As Chief Executive Officer of the largest telecommunications provider in Nigeria, Karl Toriola is possibly one of the most popular business executives in the country. As the MTN CEO, he is also one of the top 10 highest-paid CEOs in the country, earning about N368 million in 2021. Seeing as the sale of MTN shares to Nigerians is happening under his watch, Toriola is our focus for this week’s profile.
Karl Olutokun Toriola was born on 16 March 1972 in Ife, Osun state, Nigeria. He spent his childhood years in Modakeke, so it seemed practical that after his secondary education, he should proceed to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, for his higher education. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering in 1994.
Almost immediately, he moved on to the University of Wales, Swansea, the United Kingdom for a Master’s degree in Communication Systems and graduated in 1996. He started his career right away, but would later return to some other educational pursuits. He attended Harvard Business School, USA from 2005 to 2008; Institute of Management Development (IMD), Switzerland in 2006; London Business School, the United Kingdom in 2009; Wharton Business School, USA in 2011; and INSEAD, Singapore in 2013.
Building an exceptional career
His career in the telecommunications sector started with Ericsson Switzerland in 1995, where he worked for about five years, before transferring to Ericsson Nigeria in 2000 to work as Support and Integration Manager for GSM. This was the time the telcos were making their grand entry into Nigeria, and Toriola joined in coordinating mobile network rollout in Nigeria. There were not many experienced telecommunications engineers in the country, so his talent was in high demand.
In 2004, he left Ericsson Nigeria and joined Vmobile Nigeria as Chief Operations/Regional Officer for the next two years, supervising technical functions following the termination of Econet Wireless International Technical Services Agreement.
Toriola brought standard, creativity and drive to the regional team in Vmobile, and was instrumental to the development of an effective regional technical structure that eventually improved penetration and increased market share by delivering quality and available network. He left V-mobile in 2006.
In July 2006, Karl Toriola joined MTN Irancell, based in Tehran, as Operations Consultant. Again, he managed the network rollout until October 2006, when he transferred to MTN Nigeria as Chief Technical Officer, Network Group (NWG). As CTO, Toriola was in charge of Technology Strategy, Capital Projects and Network Rollout. It was at this time that he won the 2009 Best CTO and Best Network awards. In 2011, Toriola was appointed CEO of MTN Congo Brazzaville in an interim capacity, and a short while after, he was appointed CEO MTN Cameroon.
Toriola is a result-driven leader, as his precedents have shown. It would seem that results from previous positions were always the reason behind other job roles he got. As CEO of MTN Cameroon, he raised the company’s market share from 51% to 62% to emerge top telecommunication firm in Cameroon. He also negotiated the addition of 3G and 4G networks, fibre license and the transfer of part ownership of the WACS submarine cable system to the Government of Cameroon. Toriola made MTN Cameroon the first subsidiary of MTN Group to secure the Investors in People (IIP) Gold certification.
In 2015, Toriola became Group Operating Executive, MTN Group. He oversaw the MTN Subsidiaries in 12 countries and was eventually promoted to Vice President, West and Central Africa for MTN Group in just a year. He was announced as Ferdinand Moolman’s successor in October 2020 and resumed the position as CEO MTN Nigeria on March 1, 2021.
His past experience in a non-executive capacity on boards of directors including serving as Chairman, MTN/Areeba Guinea; Non-Executive Director, Jumia Africa; Non-Executive Director, American Towers Uganda; and Non-Executive Director, MTN subsidiaries in Francophone West Africa.
Toriola has served on the boards of several companies including the board of UAC of Nigeria Plc where he serves as Non-executive Director; the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG); American Towers Uganda; and MTN/Areeba Guinea where he chairs the board.
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How can I contact Mr Karl Toriola?