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David Vs Goliath. Start-ups take on Telkom, Vodacom and MTN

​​​​​Additional Forum Information

Registration: 17h45 - 18h00

Forum Start Time: 18h00​​​​​​​​

Length: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cocktails will be served after the event


The South African telecommunications industry is being transformed through the emergence of smaller and nimbler disruptors. Join Niel Schoeman, CEO of Vumatel, for a discussion on how Vumatel sparked a telco revolution by bringing fibre to homes in South Africa. Hear how Vumatel uses its size and agility to its advantage to take on the incumbents and why these small and brave initiatives by entrepreneurs will solve the big questions in South Africa and Africa.​


Niel Schoeman is a serial entrepreneur, investor and disrupter. He is founder and CEO of Vumatel the new telecoms start-up that brings fibre to homes in South Africa. Niel is also co-founder and Chairman of The Birchman Group, an international technology consulting firm based in London, co-founder of Conduct Telecoms which was recently sold to Dark Fibre Africa and various other interests in technology related ventures. He hold an Industrial Engineering degree from the University of Stellenbosch.

Schoeman is still only 44 and a serial entrepreneur who has been crowned 2015's winner of the IITPSA President's IT Personality of the Year award.

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  • Prof Helena Barnard is a full professor at GIBS and responsible for the GIBS doctoral programmes. She developed the proposal leading to Academy of Management, the leading professional organisation for management scholars, conducting its first-ever conference outside of North America at GIBS in Johannesburg in January 2013. She was the Academy of International Business (AIB) Vice President for Administration (2017 to 2020) and is currently the founding chairperson of the Emerging Markets Special Interest Group of AIB. From 2018 to 2019, she was the Dunning Fellow at the John H Dunning Centre for International Business at the University of Reading. 

    Prof Barnard is an area editor for the Journal of International Business Policy and the editor in charge of international business research for the Africa Journal of Management. Until 2021, she served as deputy editor in charge of Africa for the journal Management and Organizational Review where she was recognised with a Distinguished Editor Award. She is also an editor for AIB Insights and is on the editorial review boards of Global Strategy Journal and Academy of Management Perspectives

    Prof Barnard has published in the Journal of Management (ABS4*), Journal of International Business Studies (ABS4*), Research Policy (ABS4*), Journal of World Business (ABS4) and others. 

    Her research interests are in how knowledge (and with-it technology, organisational practices, and innovation) moves between more and less developed countries, particularly in Africa. She researches both organisational mechanisms (notably emerging multinationals and internet-enabled businesses) and individual mechanisms such as scientific collaborations, doctoral training, and the diaspora. 

    Prof Barnard has been an invited speaker on emerging market multinationals at inter alia Aalborg University in Denmark (February 2006), Northeastern University in Boston (August 2012), the COST Action Group at the European International Business Academy in Sussex, UK (December 2012) and at NYU at a conference organised by Phankaj Ghemawat (September 2016). 

    Prof Barnard received and served on the executive and scientific committee of an EU-funded FP7 project on global innovation networks (2009 to 2011). She was awarded a grant from the Canadian IDRC to support the doctoral study of students from wider Africa (2013 to 2017) and a British Council/DHET grant (2020 to 2025) for the support of South African faculty members who wish to obtain their doctorates.

    Prof Barnard is involved with projects with the University of Strasbourg (France) and Maastricht University (Netherlands) on global academic collaborations and with the Oxford Internet Institute on how online markets are changing business across borders. She is a fellow at the Future of Work in the Global South initiative and the DIODE network (Development Impacts of Digital Economies) at Manchester University. She has been rated as an internationally recognised scholar by the South African National Research Foundation. 

    Before she started her academic career, Prof Barnard worked at Home Depot in the USA from 1999 to 2004, first in Instructional Design and then in Logistics. Her first career was in the field of Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET). 


    • PhD (RU) 
    • MBA (UP) 
    • BA Hons (UP)
    • BA (UP) 
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