Alan Knottcraig 2009


Alan Devilliers Charles Knott-Craig was born on 5 August 1952 in Oudtshoorn where he completed his school education at Oudtshoorn High school in 1969. He proceeded to study electrical engineering at UCT in 1971, winning the Ormson Smith prize for academic achievement three times during his studies. He graduated cum laude with a BSc hon­ours degree in 1974 and later obtained a Master’s of Business Leadership degree from Unisa in 1988.

He was head of strategic planning at Telkom’s head office when in 1991 he started to investigate the possible application of new digital technologies to what would become the cellular phone industry.  He had to convince sceptical people that travelling around with a wireless phone would in fact change the lives of people. By 1993 a telecommunication license was granted and he became the first CEO of a new venture called Vodacom.  The Vodacom roll-out was the fastest in the world with up to three base stations being switched on per day.

His visionary leadership led him to make decisions that changed the face of communication in South Africa and Africa for good. Building network coverage along the two big national roads from Johannesburg to Durban and Cape Town just six months after the network started operating, convincing popular chain stores to be exclusive providers of cell phones linked to Vodacom and introducing prepaid cell phones putting cell phones in the hands of ordinary South Africans (the first implementation in the world of prepaid cell phones via the Intelligent Network Platform). His vision was to export this technology to Africa, and the first network was built in Lesotho. Other companies quickly followed and today South African based cellular companies can be seen all over the continent.

By 2008 Vodacom had close on 25 million subscribers in SA and another 9 million in other countries. Alan made sure he set Vodacom on a new path before his retirement in 2008 with Vodacom venturing into fiber-optic technologies expanding its services to a much wider range of data communication products. He is now recognised as the prime driver behind the communication revolution in South Africa and Africa.

Alan is not only a person with vision and business acumen – he has a real commitment to ordinary and previously disadvantaged South Africans. The Vodacom Foundation programmes span a wide range of humanitarian causes, and Vodacom has concluded a black empowerment deal that is really broad-based and benefits ordinary people in our country.

Many awards and accolades attest to his national and international stature as a leader and visionary, socially conscious businessman. He was voted Computer Person of the Year by the Computer Society of South Africa in 1993, he received the AHI Platinum Award for Leadership in 2000, and was inducted as one of only eight Gold Members on the Inaugural Role of Honour from the International GSM Association in 2001. In 2006 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in business leadership from his alma mater, Unisa.

As the youngest formally established Business School in South Africa, it is appropriate for us to recognise such major business and leadership achievements.  It will be a great asset to our current and future students to interact with Alan Knott-Craig on issues like business technology, visionary leadership and social responsibility.

In recognition of his unique contribution in the interest of the Southern African community in the field of technical innovation, sustainable development and business leadership it is an honour for NMMU to confer the degree of Doctor in Business Administration (honoris  causa) on ALAN DEVILLIERS CHARLES KNOTT-CRAIG.