South Africa’s MTN faced criticism for overlooking black candidates in its appointment last week of new group CEO Rob Shuter.
The company issued a statement defending the appointment. It said its employee base has “a strong bias towards local talent” as shown in MTN South Africa where the CEO, board and executive committee are comprised of “predominately HDSA persons”. HDSA stands for historically disadvantaged South Africans.
In addition, of the 22 CEOs across MTN’s operations, nine are South African, five of whom are HDSA, the statement continued.
However, it added that the group has faced a number of challenges, including “very tough economic conditions across our key markets, increased competition and heightened regulatory pressure, particularly around subscriber registration requirements”. The last is a reference to recent events in Nigeria.
The company said it had made changes to its organisational structure, as well as appointments designed to fill strategic gaps in the business.
“This includes the appointment of an internationally-seasoned Group CEO and President, who was chosen following an extensive global and local search. Ongoing empowerment and transformation will remain one of the key deliverables of the new Group CEO,” it said.
MTN appointed Shuter, a top Vodafone executive, as its new CEO, as it sought to draw a line under a difficult period that includes a dispute with the Nigerian government.
But its choice drew criticism. The Black Management Forum, a lobby group, last week said the appointment of a white CEO at such a prominent firm was a backward step for black participation in corporate boardrooms. MTN’s largest shareholder, Public Investment Corporation, similarly said it would have preferred a black CEO.