeria. 

For a second time, Shodunke left MTN Nigeria, moving to MTN Cameroon in 2016. He was first Chief Information Officer and then Chief Information Technology Officer in the francophone African country.

He left MTN in 2020 to Vodafone Ghana, where he was Director of Technology, and now returns as the first Nigerian CIO in MTN Nigeria.

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Michael Ajifowoke | Author

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