File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - MTN, Africa’s largest wireless operator, appointed Irancell executive Ferdi Moolman as chief financial officer of the company’s Nigerian operations, succeeding Andrew Bing.

Moolman will be replaced as chief operations officer of MTN Irancell by Mazen Mroue, head of MTN Uganda, the Johannesburg- based company said in an e-mailed statement.

Brian Gouldie moves to the top position in Uganda from MTN South Africa, where he was chief marketing officer.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with about 170 million people, is MTN’s biggest market with about 57.2 million subscribers.

The company competes with mobile-phone operators including Bharti Airtel of India and Emirates Telecommunications for customers in what’s also Africa’s biggest economy.

MTN Uganda subscriber numbers grew by 8.4 percent on a quarterly basis in the three months through March, the fastest of the company’s 17 African units and second globally to Cyprus, which has the smallest customer base.

About half of Ugandan subscribers use the company’s mobile-money service, which is designed to help those with little access to banks.

“The first interesting thing is that SIM card penetration isn’t yet 100 percent” in Uganda, Gouldie, 49, said in an interview at MTN’s headquarters in Johannesburg.

“Data penetration is still low and that represents the biggest opportunity in terms of revenue and market share growth.”

MTN, which has more than 210 million customers across 22 countries, is seeking transformational deals that could take it beyond the continent and the Middle East as well as content deals to push data usage.

The shares declined 0.4 percent to 226.15 rand as of 2:25 p.m. in Johannesburg, valuing the company at 423 billion rand ($40 billion). - Bloomberg News