The former CEO of Canada's upstart wireless carrier Wind Mobile is moving to post-revolution Tunisia to head up the operations of global telecom giant Qtel, which is based in Qatar and is majority owned by that government.
Ken Campbell originally left Wind Mobile in June and has since been mulling various opportunities. He eventually settled on moving back to Tunis, where he has worked previously and which has just had its repressive government overthrown by a rebellion kick-started when a fruit-vendor fed up with police state corruption set himself on fire.
In a couple of weeks, Mr. Campbell will move into the CEO role at Tunisiana, where he was previously chief commercial officer when the company was joint owned by Qtel and Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, the Cairo-based telecom giant that funds Toronto-based Wind Mobile.
According to Mr. Campbell, Tunisiana is the largest wireless operator in the country with more than six million subscribers and $700-million (U.S.) in annual revenues. Mr. Campbell says he is excited about the opportunities there, given the company has just bought a fixed-line provider and the country is undergoing dramatic changes.
The small North African country turfed dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali during the Arab world's recent revolutionary upsurge. It has a relatively small, mainly liberal population that lacks many of the harsh regional, religious and tribal divisions that are posing problems to other countries in the region, such as Libya and Egypt.
“One of the interesting things about North Africa, especially Tunis, with the changes that are happening, it creates incredible opportunity -- and some uncertainty, of course -- but some opportunity in terms of economic growth,” Mr. Campbell said.
“Having done business before under Ben Ali, it was quite restrictive...It was quite difficult, whether it was importing phones, or partnering for value-added services. If you weren’t doing business with the right partners, it was virtually impossible. I’m quite optimistic [now] frankly,” he added. “Of all the countries that have gone through the Arab Spring, I’m quite optimistic about Tunisia, given its secular nature.”
Qtel has operations around the Middle East and Southeast Asia, with telecom businesses in Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Indonesia. The company was founded in 1987 and now has more than 82 million customers.