I found Ebenezer in a relaxed mood in his office at the MTN Centre in Nyarutarama. Perhaps being a Friday he was dressed casually in a pair of blue jeans and a checkered shirt and shoes to match the jeans. This was a contrast to the corporate image that Ebenezer always presents.
Despite the casual mood it was business as usual – a brief but very warm welcome followed by ‘please take a seat my brother’. He certainly knows how to make one feel good and comfortable – unfortunately a rare and yet powerful quality in business. My mission was to interview him as the outgoing CEO of MTN Rwanda on behalf of the ServiceMag – a business magazine that focuses on customer service development in Rwanda. It was an opportunity for me to know the real Ebenezer.
Ebenezer’s surname is Asante and to those who speak Swahili know that Asante means ‘thank you’ and as such most people in this region prefer to call him by his surname. Ebenezer hails from the great Pan African, Kwame Nkrumah’s country – Ghana. After completing high school he attended a one year military service training before proceeding to the University of Ghana where he graduated with a first class degree in Economics and Statistics.
Like what happens in most cases to this category he found himself teaching at the university. However, teaching wasn’t what he wanted to do and his stint at it came to an abrupt halt and instead joined the Central Bank of Ghana where he hoped to one day become its Governor. His hopes were however dashed when he was advised by colleagues that to become a governor of the Central Bank required more than a first class degree. One needed to be politically connected, something he was convinced he did not have. It is this failure to become a governor that inspired his next move – the private sector.
In 1995 he joined Unilever as a management trainee eventually becoming the Commercial Director. His work took him to Zambia and India. In 2008 he joined MTN Ghana where he was in charge of sales, customers and the business unit. In 2013 he was appointed as the CEO of MTN Rwanda, a position he is relinquishing at the end of June 2015 to become the CEO of MTN Ghana.
At MTN Rwanda Ebenezer is credited with having turned the company around and is leaving behind a dedicated and motivated staff. While MTN Ghana is at least four times the size of MTN Rwanda, Ebenezer believes MTN Rwanda has prepared him well for the challenge ahead.
regrets that he never had time to enjoy the good things that the country offers – it was all about work. However, the story of Rwanda, a country that has achieved great things from very little, has truly inspired him and he feels this story should be a lesson to other countries as well as individuals. In his own words, “No matter how humble one’s beginning has been mediocrity should not be accepted.”
We wish Mr. Asante more success and happy times at MTN Ghana.
Mr. Gunter Engling, a finance professional, is the man who has taken over from Ebenezer Asante as the CEO at MTN Rwanda. He hails from South Africa and has been with MTN for over 12 years. During these years Gunter has worked in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana where he held senior positions in the Finance Division rising to the position of Chief of Finance of MTN Ghana.
Mr. Engling has a passion for people and strongly believes that people are the core of any successful business. Together with his broad business experience stepping into the shoes of Ebenezer who has done a great job at MTN should be an effortless transition.
He however comes at a time of very stiff competition in the Telecoms market. Players are spending enormous re- sources trying to outdo each other in pricing, service quality and diversifying products. Despite this competition his landing has been made smooth as Ebenezer has laid a firm foundation based on diversification of relatively new revenue streams such as Mobile Money, VAS and data. Gunter will certainly build on this foundation and maintain the market share control that MTN currently holds especially on the voice front.
Mr. Engling brings to Rwanda not only the skills and experience he has gained while at MTN and at PwC where he worked prior to joining MTN, but also a wealth of other cultures having lived and worked in other countries such as Namibia, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.
When asked what he knows about Rwanda, this is what he had to say. “My knowledge of Rwanda is expanding on daily basis, the environment is wonderful to live in and the people are extremely friendly. The bucket list includes many attractions and will definitely comprise of the countryside sightseeing and visiting the famous mountain gorillas’. When time allows he enjoys a round of golf.
We welcome Mr. and Mrs. Engling and wish them good times in Rwanda.
Written by Gerald Mpyisi