By the time I met Sylvia Anampiu, Managing Director, MTN Business Kenya Limited- a subsidiary of MTN GlobalConnect- she has been at it with MTN for a couple of months. Yet she is very fluent in MTN. MTN Business Kenya Limited now runs as MTN GlobalConnect Kenya brand after its acquisition by MTN GlobalConnect which made entry into Kenya. Of course, it also helps that Kenya forms the backbone of the East African Community connectivity, bordering five countries as it were. We should expect fast and affordable broadband access traversing East and West Africa. The investment: $9 million to start off. Anampiu will oversee all this.
With a career that started in agrochemicals as a Business Controller handling all things finance, then joined her first Telecom Telkom Kenya when it was under Orange Kenya; she refers to it as “going on an adventure,” and spent a decade across roles at Airtel where she got to “fall in love with the industry” before her brilliant self was snapped up by MTN GlobalConnect.
What made you fall in love with the telecom industry?
There is no dull day when you are in telecom. It is very dynamic, very fast, you must think on your feet, there is a lot to do, and the landscape is changing. Digital transformation is changing everything, and we are right in the driver’s seat. You wake up every day looking forward to something different.
There must be a lot of exciting things coming to MTN Global Connect Kenya and probably already happening. What are some of the things you are looking forward to as the MD?
I’ve been here for almost two months so I can’t say looking forward to it at this point. But then, I was looking forward to meeting the team, getting to understand what we can do together and immersing myself in the culture of the organisation, and getting to see how we can synch synergies; how our roles all come together and change what MTN GlobalConnect Kenya is today.
How have you found it so far?
I love the warmth, and culture, we work as a team, we know where we are headed and are just bringing ourselves together to make it happen.
Your answers are very to the point! How much of MTN GlobalConnect’s strategy and insight can you share with us today?
I’d say our strategy is to bring connectivity and digital transformation into Africa. What we are doing is interconnecting Africa. So far, we have been able to build 100,000kms of proprietary fibre across Africa – meaning MTN Global Connect owns this fibre – and as MTN GlobalConnect Kenya, we are part of this. In the past year, we have been able to add almost 5,000km of fibre across our markets. Currently, with Kenya as one of the strategic locations, we are connecting the east to the west coast for a complete end-to-end fibre solution providing fast and affordable broadband access.
The MTN brand is huge in Uganda. Very strong. How will you gain traction here and do you think MTN GlobalConnect is likely to explode in Kenya as it has in Uganda?
Let me first speak of MTN as a brand. For the second year running, we have been rated as the Most Valuable Brand in Africa ( Brand Finance Africa 150 rankings 2021). In Kenya, we are in the telco and corporate space. We are here and doing much more as MTN GlobalConnect. Having rebranded, we are seeing ourselves scaling up in terms of the value we are creating for this country and being at the forefront of the digital transformation in Kenya.
How will you draw in customers to MTN GlobalConnect Kenya?
Our customer profile is mainly local and international telcos, hyperscalers like Google, AWS, and our other customers are largely Multinational Enterprises. These are the kind of partners we work with that we look to continually strengthen our relationships with and create more value for ourselves and our customers.
During COVID-19, telcos became partners connecting loved ones. MTN was no exception. Was there an upsurge in numbers or growth in your customer base over the last two years?
There has been explosive growth in data traffic, connectivity, and growth in terms of data usage. Having quite a few of us working from home, I think it would be right to say there is immense traffic that passed into and across Africa and especially Kenya, being a digital hub. A lot of businesses have been transforming by going online to digitize their services. This, for example, is why we are seeing a lot of investment in Kenya with businesses setting up shop here and those already here are expanding.
What has been the one mistake you have made that you wish you could go back in time and fix?
I would not call it a mistake as such, but more like a lesson learned. When I was younger in my career, I decided to venture into the events business by buying equipment, tents, and everything that goes with events. You know those things because you are in media. Unfortunately, I did not think through it. I invested in a lot of assets and then I was working so I got someone to run it. The ROI was terrible. If I could go back, I would probably lease and not buy. It set me back quite a bit but it was not a lesson lost.
What about the flip side – what is the one thing you are proud of having done? The one thing that everyone knows you did and if I asked them, they would tell me how amazing you are.
In my previous life, we set up the operation for the enterprise segment across Africa – more specifically, 17 markets then. We started out as a one-two-woman show into the big business it is today by setting up processes, and deciding how this would look in every individual country because we were creating a very diverse environment. We also had to make sure we worked well with the regulators in the best, most efficient way possible.
This is going to sound like a job interview question but here goes. What is it about the skills you had in your career that you are bringing to MTN GlobalConnect Kenya?
I would say I am very adaptable. Getting here and understanding what the team is doing? How do we get it done? How do we work together? I am results-oriented. I like to get things done. It excites me.
That segues very nicely into the kind of leader you think you are.
I lead from the front. I will hold your hand, we will walk together, and then see how to transform. I admire leaders who are authentic and great at connecting with people be it their teams or others. Leaders who don’t just see our day-to-day work, but who connect to people at whatever level and are humane.
No one goes through a career without failing. So, what have you learned from your failures in your career?
I would allow myself some grace. Sometimes. I am too hard on myself. I also realized this is what life is about. If you fall, you pick yourself up and life keeps moving, and don’t forget to pick up your lesson.
What is the toughest decision you have ever had to make?
Earlier on in my career, it was difficult to deal with things that touch on other people’s livelihoods. Restructuring, and letting people go, for me, was very tough. I was young, and maybe the impact was not so bad then because I didn’t have a family. But looking back, I think it was too much for me at that point. I was working with people, and I would look at them and know they have dependents, some of whom I don’t even see.
I love hiking and taking road trips. And as much as I look at hiking as my hobby, it is also part of my exercise/fitness regime.
How did you survive COVID-19?
I can’t say a lot was happening in my life at that point. I just spent a lot of time outdoors. It was in those two years that I took up hiking as a hobby. That was the first time I went to Ngong Hills. From there, I just took it up. I did Mt. Kenya last year. I am looking forward to doing Mt. Kilimanjaro this year.
Is there anything about MTN GlobalConnect Kenya that you would like to say that I haven’t asked?
All I can say is we are going places, putting a lot of thought into Kenya, and we are looking forward to partnering with our partners and collaborators and doing more together as an industry. Work with partners we share the same values with and are willing to walk with us. It is a quid pro quo, what can we do together. How to transform the economy or the lives of people and the customers in the market we operate in
Your business is very customer heavy. How does MTN keep subscribers happy in a post-COVID customer-first culture?
Our service is very customer-centric. We view it as customer experience, how we interact with our customers and what our customers draw from this experience. We have account managers, qualified engineers, digital channels where we interact with our customers and strive to personalise each of our customer touchpoints.