New Vodacom Tanzania MD yet to take up role

Saturday August 18 2018

Sylvia Mulinge

Sylvia Mulinge is a Kenyan so she needs a work permit to take up her new appointment in Tanzania. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY 

By ALLAN OLINGO
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Vodacom Tanzania's new managing director Sylvia Mulinge is yet to take up her new position, four months after her appointment, as the firm awaits a work permit from the Immigration Department.

The telco, which is Tanzania’s largest wireless telecommunications network, says it applied for the document on May 23, and is still awaiting a response.

But, the firm is still confident that the long wait will not affect operations, saying it has a business continuity plan in place.

The commercial director, Hisham Hendi, is heading the company in an acting capacity, Vodacom Tanzania PLC chairman Ali Mufuruki said in response to an inquiry by The EastAfrican.

“The pending work permit has no impact on business operations and we hope to know the outcome as soon as possible so it does not affect future performance,” Mr Mufuruki added.

Ms Mulinge, previously director of the consumer business unit at Safaricom in Kenya, was appointed in mid-April to take up the position then held by Ian Ferrao. She was to assume office on June 1.

Mr Ferrao led Vodacom Tanzania through the $213 million initial public offering in August 2016 — the country’s largest.

Vodacom controls 32 per cent market share of the country’s 40 million mobile subscribers. Its half-year results showed that its customer base grew 5.5 per cent to 13.2 million customers, up from 12.6 million over the same period last year.

Tanzania media reported that Ms Mulinge’s was not among the more than 400 work permits the Immigration department issued last week.

Mr Mufuruki said Vodacom had followed the mandatory application process and was confident it would receive a response soon.

“So far we have received no feedback, so we do not know the possible outcome. Work permit applications and their approval time periods vary,” Mr Mufuruki said.

Ms Mulinge's previous role at Safaricom was taken up by Charles Wanjohi.

Safaricom remained non-committal on Ms Mulinge's job status with the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed telecoms operator instead referring The EastAfrican to Vodacom.

Ms Mulinge is credited with overseeing the growth of Safaricom’s enterprise business, spearheading its reorganisation strategy and early spotting of industry trends, such as customer segmentations that enabled the firm to provide a range of customer-focused products and services.

In May, Ally Mtanda, the Tanzania Immigration Department spokesperson, dismissed claims that Ms Mulinge had been denied a work permit, instead clarifying that they were yet to receive her application.

On Friday, Mr Mtanda declined to comment on the status of the application.