Graphic Online 

What sets MTN Ghana’s CEO apart?

Author: Maxwell Adombila Akalaare
Mr Enebezer Asante, CEO, MTN Ghana
Mr Enebezer Asante, CEO, MTN Ghana

Over four decades have past but events around the upbringing and childhood days of Mr Ebenezer Twum Asante, MTN Ghana's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), are still fresh in his mind.

The family abode was a compound house tossed around the edge of the Kwahu Mountains. Modest in look and nature, the house overlooked the Eastern Regional capital, Koforidua, where commerce had been the prevalent occupation of the indigenes since time immemorial. It was inhabited by Ebenezer and his six siblings, a tough mother and a calm father. Both parents were Kwahu traders, whose nurturing skills will later model the Kwahuman into one of the finest sales executives and leaders in the country. 

As a trader who had been tough from birth, Ebenezer's mother never left anything to chance in the raising and coaching of his children: "She was the tough one. She was 'no nonsense,'" Mr Asante, who is the first Ghanaian to occupy his current position, reminisced on the Springboard, Your Virtual University.

His father, on the other hand, was "always there for us, soft and calm."

"There were times we will run to him and he will soften things up and encourage us," he said.

Looking back, Mr Asante said his mother and father played push and pull roles in the raising of their children and played to the advantage of the seven siblings.

"If my mother had not done the push work so hard, I'm sure all of us, seven of us, would have fallen by the roadside. 

"If my father had also not played his inspiring, motivating and encouraging role, may be, we could have bent out. So, both roles complement each other," he explained on the show.

Enviable career  

Beyond the mix-tape of parenting came the difficult conditions under which young Ebenezer was raised - the very challenges that will consciously and unconsciously model him into a modest, hardworking and principled person, who is results-oriented and bias towards execution.

"If you are listening to me and you have a life story more challenging than my past, then I am ready to submit myself to your mentorship. Everything that could possibly go wrong was there throughout my life journey," he recollected.

But with his head above the hurdles, eyes on the ball, God by his side and a desire to succeed, Mr Asante started overcoming and turning his challenges into opportunities, bit by bit.

In return for his selflessness, he progressed on the academic and corporate ladder in an illustrious career that will later stretch from the fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) manufacturing sector to telecommunications.

Prior to becoming CEO of MTN Ghana on July 1, last year, he had served as CEO for the group's Rwandan operations, where he oversaw the expansion of the brand to the admiration of stakeholders.

This was after he had climbed the ladder from the position of Sales and Distribution Executive in 2008. 

Prior to that he had spent 13 years with Unilever, where he held various positions, including MD for the Zambian operations and a member of the Ghana board.

So, what sets Mr Asante apart from his peers and other corporate executives in the industry and the continent as a whole? He points to his humbling beginning.

"The first person to have mentored me indirectly is my father. Most values that I express today, my believe system, my conviction, the very religious background and the Presbyterian discipline is from my father," he said.

"So, I am here, I could have gone either way but that is why I believe that where I have gotten to, anybody, I mean anybody, irrespective of your background, irrespective of where to are coming from, whether high or low, you should be able to go way higher," he added.

Coaching others

With this deep of experience now at his exposure, Mr Asante is now eager to help groom the next generation of leaders, who will take over from his generation.

One place he does that so well is MTN Ghana, where those who work closer with him love him for different kinds of reasons. 

He emphasised the need for people to be mentored into leadership, explaining that leadership was so vital that people ought to be properly coached before they can be entrusted with positions.

This, he said explained his decision to participate at this year's Festival of Ideas, the annual initiative of Legacy and Legacy, aimed at grooming the next generation of leaders. This year's event, which is under the theme: 'Dare to Dream,' is expected to bring together various corporate executives to learn under the feet of seasoned leaders.

As a way of preparing participants towards his session, which is themed: 'Grooming the Next CEO,'  Mr Asante said prospective CEOs needed to first answer the question 'why do you want to become leader?'

"That question is very important because if you get the foundation wrong, then everything will be wrong," he said.