Is Yolanda Cuba being prepared to succeed Vodacom’s Shameel Joosub?

When a young and talented executive of a local firm is appointed to head up a subsidiary of the global parent company, tongues are bound to wag. By Gugu Lourie 

The appointment of Yolanda Cuba, 39, as the new CEO of Vodafone Ghana is not different – tough questions are already being asked, such as whether her move is part of a bigger succession plan by both Vodacom and its parent company Vodafone. 

Another question being asked is whether Vodacom prepares employees to take over executive positions by first sending them on overseas assignments? 

For example; Shameel Joosub was sent to Vodafone Spain for a stint before he was appointed as Vodacom Group CEO. 

If that is the case, it may be conceivable that Cuba may be very well on her way to replacing Joosub – well that is after her overseas assignment. 

But then again things might not be so simple. 

One has to guard against providing a simple answer to a complicated question – such as when Joosub is likely to retire and who is in line to take over and whether the mobile phone operator will give the job to an insider or not. 

While may also be premature to ask such questions – it is a fact that Joosub at some point will relinquish his top job. 

Nonetheless, good companies always put in place a proper succession plan. 

In the recent years Vodacom has lost a number of potential successors to Joosub, such as Sipho Maseko, Romeo Khumalo, Peter Matlare and Nku Nyembezi. 

Fortunately, Vodacom keeps attracting talented leadership. 

Yolanda Cuba
Yolanda Cuba, new CEO of Vodafone Ghana, IMAGE SOURCE: CIty Press

But Cuba is a real gem.  

Vodacom “snatched” her from global brewer SABMiller in 2014. 

She was only 29, when businessman Tokyo Sexwale appointed her as the CEO of his Mvelaphanda Group, a JSE-listed behemoth.

Not surprisingly, Cuba was named as the Top Empowered Business Woman of the Year in 2006 by Top Companies. The following year she was awarded a Youth Excellence award by the Black Management Forum. 

In 2008, she was named as one of the Young Global Leaders, an initiative by the World Economic Forum. She was also named as one of the “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” by Forbes Magazine in 2011.  

To confirm that Vodacom appreciates her talent and seems to be nurturing her for greater things.

In an e-mail to Vodacom staff, Joosub said: “Yolanda is currently chief officer: strategy and new business for Vodacom Group. She joined in November 2014 and has successfully driven the execution of Vodacom’s strategy as well as focused on new revenue streams”. 

As part of her congratulatory note to Cuba, Joosub said: “Please join me in congratulating Yolanda on her new appointment and wishing her all the best for the future”. 

Is this a sign that Cuba is being prepared for bigger things? 

So, just maybe her appointment to the top job in Vodafone Ghana is a first step to position this young talent as a future executive in line to succeed Joosub in the top job at Vodacom Group. 

Such a move would be a welcome victory for women leadership in corporate South Africa, especially in the ICT industry – that is if it ever happens. 

In the event that it happens, Cuba would become South Africa’s first women to lead one of the biggest mobile phone firms to emerge from South Africa. 

If Vodacom board led by Peter Moyo is serious about real gender transformation, perhaps they should, if they are not doing so, prepare Cuba to replace Joosub.

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