Khaled Mikkawi, former the CEO of Liberia, is the new CEO of MTN Rwanda. He was with Investcom in Liberia for nine years before the company was acquired by MTN Group in 2006.
Almost five weeks in his Nyarutarama office, last week he spoke to Business Times’ BERNA NAMATA about his experience and his new appointment.
Do you view your appointment as a promotion or demotion?
It is not a matter of promotion or demotion; I am still at the same level of position. My appointment is part of the MTN Group policy - exchanging operations. I was a CEO in Liberia, as well so I am still maintaining the position.
Coming to Rwanda is more or less the same business environment as Liberia. The market is not very different in terms of competition which we went through in Liberia four years ago.
The Rwanda operation is bigger than the Liberia operation because the population of Rwanda is bigger than population Liberia’s.
What products do you expect to introduce during your term of office?
We have two projects running from the technical side. We are laying the fibre optic cable which is about 750 kilometres. Already 40 percent of the work has been done.
This will link Rwanda to the entire region and the neighbouring countries and hopefully by the end of the year it will be completed.
The other area is increasing network coverage in the country in areas that have not been covered before. Currently we have a total of 150 sites under construction. We already have 50 new sites on air and another 50 sites should be covered before the end of the year.
Why is it necessary to have the fibre optic?
Fibre optics is a big solution for broad band – source of the best quality of internet and increasing access all over the place. It will facilitate any kind of communication business.
As you are aware, MTN Rwanda has experienced some challenges in delivering quality services to its customers, how do you intend to address the existing challenges?
I am aware that MTN last year had challenges on the network quality and this has been seriously improved with a huge investment made in the last two quarters of last year. This has hugely improved our network.
The new investment budget for 2009 has been prepared to protect the network not only for this year but also another two years. This will provide a more stable network and help us to provide better services to our customers.
How prepared are you to face competition in the telecommunication industry?
I love competition! It motivates me to work hard and produce more. The business community will agree with me, that competition is very healthy and very important in all industries not only in the telecommunication industry.
Competition helps products to be improved and enhanced as everybody tries to show the best, which will reflect a good image in the country where the competition is going on.
It is the best thing for the end user because the competition, whether in quality or prices – is good go for the end user /customer.
From your observation, what is your view about the future of Rwanda’s telecom industry?
The Rwandan market is unique because it has a special vision (Vision 2020) that promotes development of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT). The telecommunications industry falls in this vision.
No country has come up with such a vision, where the government is the major driver of the quality of technology for the future. This makes it a leading country because many services can be done through the telecommunication services.
I think the telecommunication industry here is very professional given that there are regulators who are aware of what is going on and monitoring operations.
On a lighter note, who is Khaled?
I am a Lebanese national, married with four children, three girls and one boy. Half of my life experience was in Lebanon up to 1996.
From 1996 till now I have been living and working in Africa.
For 12 years in West Africa (Ghana and Liberia), I left for one year to move in Cyprus and went back to West Africa. I am a graduate of business accounting with a wide experience in finance and marketing.