Martin Cox – Group Chief Commercial Officer – Paratus Group 

Opportunity knocks when you know which doors to open.  As the Group Chief Commercial Officer for the Paratus Group, Martin Cox is busy opening around a dozen large doors in Africa.  “Our strategy is to dramatically accelerate the Paratus Group’s growth,” Cox explains. “What Paratus has already achieved is to create a unique contiguous footprint across Southern Africa – something no other network provider can claim.  We are aiming to be the preferred network provider for all network and data services across Southern Africa from DRC down to South Africa, and from Mozambique in the East to Angola and Namibia in the West.  Future expansion plans also include expansion to other regions in the rest of Africa.”

Martin Cox joined the Paratus Group just over a year ago.  As a key executive appointment, it indicates just how committed the Group is to expediting its expansion in Africa.   With a knack for fusing technology with commercial know-how, Martin has an impressive hit rate of creating landmark deals.  He also has an innate ability to see the future. Cox has been involved in telecoms investments in emerging markets for many years. He was one of the first investors in mobile telecoms in 1997 in Africa and Paratus knows that Martin is one of the few people with the required skill to help the Group realise its ambitious growth plans.

After just a year with the Paratus Group, Martin has already completed his first acquisition for Paratus Group in Botswana (doubling Paratus’ market share) and accrued a significant pipeline of further partnerships across the continent.    Martin Cox is no stranger to big business deals though.  His work in the international telecommunications sector began when he worked in the mid ‘90s with a private equity development company that invested in telecom operators in emerging markets.  Investments included Axtel (Mexico) in 1997 which is now a US$650m revenue operator, Celtel (the pan-African mobile operator) in 1998, and Neotel (South Africa) in 2003.  Martin was one of the founding executives at Neotel where he was initially responsible for raising the financing before taking over the strategy and sales functions, growing revenue to near R4-bn before Neotel was acquired by Liquid Telecommunications.   More recently, Martin was responsible for Strategy, Commercial and M&A at Internet Solutions (part of the Dimension Data Group), where he acquired MWEB consumer ISP, sold off non-core network assets and was responsible for increasing overall operational profitability.

Martin is based in South Africa because, as he says: “This is where many of our pan-African customers are based and many of the deals are done.  We have an office in South Africa, as we do in six other southern African countries, and we are busy expanding the team here too.”

In steering the group on its rapid expansion plan, Martin has mapped out a strategy that will focus on expanding the footprint across further African territories and cementing larger deals within SADC.   He believes that the Paratus Group’s growth strategy so far worked very well for Paratus. Investing in infrastructure, building expert teams in seven southern African countries, and serving customers across the continent with a seamless quality network service have all been part of the Group’s success to date. Add to this the facts that Paratus has international PoPs (points of presence), serves customers in 37 African countries; is the landing partner for the Google Equiano subsea cable in Namibia, and has already built four DCs in three countries; the growth plan becomes evident. As Martin says: “My role is to drive Group revenue, organically and inorganically, and also to expand Paratus’ own network footprint in terms of building out and acquiring further infrastructure.”

Martin is very optimistic on Paratus’ ability to execute its future growth plans.  “Not only do we have a great team within Paratus with a very strong “can-do” culture, but we can also now seriously speed things up because we have greater access to capital than ever before.”

Martin has an uncanny ability to spot where an opportunity might knock and he’s keen to be the first at the door.   “We might well be perceived as a ‘David’ against Goliath in Africa as we are not as big as some of the very large African operators, but our development to date has been clever, considered, and consolidated.  We’ve also not been shouting our achievements from the rooftops, as we prefer to grow under the radar step by step.

“I’m excited about cementing new partnerships and about the immense potential there is for Paratus to drive the future of telecoms in Africa as it becomes the continent’s preferred quality network service provider.”

Martin Cox’s foresight has served him well.  And he is a man worth watching because what he sees is invariably what people wish they had themselves noticed earlier.

UK-born and educated, Martin Cox is also a qualified lawyer and MBA graduate. He is married to a South African, has three daughters, and lives in Johannesburg.

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