• Monday, June 17, 2024
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Adia Sowho: The new face of MTN’s tech makeover

Adia Sowho: The new face of MTN’s tech makeover

Ayra Starr the crooner of the hit song ‘Bloody Samaritan’ may have stolen the spotlight during an MTN press briefing that took place at Eko Hotels & Suites Grand Ballroom, Lagos on Sunday, but no one who attended the event was in doubt who the real star of the show was – Adia Sowho.

Born to Urhobo parents in Delta State, Nigeria, Sowho made history in August 2021 when she became the first-ever female Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of MTN Nigeria. As the chief marketing strategist, the graduate of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom is the face of MTN’s ambition to become a full-fledged technology company by 2025 and on Sunday she was explaining the company’s new logo and rebranding project.

The brand overhaul is the second time for the telco since it was founded in 1994. The first rebrand in 2004 led to MTN taking ownership of the colour yellow that is now widely associated with the company. The telco says the yellow colour contributed to elevating it to the most valuable brand in Africa.

While the new logo retains the yellow colour, it takes a minimalist approach that ditches the italics, and the red underscore. MTN sees the rebranding as an extension and visual representation of the company’s refreshed strategy, dubbed Ambition 2025, and premised on leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress. The telco aims to accelerate growth by building the largest and most valuable platform businesses and driving its industry-leading connectivity operations.

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Karl Toriola, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria who has been intentionally pushing a Nigerian agenda for MTN sees the rebranding as part of harnessing the potential of Nigerians by driving digital and financial inclusion.

“It is a well-known fact that the youth are central to achieving this potential,” he says. “Whilst we remain focused on all our customers and stakeholders, our brand evolution demonstrates an enhanced focus on the youth.”

Adia Sowho is the perfect recruit for Karl Toriola to sell the “MTN is Nigerian” message. This is not just because she is a woman – the demographic that no telecom operator would dare ignore, Sowho comes from a new generation, tech-savvy millennial, that MTN has identified as the future of its business. She is also a popular face in the emerging tech industry in Nigeria and Africa.

“The new brand identity is modern, simple, bold, and digitally dynamic. It kicks off with a provocative and simple question, “What are we doing today?” With a clear and concise brand strategy that is Opportunity + Energy = Progress, MTN understands that to truly unlock the full benefits and potential of the digital world people require a combination of drive, progressive thinking, and the right tools,” Sowho said.

Sowho actually began her career in the telecom industry, starting in 2001 as a Radio Frequency Engineer at the US Cellular Corporation in the United States of America. After a stint in Deloitte as Management Consultant, Sowho returned to Nigeria to join Etisalat now 9Mobile.

“I had a long career across different parts of the mobile telecom space, specifically, with my last role being responsible for digital business. Digital business in a telco is essentially that arm of the telco that interfaces with third parties, often startups who have products more innovative than what the telco might have, in its current portfolio and of interest to customers,” she said in an interview with TechCrunch.

9Mobile’s digital business unit reportedly grew to a $100 million revenue aspect of the business while Sowho held the position. She left in 2018 to join Migo (formerly Kwikmoney) as the Managing Director, Nigeria, and Vice President of Growth. She later became the full-time VP of Growth in 2019. According to her, it was at Migo that she got first-hand experience of the challenge of building and leading a startup in emerging markets.

That experience would come in handy in her next challenge as interim CEO of a struggling agritech startup, ThriveAgric. At the time she joined, Thrive Agric was owing thousands of investors both capital and promised return on investment. She did manage to steer the company out of the rough patch before she stepped into the MTN role in August 2021.

The Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Karl Toriola, explained that the rebranding exemplifies MTN’s commitment to continuously create value for all its stakeholders, with the new logo contextualizing the company’s identity as a digital citizen, open to change, young at heart, inviting, digitally dynamic and progressive.

“We want to play our part in harnessing the potential and supporting the progress of our people by driving digital and financial inclusion. It is a well-known fact that the youth are central to achieving this potential. Whilst we remain focused on all our customers and stakeholders, our brand evolution demonstrates an enhanced focus on the youth,” he said.

While MTN may not be owing thousands of customers, it however presents Sowho with even a larger challenge of keeping the biggest telecommunication operator relevant in the world that is fast-paced and evolving at a breakneck speed pace. MTN’s 2025 ambition in Nigeria is built on four strategic priorities including building the largest and most valuable platforms, driving industry leading connectivity operations, creating shared value, and accelerating portfolio transformation.

MTN plans to focus on five business verticals including fintech solutions, digital services, enterprise services, networks as a service, and API marketplace.

“This rebrand highlights MTN’s commitment to continuously evolve and explore innovative initiatives that provide value to all our stakeholders. A pioneer of progress from the beginning, MTN looks to drive this progress further through action and doing. In delivering its vision, MTN aims to drive a positive shift in Africa and harness the continent’s boundless opportunity,” Sowho said.

Unsurprisingly, MTN is not sparing any expense in realising its ambitifromIt has a sizeable financial warchest as well as an extensive telecom infrastructure in Nigeria and has just recently obtained a 5G spectrum licence. It also has Approval-in-Principle from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for a Payment Service Bank (PSB) licence which it is expecting a final approval any time soon.

One thing Sowho may also count on is her experience in rebranding companies. She was instrumental to Migo’s brand transformation from Mines and Thrive Agric rejigging its business strategy to make it more sustainable. Her coming to MTN may have been pre-planned by the telco.