Irene Charnley Smile Telecoms Holdings Limited

Irene Charnley – R150 million/ $19.4 million

Irene Charnley, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Smile Telecoms Holdings Limited, is a social entrepreneur and widely respected telecoms visionary who was instrumental in transforming MTN into one of the most respected telecommunications operators in the EMEA region.

She brings a wealth of strategic, business development and operational experience in the telecommunications arena from her top executive positions held within the MTN Group.

She achieved a full listing of MTN Holdings through M-Cell Limited and played a leading role in its transformation into one of the pre-eminent black-empowered companies on the JSE.

Prior to MTN, Irene was an Executive Director of the industrial conglomerate, Johnnic Holdings.

Main income source; Johnnic Communications
Charnley started out as a trade unionist for the National Union of Mineworkers. After 13 years of service for NUM, she became the executive director of the MTN Group. She would later move onto Johnnic Communications. During her time at Johnnic (from 1996 to the late-2000s), she would help 32,000 disadvantaged South Africans buy shares in her company.

Former trade unionist made first mark as a shrewd negotiator for the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa. Went on to take up a job as an Executive Director at MTN, Africa’s largest telecoms group, where she led the company’s successful foray into several African countries. Was instrumental in negotiating for and acquiring one of four GSM licenses in Nigeria. She also helped MTN secure the second GSM license in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In return, was rewarded with huge chunk of MTN stock valued at over US$150 million. Now serves as CEO of Smile Telecoms, a low-cost telecommunications operator based in Mauritius.


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