The Botswana government has given the new Group Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Paul Taylor, strict targets and a time frame within which he should have concluded the corporation’s planned privatization, improved profits and identified a successor.
BTC Board Chairman, Len Makwinja, did not mince his words at a BTC press meet last week, saying Taylor will be expected to work within the set guidelines and deliver expected results within the set time frame.
“The privatization strategy is already in place. We expect Taylor to jump in and harness its implementation. The objective is to privatize BTC in the most efficient and most profitable way. He doesn’t have to start from scratch, he just has to continue what has already been done,” said Makwinja.
Taylor was appointed BTC CEO on July 20th. He replaces Thapelo Lippe, who left the corporation in a cloud of controversy after relations with the board turned sour.
Asked if he feels he will be up to the task given the BTC board’s reputation of interference, Taylor said he relishes challenges and he fully understands the board’s expectations.
“I am up to this. Our relationship should be symbiotic. I help them and they help me. I understand that the primary objective is to privatize BTC as soon as possible,” he said.
Makwinja added that government, as the shareholder, has the right to set targets and objectives. He said Batswana are losing faith in the privatization exercise because of unnecessary delays and suspensions.
“People are waiting for this to happen. We don’t want a repeat of what happened in the past. We must privatize BTC as soon as possible,” he said.
However, industry pundits have taken Taylor’s optimism with a pinch of salt, saying he will eventually feel suffocated and constrained by the over bearing BTC board.
“Makwinja’s tone suggests that the board will be monitoring Taylor very closely. The question is whether a man of Taylor’s expertise and experience will tolerate the over bearing BTC board,” they said.
Taylor has 25 years working experience in the telecommunications industry, 15 of which were at board level. He has worked in over 60 countries throughout the Middle East, Asia, Europe, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.
He studied telecommunications engineering, with significant post-graduate studies in business and marketing. He is a Fellow of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing, an Incorporated Engineer and a Member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology.
Most recently, Taylor worked as Deputy Chief Commercial Officer of Turk Telecom in Istanbul, where he facilitated the company’s initial public offering, which culminated in 15 percent of the company’s shareholding being sold to the public and Turk Telecom being listed on the Istanbul stock exchange.
“I have extensive experience in mergers, acquisitions and licensing,” said Taylor.
However, recent developments at BTC, especially the acrimonious departure of Lippe, raise suspicions on whether Taylor will last his term. At the height of the fall out, Lippe and Makwinja were speaking in turns. Lippe was later suspended and a commission of inquiry instituted, after which he was fired.
Taylor said his first task will be to revise BTC’s short term strategy, realign resources, and improve customer service.
“We will work very closely with other privatization stakeholders. We also have to ensure that facsimile services are more affordable and accessible. Nowadays internet is a basic necessity,” he said.
Taylor’s other challenge, which Makwinja also highlighted, is to identify and train three individuals who will succeed him at the end of his three year contract.
“Taylor has to have identified a successor within the next three years. We are currently putting in place a robust succession program in which up to three candidates will be understudying Taylor,” said Makwinja.