African Ambitions

15 February 2011 |

As CEO of Gateway Communications, Mike Van Den Bergh has witnessed vast changes to the company, as well as the African telecoms sector in which it operates. Here he shares his experiences.


I first joined Gateway Communications in 2002, after it merged with FirstNet, a company which I had founded more than 10 years earlier. I became MD for southern Africa operations during a time when exciting new opportunities were being presented by the liberalisation of the market. I saw a real opportunity for the African region to instal the latest technologies without facing many of the legacy challenges found, for instance, in Europe or the US. I became COO in 2005 and we invested heavily in terrestrial, subsea and satellite networks, establishing ourselves as the leading pan-African wholesale carrier of both voice and data services. As well as managing Gateway Communications’ network operations, I travelled extensively across Africa, meeting our regional MDs and experiencing first-hand the exciting challenges and diverse culture unique to this continent.

Following Vodacom’s acquisition of Gateway Communications at the end of 2008, my role within the company changed once again. I no longer represented only Gateway Communications, but also its role and function within Vodacom and the broader Vodafone group. When I was appointed CEO of the company in 2009, it was during a period when both the dynamic of the company and the African market were changing. Traditionally, the African market had been driven by international voice traffic into and out of the continent, but in the last few years, it has broadened from being a largely voice-centric world to having a strong and growing data element. Our focus across Africa is now on meeting the demand of broadband, internet access and VoIP applications, as well as expanding our capabilities to accommodate the continuing growth in mobile voice traffic.

As the global economy has altered radically over the last few years, we have evolved our strategic approach to reflect and anticipate those changes. We have always tried to lead from the front in terms of implementing the latest technologies in a developing market – constantly innovating to ensure that the services we deploy for our customers remain ahead of the curve, and enabling our customers to continue to lead in their markets.

Looking towards the future, Gateway Communications will continue to be a leading provider of voice traffic, satellite capacity and added value services in Africa, but we also have a strong focus on developing the continent’s data networks – both terrestrial and subsea – which we strongly believe represent the future of communications across the region.