Cell C continues to appoint ex-Vodacom execs to exco

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo
Johannesburg, 31 Jan 2024
Cell C’s headquarters in Johannesburg.
Cell C’s headquarters in Johannesburg.

Mobile operator Cell C is continuing to bulk up its executive committee (exco) team, as it looks to emerge from the financial distress it experienced over the past several years.

CEO Jorge Mendes is recruiting his lieutenants from his former employer Vodacom, in a bid to change Cell C’s fortunes.

Mendes yesterday announced the appointment of Darius Badenhorst as chief growth officer, further bolstering the Cell C executive team.

In a statement, the telco says Badenhorst joins Cell C from Vodacom after a decade of service across multiple roles within the commercial and finance teams.

Mendes, former chief consumer business officer at Vodacom South Africa, was appointed as Cell C’s boss in June last year.

In August last year, Cell C appointed another Vodacom veteran, Melanie Forbes, as chief marketing officer. Forbes had spent over 15 years with Vodacom, where she held key executive positions.

According to Mendes, Cell C will make its final exco appointment by mid-February.

Last year, Mendes told ITWeb that he was looking to overhaul the entire executive team at Cell C, which has been facing liquidity issues for years.

At the time, he said the company was looking to fill the position of chief growth officer by February. This will be followed by the appointments of chief of data and analytics, as well as chief of regions sales and distribution, he said.

Right direction

Speaking to members of the media in Sandton yesterday, Mendes said: “We have been on a mission to change the organisation…we are coming from a financial-distress situation. What I want to tell you is we are on a good path. We have made some significant changes – some have happened and some are happening.”

In its recent financial results, Cell C said it slashed its debt from R9 billion to R3 billion, as it forges ahead with its recapitalisation drive.

It added that the company’s business stabilisation efforts were yielding improved results, positioning it to return to growth and enhanced competitiveness in the market.

Darius Badenhorst, Cell C chief growth officer.
Darius Badenhorst, Cell C chief growth officer.

The average blended revenue per user for the consumer base increased from R74 in 2022, to R80 by the end of September 2023, due to an increase in subscribers.

“I’m really confident that we are on the right path. Our biggest ambition is to have the best culture in the country,” Mendes said.

“We have made a number of executive appointments and also made some changes within our organisation to further bolster our team.”

Mendes noted Cell C is not looking to surpass telcos Vodacom, MTN and Telkom in the South African telecoms market.

“We don’t have any ambition to become the number one [mobile operator]. If that happens, that will be great, but we want to have an amazing organisation, to earn a decent profit and deliver real value to South Africans. We have an ambition to not have ‘Ts and Cs’ on our products.

“We think the model that we have will become the new model around the world, where you will have builders of infrastructure and buyers of technology services, specifically in markets where you have more than two or three players.”

In 2021, Cell C started migrating its contract and broadband customers to Vodacom, while it commenced building its own radio access network on MTN’s infrastructure and switched prepaid subscribers to MTN.

Last year, it successfully completed its network migration ahead of schedule, and it’s now operating with access to circa 14 000 towers countrywide, with more than 12 000 sites 4G/LTE-enabled.

In its statement, Cell C says as chief growth officer, Badenhorst will be responsible for overseeing crucial areas of business development, customer retention and customer relationship management throughout the value chain and lifecycle, to further accelerate growth.

Cell C CEO Jorge Mendes.
Cell C CEO Jorge Mendes.

His background in quantitative analysis and financial engineering will be instrumental in navigating the evolving telecommunications landscape, says the firm.

“We are very excited to welcome Darius Badenhorst as our new chief growth officer. His outstanding achievements, innovative mindset and technical acumen make him an asset to our team. With him on board, we are well-positioned to execute our growth strategy and deliver exceptional services to our customers,” Mendes says.

According to Cell C, Badenhorst’s endeavours underscore his ability to drive growth through innovative strategies and platforms.

Innovation, growth targets

During his tenure at Vodacom, Badenhorst led the development of the Just 4 You personalisation platform, generating substantial revenue growth. His proficiency in innovative technologies − such as AI and robotics process automation − delivered process improvements and operational efficiency gains, culminating in the establishment of a department with a high volume of integrated bots, Cell C notes.

It adds that as managing executive for base growth and loyalty retention at Vodacom, he created platforms responsible for significant increase in revenue and customer engagement, such as the VodaBucks rewards programme.

Badenhorst holds a BSc degree in Actuarial Science and Financial Mathematics, complemented by a BSc Honours degree in Financial Engineering and Mathematics.

“His appointment reinforces Cell C's vision for sustainable growth and innovation, and highlights its commitment to attracting top talent. As the telecommunications industry continues to evolve, Cell C remains focused on driving growth and profitability by delivering value to consumers, innovative solutions, and providing outstanding customer experiences,” the telco states.

Says Badenhorst: “I am looking forward to joining Cell C and contributing to its future success. The telecommunications industry is undergoing rapid transformation, and I am keen to leverage my expertise to drive innovation and growth, and deliver value to our customers.”