Selorm Adadevoh highlights his years stay at MTN Ghana

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Selorm Adadevoh Ceo Mtn Ghana
Selorm Adadevoh CEO MTN Ghana

Outgoing CEO of MTN Ghana, Selorm Adadevoh has described his six years stay at the company as “A Journey Through The Eyes of a Hurricane”, which doubles as the title of a proposed nine-chapter book about his own career path so far.

He was speaking with a heavy dose of light humour at the final send off party where a foray of people including MTN staff, government officials, regulators, corporate leaders and almost everyone else that has contributed in various ways to his six-year run at MTN Ghana.

Reminiscing on the rousingly successful run as MTN Ghana CEO, Selorm said he felt a sense of gratitude to his staff and all the people who played various roles in his work during his tenure, including even regulators who gave him a hard time and pushed him to think outside the box.

He noted that the thought of what to say about his six-year journey at MTN Ghana brought to mind the title of the proposed book about his own career path, which he and his coach spoke about in the past.

The title of the proposed book, he said, is “A Journey Through The Eyes of a Hurricane” and it has nine proposed chapters, all of which relate succinctly to the most critical moments of his six-year journey as MTN Ghana CEO.

Here is how Selorm spelt out the nine chapters of the proposed book and how they each relate to the critical moments of his stay a MTN Ghana. And his presentation was filled with a heavy dose of light humour spins on otherwise very serious industry issues and challenges that confronted MTN during his six-year tenure.

Get ready to have a good laugh.

Chapter One: Heeding The Old Wise Man Against My Own Will

In his career path, this chapter talks about him reluctantly accepting to study civil engineering. In relation to MTN, it was him accepting to be the CEO of MTN Ghana as an outsider.

Selorm was the first outsider to have become the CEO of MTN Ghana in the almost 28 years that the company has been here. All other CEOs were picked from the MTN family.

In his first dose of light humour, he said “if you want to know how it felt like to be an outsider coming into MTN to be the CEO, just try it for yourself”.

Chapter Two: A Big Fall From Grace

This was a time in his career when he quitted a nice-paying job with a reputable firm abroad to become a security officer. At MTN, it represents when the company totally screwed up the CST (communication service tax) implementation and the whole country went after him. “That was tough,” he said.

Chapter Three: The Dawn of a New Beginning

This was when he moved from being a security officer to become a Project Consultant at Electrolux in the UK. In relation to his six years at MTN Ghana, that was when they completed the IPO (initial public offer) on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE), and broke every single record on the bourse. But then they also started a new journey where all of their competitors would have full access to information about MTN due to GSE full disclosure rules.

Selorm described it as a new beginning for “information asymmetry”, and, amidst loud laughter, he urged the GSE CEO (who was present at the event) to compel Telecel Ghana and AT Ghana to also list on the bourse and disclose their information as well.

Chapter Four: The Obsessive Over-achiever That Never Was

This talks about a time when Selorm was at HP (Hewlett Packard) and was trying to get up the ladder but was having difficulties. At MTN, it represents the time when their plans to over achieve were clipped by a three-letter directive called SMP (significant market power).

MTN Ghana was declared SMP in June 2020, exactly two years after Selorm took over. This was because government said the company had controlled over 70% of the market in terms of voice, data, SMS, mobile money and revenue for several years and was virtually independent of the rest of the industry. The industry regulator then started implementing measures to practically clip the wings of MTN as part of steps to correct the grave market imbalance.

Amidst thunderous laughter, Selorm elected to “move on swiftly” from the subject because the industry regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA) was represented at the event, as he puts a light humorous spin on a rather serious subject like SMP and its ramifications.

Chapter Five: A Journey Across The Atlantic – Captain Selorm on The Wheel

According to Selorm, this was when he was not satisfied with his progress in the UK, so he journeyed across the Atlantic to the USA in pursuit of bigger things. In his six-year journey at MTN Ghana, it represents when MTN was hit with major challenges such as CST, Covid-19, undersea cable cut (in 2020 and this year), SMP declaration, e-levy, and GRA tax assessment among other things.

Selorm said the seas had been stormy indeed, but he had to lead the MTN Ghana team to navigate the regulatory waters.

Again in the spirit of light humour, he elected to move on swiftly from that, saying “this is an election year so you better be careful what you say”, which got everybody laughing out loud.

Chapter Six: Navigating The Waters of Corporate America

This was when he started a new job after business school in the US. At MTN, that was very much akin to managing his board and team, whom he described as “well established individuals with experience that can take you from Gambaga to Accra; and to convince and sway them will require an artillery of weapons of mass destruction.”

Chapter Seven: A Rare Test of Africa

This refers to when Selorm relocated to Africa to figure out if things would work for him here, but things did not go well, so he left and came back again later. In his MTN journey, it represents how his resolve and resilience were tested at various points.

He recalled that “in the midst of Covid-19 it was just an opportune time to test us. We faced regulatory issues, tax issues, SMP issues, health crisis, supply chain disruption, lockdown and to top it all a campaign by customers for free data when we did not even have capacity.

“If this was not a welcome back to the continent of Africa then what was is?!” Selorm asked.

Chapter Eight: Through The Eyes of The Hurricane – A Dream or Reality?

This was when he moved to Jamaica and Haiti, which ordinary brings thoughts of lush, beaches and beautiful waters. But his experience in those countries was nothing like that. At MTN, this was when he ended up at Nyaho Clinic battling for his life after being hard hit by Covid-19 in 2021.

Selorm said he lost almost five months of work at the time, and was only able to return to work fully after a successful surgery abroad.

Chapter Nine: Africa, The Final Homecoming

This was when he finally returned to Ghana in 2018 to become the CEO of the biggest telecoms company in the country, MTN Ghana.

“In my MTN journey, this brings me to today as I prepare to relocate to South Africa to take up the responsibility for the commercial strategy and new growth opportunities for the MTN Group across the Africa portfolio,” he said.

Selorm said as he prepares to leave Ghana he is filled with a mixture of emotions – a sense of gratitude, nostalgia and perhaps a hint of relief because of what his six years journey at MTN had entailed, as he spelt out in the nine chapters above.

Gratitude

He extended his gratitude to all stakeholders who contributed to the positive impact he made over the six-year period, singling out government/regulators who, he said, allowed him to express his candid opinions on issues most of the time, even when they did not see eye to eye, and through that process, they worked together, in more ways than one, to create a better industry.

Selorm also thanked MTN Ghana’s partners such as distributors, technology partners, vendors and others for their loyalty, sacrifices and for trusting MTN and “believing in the future we are trying to build together.”

He also thanked his corporate partners for trusting MTN with their business, saying that as MTN becomes a platform player, their collaboration with corporate partners will even be more meaningful and mutually beneficial.

Selorm expressed his gratitude to the MTN Ghana board for their coaching, guidance and “crucial conversations” they had with him; and of his executive committee and team at MTN Ghana he said “wow, what can I say…and I say this with all humility.”

”We have built more of a family and the spirit we share – the laughter and everything just says it all. Thank you for your commitment and for trusting me to lead you for all these years. Your passion and professionalism has inspired me everyday and I am immensely proud of all that we have achieved and accomplished together,” he said. “We are not a team because we work together, we are a team because we trust, respect and care for each other.”

Selorm did not leave out MTN Ghana’s customers and stakeholders like the media. He thanked them for their trust and feedback which has helped immensely to shape MTN’s strategies to ensure that the company remains at the forefront of technological advancement.

His parting words of wisdom were “remember to laugh often even when the undersea cables are cut. Life is short and blood pressure issues are real. Cherish every moment, even the ones that make you want to pull your hair out after a sanction or GRA tax assessment. And above all, never stop pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, because as we have proven time and time again, when we work together – private sector collaborations and in partnership with government there is simply no challenge we can’t overcome.” 

Still in the spirit of light humor, Chief Finance Officer of MTN Ghana, Antoinette Kwofie, who proposed a toast to Selorm on behalf of the ExCo (executive committee), said “you brought us the hurricane and pushed us to be the best. We will miss you very much. But don’t forget about it. As you go, excel and create opportunities for us to also come along.”

Board Chairman of MTN Ghana, Ishmael Yamson said he is sad for losing Selorm as CEO, but he was confident that Selorm will do even 10 times more at the group level than what he did at MTN Ghana.

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