Ex-SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana Quietly Buys Stake in Mobax

"At Mobax, we see an opportunity to partner with Telcos and provide them with power as a service (PAAS) solution up the DC level."

Vuyani Jarana
Vuyani Jarana

Former South African Airways (SAA) CEO Vuyani Jarana quietly acquires a shareholding in Mobax, a technology investment and holding firm.

Last May, Jarana left SAA having served just over two years as the boss of the struggling airline.

He cited slow decision-making and red tape at the airline, as well as blurred lines of accountability, for his departure.

Mobax announced on Wednesday that Jarana has joined the investment and holding firm as a shareholder and assumed the role of a chairman.

The company didn’t disclose the details of the transaction and what it really entails.

Mobax is an unknown company and has a tendency of not responding to media queries regarding its business.

According to its website, Mobax offers engineering, project and technical services to telecommunication network operators and corporate clients in Africa.

The company’s South African operation has been embroiled in various disputes and TechFinancials has reported on a number of them.

For more read: Vodacom Entangled in R22m Dispute Involving Mobax and Neela

Neela, a KwaZulu-Natal based business, is demanding that Mobax settle an outstanding debt of R22 million, which includes interest, storage, and loss of income until 31 January 2020. Mobax South Africa, a little-known company, is a subcontractor to Vodacom.

Also read: Couple Sues Vodacom For Close to R100m

A KwaZulu-Natal business couple is suing mobile phone giant Vodacom for close to R100 million in damages, claiming their services were suspended overnight and left with bad debt. Peet and Heidi-Anne Thuynsma, owners and founders of MDPS (Mobile Diesel Power Systems), have been fighting Vodacom for close to three years. MDPS had two contracts, one with Vodacom and one with Ericsson. Vodacom brought Ericsson, now Mobax, to manage some divisions.

Also read: Vodacom Vs MDPS: Praveen Maharaj Says he Didn’t Make Death Threats

Praveen Maharaj on Wednesday dismissed reports linking him to death threats made in a WhatsApp Group against MDPS (Mobile Diesel Power Systems). Maharaj, who is a regional manager of Mobax for the Eastern Region off KwaZulu-Natal, said through his lawyers in an email to TechFinancials that he vehemently denies ever having made any of the published statements.

Mobax to be rebranded (Maybe to deal with negative publicity)

The company is in the process of rebranding so that it will be able to realize the vision that Jarana hopes to achieve, Fred Watkins, Mobax CEO, said in a statement.

“Mobax is an African carrier-neutral mobile infrastructure build and maintenance company. We understand that there is a lot of expectation in region when it comes to job creation and skills development,” said Watkins

“Mobax is embracing this by bringing key suppliers that are small, medium and micro enterprises that they can also contribute to the country’s economic development.”

What is the Future of Mobax spearheaded by Jarana?

Jarana said in a statement that Mobax has always prided itself on being the leading supplier of infrastructure to the African telecommunications industry.

“What we want to become is an infrastructure company which the Telcos can rely on during times of difficulty and challenge. Instability of the electricity grid and escalating electricity costs present challenges of network quality and cost escalations not matched by telco revenue increases.

“At Mobax, we see an opportunity to partner with Telcos and provide them with power as a service (PAAS) solution up the DC level,” Jarana explained.

“Our solution is largely green energy biased, thus giving the Telcos a “hat-trick” of benefits, Network availability, Carbon footprint reduction as well as long-term Opex Cost predictability.”

He added that he is excited about the challenge of developing a platform that will allow SMMEs to become major role players in the ICT sectors further development and the overall economy.

Jarana points out the ICT sector input costs across the continent are largely import driven leading to significant capital outflows to countries with patents to produce technology.

He believes that a concerted effort must be made to localize appropriate portions of the ICT industry spend within the African continent.

“Manufacturing and assembly of some of input technologies should, to the extent possible and practical, be done at regional level to support job creation and development of component ecosystem in various countries of the region,” he explained.

“Whilst the industry tended to outsource local services to OEMs, we think that this is an opportunity being lost to further develop local tech capabilities. Having a vendor-neutral partner like Mobax exercise effective stewardship over the Telco’s multi-vendor network, keeps every vendor honest and the operator gets an objective appraisal of network performance.

“We will partner with OEMs and Network Operators to deliver best network performance through effective deployment and maintenance of the underlying infrastructure.”

Who is Jarana?

Jarana was previously chief operating officer at Vodacom before heading up its enterprise division.

He is credited with transforming and positioning Vodacom Business as a growth engine of Vodacom, growing its contribution to group service revenues from under 10% to 25% over three years.

He also turned around Stortech, a 51% subsidiary of Vodacom, from a declining business to a new growth company, by changing the shareholding structure and developing a new strategy that responded to the changes in the market.

He built a solid and transformed organisation with emphases on both top line business growth as well as margin expansion.

Also read: Vodacom CEO on ‘Study Leave’, Vuyani Jarana ‘May’ Rejoin the Operator



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