Shoyinka Shodunke: The Leadership Path: Steering Africa’s Digital Renaissance with Shoyinka Shodunka

Shoyinka Shodunke
Shoyinka Shodunke

In the vast ocean of technology, every wave he’s ridden, every tide he’s navigated, has been a lesson leading him to the shores of innovation. His journey, though uniquely his, stands as a testament to the relentless spirit of the team that sails with him. Together, they’re charting Africa’s digital future.

In today’s dynamic technological landscape, the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) has metamorphosed beyond just technology governance. They have evolved into critical enablers of strategic growth, collaborating closely with fellow executives to deliver on corporate objectives. Their expertise lays the groundwork for intertwining cutting-edge technology solutions into overarching business aims, carving niches where technology not only supports but propels an organization’s market ascendancy.

A beacon in this transformative age, Shoyinka Shodunke has left an indelible mark over two riveting decades. Esteemed as a visionary, Shoyinka’s forte has been the consistent interjection of pivotal value across his ventures. He masterfully orchestrated technology milestones and adeptly managed complex projects, always with an eye for fostering robust stakeholder relationships.

His professional journey was set into motion in 1995 as a System Analyst at the renowned Chevron Nigeria. Yet, a monumental shift was on the horizon. In 2001, Shoyinka found himself at the epicenter of MTN Nigeria’s transformative journey. Climbing through the echelons over seven illustrious years, he donned the mantle of Senior Applications Manager. Under his watchful eye, the telecom behemoth achieved a paradigm shift in credit management and modernised its postpaid systems. Shoyinka introduced Intelligent Networks to oversee prepaid recharges, an innovative leap that rightfully garnered him the coveted CIO award.

The year 2008 saw Shoyinka venturing beyond Nigeria’s borders, embracing the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) at MTN Zambia. Yet, the momentum was unstoppable. By 2011, he took the reins as General Manager in Uganda. His unparalleled acumen was evident as he architected a seamless integration of application standards. Furthermore, he fortified business processes across diverse national spheres, meticulously crafting a unified and optimized blueprint for the MTN South-East Africa IT Shared Services Hub.

On his indeterminate return to Nigeria in 2012, Shoyinka’s mettle was tested yet again. As the General Manager of IT Service Delivery, and later as the Acting CIO, he emerged as the vanguard in orchestrating a seamless SIM registration process, masterfully navigating its complexities and ensuring robust system convergence.

Driving Transformation and Innovation

Among the standout achievements in Shoyinka’s expansive career has been his instrumental role in catalyzing key strategic metamorphoses in both Cameroon and Ghana. In a landscape where the language of innovation and technological brilliance was still nascent, Shoyinka confidently led the charge. Prioritizing the revamp of existing infrastructure, modernizing the architecture and ushering in state-of-the-art systems, he shifted the narrative in these regions. Under his leadership, these sectors began evolving towards refined customer interactions and foresight-driven service management.

Following a rewarding tenure as the Director of Technology at Vodafone Ghana, the call of duty to return to MTN Nigeria proved irresistible. Heeding its call, Shoyinka assumed the mantle of Chief Information Officer. This era of his professional expedition is marked by audacious ambition: leading the transformation of MTN from its foundational identity as a telecommunication (telco) to its envisioned avatar as a leading technology company (techco).

What was his strategic response to this monumental shift? A fervent adoption of an Agile operational framework, a comprehensive revamp of business pillars, and aligning technology strategies seamlessly with MTN’s Ambition 2025.

Across the tapestry of his professional journey, Shoyinka’s landmarks of success are evident, and they have not been without challenges. He charted through the volatile tides of technology revolutions, macroeconomic challenges, regulatory pressures, cost pressures and operational complexities. Despite these challenges, he welcomed budding business paradigms and cultivated an ethos that celebrated collaboration, excellence, and resilience. These challenges, while daunting, were the crucibles that forged his refined perspective on the imperativeness of a harmonious workspace, the urgency to remain abreast with technology evolutions, and the magic that is realized when teams are empowered to soar.

and cultivated an ethos that celebrated collaboration, excellence, and resilience. These challenges, while daunting, were the crucibles that forged his refined perspective on the imperativeness of a harmonious workspace, the urgency to remain abreast with technology evolutions, and the magic that is realized when teams are empowered to soar.

His navigation tools in this odyssey? An unyielding spirit of adaptability, steady reliance on data, and the valor to step into the abyss of the unknown. Shoyinka emerges not just as a leader but as an emblem of innovation, resilience and possibilities. Rooted in these ideals, he visualizes a trajectory of progress. As he helms MTN Nigeria’s Information Technology into a promising tomorrow, his zest is amplified by prospects of personal evolution, new learnings, and the dream of crafting an enduring, impactful legacy for MTN’s expansive global community.

Charting the Digital Frontier

At the forefront of Africa’s technological revolution stands MTN Nigeria, a beacon of innovation with a clear mandate: to catalyze the continent’s digital metamorphosis. No longer content with the traditional mantle of a telecommunications giant, the company is reshaping its identity, morphing into a technologycentric powerhouse. The mission? To amplify the resonance of flagship digital services like Ayoba and Fintech while simultaneously forging fresh digital avenues through platforms like Chenosis and the groundbreaking NaaS (Network as a Service).

This strategic pivot is far from superficial; it’s anchored in a vision of ensuring that every Nigerian enjoys the benefit of a modern, connected and progressive life. Achieving this demands a radical overhaul – a new operating model and in-house Engineering that internalizes technical and product prowess and mobilizes a cadre of elite developers and agile connoisseurs.

MTN Nigeria’s technology quest demands being a leading player in new and evolving technologies. The company is delving deep into the realms of Artificial Intelligence, the burgeoning Metaverse, the transformative potential of blockchain, avant-garde payment & broader fintech interfaces & experiences, and expansive digital content ecosystems. The investments in these cutting-edge domains serve a multiplicity of objectives: enhancing user experiences, streamlining operations, unlocking novel revenue streams, and catalyzing sustained organizational growth.

Above all, MTN Nigeria’s endeavors are underscored by an unwavering commitment: to consistently surpass service expectations, to be agile in responding to the dynamic demands of its customers and the broader market, and, most importantly, to etch a legacy of unparalleled progress on the African digital canvas.

Leading the Charge in Digital Evolution

Shoyinka’s trailblazing journey in the technological domain is marked by his spearheading of digital evolution strategies. Among his crowning achievements, a standout has been orchestrating a comprehensive digital transformation blueprint, setting the course for upcoming tech tidal waves. Shoyinka’s vision propels MTN Nigeria into pioneering digital terrains, realms yet to be fully realized by many. The ambition does not halt at simply affirming MTN Nigeria’s dominance in the telecommunications and technology landscape, both nationally and across Africa.

In Shoyinka’s own words, “Our goal transcends the conventional, we are pivoting towards a Digital Ecosystem & Platform Model, unlocking new digital business avenues, and broadening our horizons. By diversifying into a medley of digital and financial service solutions, we are not just offering services; we are enhancing, empowering, and brightening the lives of our customers.”

Digital Frontier: 5G IoT, and AI

Guided by Shoyinka’s insightful leadership, the foundation for the next digital epoch is actively being laid. With a keen eye, he identifies the revolutionary promise held by 5G technology, the expansive canvas of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the transformative edge of Artificial Intelligence (AI)—with particular emphasis on the nuanced capabilities of Large Language Models (LLMs).

Taking tangible steps towards this ambitious vision, MTN Nigeria is channeling significant resources into pioneering 5G infrastructure. In tandem, they are sculpting state-of-the-art IoT solutions, thereby raising the bar for enterprise standards globally. Their momentum is further amplified by forging purposedriven partnerships with industry titans specializing in AI and LLMs.

As a marker of innovation, MTN Nigeria is at the forefront of introducing products powered by the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT), standing as embodiments of next-gen technological prowess.

But these initiatives are threads of a grander narrative. They tie into MTN Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to the benchmarks set by “Ambition 2025”, a roadmap that paints the company’s future aspirations. Central to this is the PACE strategy, an encapsulation of MTN’s pivotal growth directives:

P – Protect and grow connectivity business

A – Accelerate platform play

C – Create shared value

E – Eliminate redundancies & drive efficiency

Collectively, these tenets crystallize MTN’s ambition, serving as the guiding principles as the company ardently strives to redefine digital services for its vast and valued customer base.

Crafting Success in the Digital Era

In the dynamic realm of modern technology, it’s evident that every scaled business, at its heart, operates with a technological backbone. Central to this are foundational elements like customer experience, digital discoverability, e-commerce, and financial services. This digital age has democratized access to technology tools and resources, allowing visionaries to seamlessly transform groundbreaking ideas into value for customers.

Drawing from his vast experience, Shoyinka offers invaluable insights to technology aspirants and at the core of his message is; to harbor grand ambitions and embrace audacious goals. Continuously pushing boundaries, staying inquisitive about the latest technology shifts, and always thinking on a grand scale is crucial. As he often notes, “Whatever you envision—magnify it. Our nation, our continent, yearns for such expansiveness.” Adaptability is the linchpin in this ever-evolving domain; dedication to lifelong learning, staying attuned to the latest in technology, and constantly upskilling are non-negotiables for sustained success. Additionally, curating a team that’s diverse in thought but united in vision can be a catalyst for innovation, fostering varied perspectives that enrich the entrepreneurial journey.

Shoyinka advises being prepared for challenges that may arise for entrepreneurs and the need to remain steadfast in recognizing the abundant opportunities that lie in wait. Upholding one’s ethos and seeking to imprint positively on the lives of customers and stakeholders. He lays particular emphasis on crafting value specifically tailored for Africa. As the continent surges forward in its digital evolution, it beckons entrepreneurs to mold solutions that resonate deeply with its unique needs. Aligning personal and business ambitions with Africa’s broader aspirations isn’t just strategic—it’s the way to etch a lasting legacy.

For budding entrepreneurs, companies like MTN stand as allies, offering technological platforms and solutions that can elevate entrepreneurs’ visions, ensuring that they not only thrive but also significantly contribute to the continent’s vibrant tapestry of progress.