In March 2014, Issam Darwish, CEO and co-founder of IHS Towers, was featured and interviewed exclusively for the cover of Forbes Africa magazine.
As CEO of the most successful infrastructure providers in the African telecommunications sector, Issam Darwish made headlines after investing $1 billion to create the necessary infrastructure in Africa in 2013.
Despite a turbulent childhood in war-torn Beirut, Darwish always aspired for greatness and dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize for Physics.
Darwish graduated with distinction from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, with a degree in engineering, after his exceptional entry exam results had led the Dean of the school to headhunt him for the course.
A meeting with a group of Lebanese businessmen led him into the telecommunications industry, where he was initially tasked with establishing a billing system, before managing satellite systems at MCI.
Now responsible for one of the largest telecommunications companies in Africa, Forbes America estimates Darwish to be worth approximately $200 million. Yet it hasn’t been an easy road to success.
Darwish may be Lebanese by birth but it is Lagos that he now calls home and, whilst he awaits the formal confirmation of his Nigerian citizenship, the country has shaped his business and personal life for many years.
As the deputy managing director of Nigeria’s first GSM, Motophone, he trained 40 Lebanese expatriates, and 500 Nigerians, in technical, billing, sales and marketing in the late nineties.
After the Nigerian government privatised telecommunications in 2001, Issam Darwish saw the opportunity to provide infrastructure for the growing network and co-founded IHS Towers.
While this proved to be a lucrative market for IHS, a lack of cooperation (and an excess of capital) meant many providers built their own towers without the proper planning to manage them.
Whereas, the US telecoms sector was built on competitors partnering to lower costs, it wasn’t until 2008 and the financial crisis that Darwish was able to persuade the Nigerian industry of the value of cooperation.
IHS Towers plans to become the largest tower leasing operator on the continent, while Issam Darwish is actively involved in establishing an incubator programme for technology entrepreneurs to develop a cutting edge content platform.