Karel Pienaar


Staff member
Jul 22, 2003
Karel Pienaar started his career at Telkom SA Ltd. Subsequently, he held executive positions at Elex Electronic Ltd and Multichoice, where he was instrumental in the start-up of MTN in 1994. He served as CEO of MTN Nigeria during the first year of its start-up phase.

Karel holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering.

Karel Pienaar is currently Managing Director of MTN SA

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Karel Pienaar - MD of MTN SA

Karel Pienaar, managing director of MTN SA, received the highest honour, the SAIEE President’s Award, at the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers’ (SAIEE) annual banquet, which took place at The Wanderer’s Club in Johannesburg on Friday, 12 November.

The SAIEE President’s Award is the institute’s premier annual award that recognises current major contributions in any sector of electrical, electronic, telecommunications and computer engineering. The award is not intended to recognise long or distinguished service, but current major engineering contributions.

“This is indeed an honour and I would like to thank SAIEE for bestowing this prestigious award on me,” said Pienaar. In the institute’s citation, it stated that Karel Pienaar is a worthy recipient of the SAIEE President’s Award for his significant contribution to the communications networks in South Africa and indeed, across the continent of Africa.

Prior to becoming MD of MTN SA in August last year, Pienaar was the Chief Technology and Information Officer of MTN Group, a position he held since January 2005.
In 2001, following the awarding of a licence to MTN in Nigeria, he took up the position of CEO of MTN Nigeria for a year to oversee the operation’s start-up business in that country, and was instrumental in creating the successful business that exists today.

Under his guidance, MTN Business was recently awarded the Telecoms Risk Initiative Award 2010 by the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA). Last week at the 2010 AfricaCom Awards dinner, MTN won in two categories - Best Network Improvement and Best Marketing Campaign, while being shortlisted in a third category, the Green Telecoms Award. Another recent accolade for MTN South Africa was the announcement that it is the Best Employer in the Telecommunications sector for the second year in a row, in the CRF Best Employers™ Survey for 2010/11. MTN also grabbed the top spot in the Top 10 Large-sized Employers (4001+ employees) category, was second in the Best Empowered Employer category and took third spot overall as South Africa’s Best Employer in the survey.

Through a continued focus on ensuring MTN SA’s commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen, Pienaar has spearheaded the company’s focus on investing in enterprise development, human resources, skills development and the promotion of equal opportunities. This was acknowledged by independent empowerment rating agency Empowerdex, which recently presented MTN SA with an ‘A’ rating for Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE).

The company’s proactive drive towards sustainability and a reduction in its carbon footprint through initiatives such as its ‘Greening 14th Avenue’ project; the recent unveiling of its methane tri-generation power plant (the first of its kind in Africa); and its off-grid sites powered by solar and wind to name a few, also enjoy a high level of attention and input from him.

Before his long association with the MTN Group, Pienaar joined the South African pay television company M-Net in 1988 as Strategic Business Development Manager. Here he developed new businesses and services for the company including business TV, data broadcast services and corporate satellite TV services.

Prior to joining M-Net, he started up and managed the communications division of Cortech Ltd, a computer and communications equipment supply and support company, which provided data communication products and services to South African corporates.

Karel holds a BSc Electrical Engineering from the University of Johannesburg (previously Rand Afrikaans University) and is a registered Professional Engineer. He has also recently been nominated for the Global CEO of the Year Award in the 2010 World Communication Awards, which will be announced on 24 November in London.

Karel Pienaar was promoted from MTN SA CEO to MTN Group chief strategy officer in May 2013.