MTN is changing. And it may just be time for investors to look at the group through a different, more forgiving lens. The trajectory of the company, now chaired by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, correlates perfectly with SA’s democracy: it launched in 1994, at a time when even the optimists believed there was scope for 400,000 cellphones in SA, and listed on the JSE the next year.

Emboldened by the realisation that there was way more of a market than anyone realised, MTN hit the acquisition trail. Uganda and Rwanda (1998) and Cameroon (2000) were followed by its most successful foray, into Nigeria (2001). Today, it operates in 21 countries across Africa and elsewhere — though it is trying to extricate itself from problem countries such as Syria and Iran...

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