• Pan-African wireless service provider with a presence in 13 countries at the time of its sale
  • US$3.4 billion in proceeds
  • Created over 100 millionaires

Celtel was established by Dr Mo Ibrahim, Moez Daya and colleagues with a minority holding in a telecoms licence in Uganda supporting 5,000 subscribers. It has become a case study of building a successful pan-African business, attracting capital and talent to execute its business plan with excellence in governance.

Tsega Gebreyes joined as a board member and later as part of the executive team. Through a combination of organic expansion (for example, Zambia, Malawi, Congo-Brazzaville and DRC) and acquisitions (for example, Kenya and Tanzania) the group expanded to market leading positions in 13 countries, with over six million subscribers, 3,000 direct employees, 30,000 indirect employees and US$748 million in revenues by 2005. Celtel was sold in 2005 to MTC Kuwait (subsequently rebranded Zain, whose African operations were later acquired by Airtel). The trade sale process at Celtel was led by Tsega Gebreyes and delivered value of US$3.4 billion.

Moez Daya remained involved as CEO of Zain Africa after the sale, and Tsega Gebreyes as Chief of Strategy and Business Development Officer until 2007, at which point Celtel had grown to over 30 million subscribers across 16 countries in Africa covering major economic hubs in West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa.

The team developed a world class governance structure with a board of directors which included representatives from leading DFIs (CDC and IFC) and private equity funds (Actis, Bessemer Venture Partners, Capital International, Citi and Zephyr Asset Management). Throughout Celtel’s development there was a strong commitment to early and comprehensive financial reporting and commercial success.