Interviewed by Lin Peterse
Meet our Talent, Néné Maiga, CEO of Orange Botswana. In this interview, we talk about Néné’s career that has taken her all around the world, digital growth in Africa and the importance of curiosity.
Since 2016 you have been working in the Telecom industry and you have recently been appointed CEO of Orange Botswana. Could you share with us why you started your career in this field and how it brought you to your current position?
I graduated from a business school in France almost 10 years and that is when I started my career. I quickly became convinced that the future for me was in Africa. There were so many opportunities on the continent that I needed to go back.
I went to Cameroon as a Financial Controller. We had very fast growth in the pay-TV industry and so I also had an opportunity to work with the marketing and sales teams.
After a couple of years, I got an offer from Sonatel in Senegal. Sonatel is the leading telecommunications provider in Senegal and West Africa. I was asked to work in sales, which was an exciting career step for me as I wanted to learn more about this field. The job had two components. One was very analytical about segmenting, targeting and animation. The other one was more about meeting people and working with the sales team. It was a very exciting time in my life as I had the opportunity to visit many places, cities and villages in Senegal. Moreover, I learnt so much about business and day-to-day life in that part of Africa.
I then received another offer, this time from Orange Finances Mobiles based in Mali, the country from where I am originally, as a CEO. When I was contacted, I thought for a few seconds and then realised that I could not refuse this opportunity, so I packed my stuff and moved from Senegal to Mali.
After a couple of years, I was contacted once again by the CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa. He invited me to work as his Chief of Staff. Since the job sounded very political, I was not sure about my skillset and I was very happy with my job in Mali, so I refused the offer. However, soon I realised that it was a unique opportunity to learn from a major player in the industry, work on the group strategy and grow my network. Hence, I called the CEO again and accepted the position. I had to move to Paris and then to Morocco. It was an eye-opening experience, and I learnt a lot about the group strategy, transforming the continent in a positive way and investing in our networks and our people.
I was lucky to be able to work on some specific projects. For example, I contributed to the group’s Engage 2025 strategy, where we put a huge focus on digital inclusion and environmental protection. I also led a project which was about bringing back talents to the continent and making sure that going forwards we keep on providing new services that meet the future challenges and deliver excellent customer service. The very last project I worked on was related to gender parity.
I think in our industry, we are one of the companies with the highest number of female CEOs. I'm happy to be a part of that list. In September 2021, I was appointed by the board of Orange to be CEO in Botswana, so I left Morocco for Botswana. Botswana is a lovely place with the nicest people you can imagine.
Could you tell us more about the projects of Orange in Botswana and describe your daily work more broadly?
My day-to-day life is similar from Monday to Friday. I wake up very early. I go to the gym as often as I can. Once I get to the office I work and then have several meetings with my teams.
Today we have the fastest network in the country, and we want to keep providing outstanding service to our customers. We also focus a lot on digital, because we think that the future for us is in being a multi-service operator, leveraging our assets to bring useful innovation to our people and making sure that in the coming years we become one of the best places to work.
You have lived in many different countries including Mali, Senegal, Cameroon, France and Botswana. How have these experiences contributed to your professional and personal growth?
Mali, France, Cameroon, Senegal and Botswana are all wonderful places. I think that I owe a lot to every single one of these countries in terms of how I have grown as a person, what I have learned and the fact that I'm not afraid of trying new things or of being wrong.
I think that I owe a lot to every single one of those countries in terms of how I have grown as a person, what I have learned and the fact that I'm not afraid of trying new things or of being wrong.
Africa is experiencing growth in the digital sector which is contributing to the development of the continent. What has been the impact of your current and former positions on the development of the continent and why is it important for you?
Digital is a huge opportunity for Africa. It is an opportunity to have the latest technology at almost the same time as every other continent, as well as become the owner and maker of our own digital.
I do believe that in the coming years we will be producing our own technology and will be shaping our continent to build a future that is filled with inclusive growth everywhere for everyone: no matter whether you live in a village or a big city.
What motivates me every day is the belief that digital has the potential to transform our society for the better.We're making it easy for our customers to communicate, manage their finances or work from home. We are helping agriculture become more efficient all over the continent. All of these things can lead to huge change, and I am very happy to contribute to this transformation.
What motivates me every day is the belief that the digital has the potential to transform our society for the better.
You participated in the 6th edition of the Women Talent Pool Leadership Programme. Why did it seem the right moment for you to take part in such a programme and what were the key takeaways?
Today we still don’t have enough women in management positions. Women do not lack the hard skills, but they sometimes lack information: that is why female leadership programmes are very important. It is great that in this environment we can talk to other women, share experiences, and have positive role models and mentors.
During my time on the WTP Programme, I was very happy to meet women from across Europe, working in different fields and for different companies. This gave me an opportunity to share with others about my career and grow not only as a person but also as a leader in my industry.
It is great that in this environment we can talk to other women, share experiences, and have positive role models and mentors.
Female empowerment is a critical priority for Orange, with initiatives in place such as The Women’s Digital Centres and The Hello Women programmes. How does this commitment to gender equality and inclusion impact your daily work?
I am proud to say that my direct team has almost reached gender parity. The work we do with the Women's Digital Centres is something I care a great deal about. The aim of these Digital Centres is to empower women, to give them the basic ICT skills they need to be able to better manage their businesses. You don't have to have a specific background or studies to access these centres. We equip women with tablets, computers, servers, and provide training. The goal is to make sure that they gain the skills needed to make a living. Sometimes we also give financial help to women who are ambitious and who present outstanding projects.
We like to close our interviews with a question from the Proust questionnaire. The one we have chosen for you is: what is your most marked characteristic and how do you think it has helped you in your career?
I think that my most marked characteristic is curiosity and always asking why. Curiosity opens so many doors in this universe, and the more you learn, the more you realise that you have even more things to learn. The more you meet and talk to people, the more you create the networks that help you grow and become a better person.
We cannot progress or grow alone. That is why it is important to have a support system, peers and mentors and, to be able to talk to them and share your worries, your questions.
Curiosity opens so many doors in this universe, and the more you learn, the more you realise that you have even more things to learn.