Since the largest telecommunication operator in Nigeria, MTN, announced the appointment of Adia Sowho as its new chief marketing officer (CMO) – the first woman in that position, founders and operators in the Nigerian tech ecosystem have been buzzing with the news.
Sowho was announced alongside Shoyinka Shodunke who becomes the first Nigerian to be appointed the chief information officer of MTN Nigeria. Unlike Sowho, Shodunke has been with MTN since 2001 and would be considered part of the MTN family who was practically bred for the position.
Sowho is an outsider who still commands an impressive resume built from 20 years of working in different segments of the tech industry.
“Congratulations @adiaspeaks! MTN is lucky to have you. Forever a force of nature and one of the best people to have in your corner,” tweets Yele Badamosi, founder and former CEO of Bundle, a cryptocurrency company.
Among Sowho’s notable achievements is taking the position of interim CEO of Thrive Agric and leading a turnaround in the company which was reeling under debt from backlogs of investors capital and profit it was unable to pay back. Thrive Agric under Sowho has now cleared the debt and repositioned itself for business in the agric market.
“Congratulations @adiaspeaks. I am super happy for you taking this next step after an impressive turnaround @thriveagric,” Kola Aina, founder of Ventures Platform and a serial tech startups investor also tweeted.
Sowho started her illustrious career in 2001 as a Radio Frequency Engineer at the US Cellular Corporation in America. She moved to Deloitte Consulting LLP, Chicago, to work as a management consultant in 2007. Three years later, she returned to Nigeria and joined EMTS/Etisalat as head of Strategy and Business Development, head of Digital Media and then director, Digital Business until her departure in 2018.
She later joined Migo, formerly Mines.io, as managing director for their Nigerian Office and then vice president, Growth between 2018 and 2020. Until her MTN appointment, Sowho was interim CEO of Thrive Agric.
In view of her rich career profile in the tech ecosystem which traverses different segments of tech, Sowho comes to MTN with a well-rounded knowledge of how the industry in Nigeria works.
MTN will be counting on her expertise to strengthen its relationship with the tech ecosystem. The telco has been on a charm offensive since the pandemic in 2020. It initiated the Revv Programme in August 2020 to offer startups and small businesses classes in digital literacy, business management and more. It also launched the MTN YEDP programme in which it pledged to provide up to N100 million business support for up to 50 driven young entrepreneurs across varying sectors.
In recent times, MTN has also collaborated with different tech startups to accomplish one initiative or the other. With Sowho in the saddle as CIO, there is every reason to expect the telco to increase its relationship with the ecosystem.
Her appointment could also help the telco address issues around talent acquisition in the tech ecosystem. Being an insider in the ecosystem, Sowho can easily tap her rich network to identify the best talents for MTN.
But beyond that, Sowho’s appointment would likely benefit the tech ecosystem as she now works with an organisation that is capable of addressing some of the big challenges in the industry.
Sowho alluded to some of the critical challenges herself in an interview with the Rest of Africa recently. Poor infrastructure is a big challenge the industry faces.
“I tend to favor constructing infrastructure digitally now, as building in Nigeria or other emerging markets is logistically challenging and thus expensive. Digital infrastructure is easier to distribute across infrastructure-light countries and populations as diverse as ours,” Sowho said.
She also believes that telcos have a massive opportunity to create the communications infrastructure for the digital economy. It is one promise the ecosystem would want her to keep and she may likely deliver.