Irene Charnley, Smile Telecoms Founder, on 6 March 2020, received the Forbes Woman Africa Pioneer Award during the Forbes Women Africa Awards function hosted in Durban International Convention Centre.
The Board of the International Women’s Forum South Africa (IWFSA) extends its warmest congratulations to its President, Irene Charnley for receiving the Forbes Woman Africa Pioneer Award.
The IWFSA Board said the Award was a fitting tribute to the lifelong achievements of Charnley in the telecommunications sphere in Africa, as well as to the socio-economic transformation and empowerment of women on the continent.
According to Forbes Africa, the Award is made to recognise the trailblazers and role models who have created a new narrative within their industries. By challenging authority and old school traditions, they are enabling future generations to live in a better and more equal world.
Charnley, who took office as President of the IWFSA in October last year, has guided the organisation in a renewed vision and strategy to be a powerful voice for issues that affect women across the board. This has involved building strategic alliances with government and other institutions of society, such as business, academia and civil society, to benefit women.
As the Founder and Deputy Chairman of Smile Telecoms, a Pan-African telecommunications group established in 2007, Charnley’s pioneering influence extends to several countries in Africa, including Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Prior to establishing Smile, she was instrumental in transforming the South African based MTN Group into one of the most pre-eminent telecoms operators in the Middle East and Africa region, through a number of licence company acquisitions.
She also led the management and staff buy-in of an 18.7% stake in MTN, which benefitted thousands of MTN employees at the time.
As an Executive Director at Johnnic Industrial Corporation and the lead negotiator of several successful transactions, Charnley led the transformation of the organisation from an industrial conglomerate into a focused media and telecoms group.
Another of Charnley’s achievements was to spearhead an early broad-based black empowerment deal in South Africa, the Ikageng Scheme, in which 32 000 ordinary South Africans participated and received 400% return on their initial deposit.