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Sainte-Maire takes over as Zain Nigeria’s CEO

Mr. Alain Sainte-Marie is the new Chief Executive Oficer of Zain Nigeria

Mr. Alain Sainte-Marie replaces Mr. Bayo Ligali who, according to the Board of Directors of the company, has moved on to pursue other interests after a three-year stint as CEO of the telecommunications company.

Sainte-Marie will immediately assume leadership of Zain Nigeria, overseeing the company’s continuing market expansion and quest for industry leadership.

Prior to his appointment as CEO of Zain Nigeria, Sainte-Marie who has over 24 years of working experience in Information Technology business, was the Managing Director of Zain Gabon, a position he took up in March 2009.

As Managing Director of Zain Gabon, he helped to sustain the company’s market leadership position and maintain its streak as the operation with the highest ARPU amongst ZAIN Africa operations despite the entry of a fourth mobile operator and rise in the tide of competition in the African country.

Notably, he worked in Nigeria between November 2008 and February 2009 as Special Adviser to the former CEO, assisting him to implement a business transformation process including culture change, a key requirement for a successful turnaround of the operation.

Sainte-Marie has also previously occupied other strategic management positions within Zain including Director of Operations, Middle East and previously as CEO of IRAQNA (a Zain Group acquired operation in Iraq), a position he occupied until June 2008.

He also worked held several senior positions in the leading telecom companies including the position of Chief Financial Officer of ORASCOM Telecom, Tunisia SA (OTT); Chief Financial Officer, ORASCOM Telecom Holding S.A.E, Head of Budgeting Controlling and Planning Department, France Telecom Mobile, Lebanon, S.A.L (FTML), and Deputy Chief Financial Officer, France Telecom Mobile, Lebanon, S.A.L (FTML).

The outgoing CEO, Bayo Ligali, has been instrumental to the transformation of the company in the past three years.

Ligali, a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK) and an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, joined Zain (formerly Celtel Nigeria) in October 2006 after a long career in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry, which saw him rising to the position of CEO of the Unilever Group in East Africa.

During his three year stay at Zain Nigeria, Ligali re-invigorated the once subdued telecommunications company and galvanized the workforce into committing to reclaiming the top position in the telecommunications industry.

Between May 2006, when Vee Networks Limited changed to Celtel Nigeria Limited, and end of August 2008, the company, under Ligali’s watch, more than tripled its subscriber base.

During his tenure, the business also attracted over $1 billion in investment from the Zain Group for network upgrade leading to significant gains in capacity, coverage and quality. In 2007, the company signed a $100 million agreement with Nokia-Siemens for the construction of a 4,000 km Fibre Optic Backbone (the longest/widest in Nigeria) and another $50 million to expand its Microwave backbone from 3000km to 5,000 km.

Ligali also ensured that Zain took proactive initiatives to manage the power generation challenges facing the industry, which include swapping of old generators with brand new, purpose-built sets and dualization of generating sets at its cell sites.

He further completed a National Network Monitoring Centre valued at $10 million, this year with World class facilities to proactively monitor and intervene in network issues.

A major significance of Mr. Ligali’s appointment was the fact he was the first Chief Executive Officer of the business from inception till date, to be appointed to the Board. Also, it underscored the commitment of the Zain Group to empower Nigerians with world-class leadership skills and technical competence to drive its investment in Nigeria.

Ligali won several awards and honours in recognition of his astute leadership and outstanding contributions to the growth of Zain Nigeria, and development of telecommunications in Nigeria, as well as for being the face of the industry within a short time of coming into the telecommunications business.

Specifically, the Board of Trustees of Telecom Awards, a highly rated Industry award said his philosophy of constructive engagement with government and lawmakers on the issue of Quality of Service led to a moratorium for operators, which has resulted in significant improvements.

Indeed, Ligali made headlines and drew public acclaim last year, when he apologized to customers for poor quality of service and committed to immediate and accelerated network expansion to remedy the situation. He is always at the forefront leading discussions on Quality of Service and operational efficiency in the Nigerian GSM terrain.

Ligali started his management career in Unilever Nigeria Plc as an Auditor in 1979; worked in various management positions before moving to the Foods Division as the Acting General Manager in 1991. He became Group Treasurer, UAC Nigeria in 1992; Finance Director and Company Secretary, GM Nigeria Limited in 1993; and was responsible for Special Duties Function in 1994 in Unilever Plc, London.

He also held a number of senior management positions within Unilever Corporate Financial Group including Corporate Finance Manger for Latin America, Central Asia and Middle East, based in London. During the period, he was appointed to the board of UAC Nigeria Plc as a Non Executive Director.

Following his impressive performance, Ligali was offered appointment as the Chairman of Unilever, Malawi in 1998, a position he held until 2001 when he was given the challenge to oversee the entire East African operations of Unilever comprising Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda as Chief Executive Officer. In 2004 he left the Unilever Group for Dangote Pasta Plc.

While in Malawi, Ligali was the President of Employers Consultative Association 2000/2001 as well as a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Economy. Upon his appointment as CEO of Unilever East Africa in 2001, he became a Board member of Kenya Association of Manufacturers; member, Local Advisory Committee of Eastern Africa Association and a member of British Business Association of Kenya.

Ligali is widely travelled and has attended numerous courses in advanced management and communication including the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and IMD Switzerland