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Folake Soetan: The power woman transforming electricity distribution in Nigeria  

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Article Summary

  • Folake Soetan, CEO of Ikeja Electric, has played a significant role in improving electricity distribution in Nigeria.
  • Soetan’s career has seen her hold leadership roles in British Airways, Virgin Nigeria Airways, and the Sahara Group, where she drove transformation and expansion.
  • At Ikeja Electric, Soetan has spearheaded transformative changes in power distribution, reduced losses, and implemented customer-centric initiatives.

For the longest time imaginable, Nigeria’s electricity distribution was characterised by instability. Many young and older adults will remember times when consumers could barely get up to six hours of electricity supply daily. 

However, the privatisation of the power distribution network in Nigeria and the influx of change management agents to head the companies brought about some desirable changes. One such change agent is Folake Soetan, the CEO of Ikeja Electric.

It is on record that Ikeja Electric’s Bilateral Power initiative broke the jinx of irregular power supply, resulting in as much as 20 hours of electricity supply through the National Grid to some residents. Mrs Folake Soetan was in charge of the team that delivered the Bilateral Power initiative in Ikeja Electric.   

Courtesy of the many transformational changes Folake Soetan has spearheaded in the distribution end of Nigeria’s power sector, she was recently announced as the winner of the maiden “The CEO Award” category in the 65th edition of the International Safety Awards (ISA). 

This award from the British Safety Council was targeted at acknowledging CEOs who have made vital contributions to the health and safety of their businesses and the wider society. 

Who is Folake Soetan?

Within two decades, Soetan has built professional experience in the management of startups, holding leadership roles more than 60% of the time. Her story is truly interesting and inspiring at the same.   

Career growth 

Soetan’s career started when she joined British Airways in 2001 as a sales account manager. She later left British Airways in April 2005 and joined Virgin Nigeria Airways. 

She served as Regional Sales Manager, National Sales Manager, and Head Of Sales in a space of five years. This marked another eventful time in her career during which she developed and implemented the sales strategy for improved revenue optimization for the Sales Department in Nigeria.

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As the National Sales Manager, she took responsibility for the profit and loss of the three major Regions in Nigeria through direct training and supervision of the three Regional Sales Managers and the independent sales channels.  

When she left in May 2009, it was to join the Sahara Group. She worked with one of the key entities of the group, SO Aviation in Ghana. She was the Head of Sales and Marketing for almost 3 years, and practically drove the transformation, turnaround and re-branding of Aviation, Air and Land Services Limited to SO Aviation. She handled stock acquisition, efficient and effective stock distribution, sales strategy development, and identifying new business opportunities, among other responsibilities.  

She served as the Vice President of Downstream – West Africa for 3 years as well and led the expansion of the downstream market share beyond the shores of Nigeria into Ghana, one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. Notably, she led the team that started PWSL and SO Aviation in Ghana, with a turnover to the tune of $86.7 million.                       

Joining Ikeja Electric 

Folake Soetan joined the largest electricity distribution company in Sub-Saharan Africa – Ikeja Electric in 2015 as Deputy Chief Commercial Officer. In a short while, she became the Chief Commercial Officer and initiated some transformational changes in power distribution in Nigeria. She and her team introduced initiatives that helped curb energy theft, addressed issues around estimated billing, improved customer complaints resolution, and reduced commercial and collection losses. 

She took another rung up the ladder in 2019, when she became Chief Operating Officer. Soetan developed and implemented strategies to increase customer growth, and reduce energy losses associated with power distribution, optimized the Technical infrastructure, increased revenues and strengthened the overall performance of the business. She was also in charge of the team that delivered the Bilateral Power initiative in August 2019 – a Willing-Buyer-Willing-Seller scheme, which for the first time in Nigeria, witnessed the provision of a minimum of 20 hours of power supplied through the National Grid to customers.    

With so much accomplished, it came as no surprise when Folake Soetan was announced as Chief Executive Officer of Ikeja Electric in March 2020, succeeding Dr Anthony Youdeowei to lead a team of over 3,200 employees. Expectedly, the move has continued – increased power distribution, technological transformation and even more innovations across the board.  

Through teamwork, the company has reduced its ATC&C losses from over 41% to as low as 24.9% in 4 years, the best so far by industry standards. The company continues to innovate and rely on technology to deliver quality and stable power supply for customers in its franchise area. 

Under her, Ikeja Electric has earned the remarkable recognition of the ISO9001 & OHSAS18001 certification – a mark of IE’s commitment to high safety and quality management standards in loss reduction, innovation and customer-centricity. 

More about Soetan  

Mrs Soetan influences and contributes to the growth of women in STEM through some mentorship initiatives. She also mentors several young men and women looking to build successful professional careers in the power and oil & gas sectors. She is a member of the Board of Women in Energy Network (WIEN).  

She recently received “The CEO Award” Category in the 65th edition of the International Safety Awards (ISA). In her LinkedIn post, she wrote,  

“As I walked up the stage to receive the award, I remembered one of my mentors once said to me ‘’Folake, whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come’… Now, I truly believe that the moment you start doubting yourself, it will be hard for you to do the impossible.”  

Folake Soetan is an alum of Harvard Business School where she studied Advanced Management, a graduate of banking and finance from the University of Lagos. Over the last 20 years of her career, she has garnered several certifications in various professional courses and continues to take part in several leadership programs.

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