IWF member profile

Irene Charnley

Irene Charnley

IWF Global: Board Member

Irene Charnley is a  successful business and social entrepreneur and is the President of International Women’s Forum South Africa, a global organisation of over 7 000 pre-eminent women of significant and diverse achievement across 36 nations and 6 continents, and Chairman of Gibela Rail Transport  Consortium. 

Irene also recently served on the board of the Public Investment Corporation.

Irene is the Founder and former CEO and former deputy Chairman of Smile Telecoms, a Pan-African telecommunications group established in 2007, with broadband operations in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and a presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”).

Prior to establishing Smile, Irene was instrumental in transforming MTN Group into one of the most pre-eminent Telecoms operators in the Middle East and Africa region, through a number of license company acquisitions. She also led the management and staff buy-in of 18.7% in MTN, which was an entrepreneurial initiative independent of MTN and which saw thousands of MTN employees benefit from the structure at the time.

As an Executive Director at Johnnic Industrial Corporation and the lead negotiator of a number of successful transactions, Irene led the transformation of the organisation from an industrial conglomerate into the focused media and telecoms Group. Irene also spear headed one of the early broad based black empowerment schemes in SA, called the Ikageng Scheme in which 32 000 ordinary South Africans participated and received 400% return on their initial deposit.

Irene’s successful business career was preceded as a trade unionist and key negotiator for the National Union of Mineworkers, where she spent 13 years.

International Women’s Forum South Africa
Public Investment Corporation
Smile Telecoms Holdings and all its subsidiary companies