The head of Kenya’s biggest telecoms firm Safaricom Bob Collymore Died Monday morning 1st July 2019.
Collymore was initially supposed to step down in August, 2019 when his tenure ends due to health complications.
In May, as August 2019 neared, the Government of Kenya (GoK) insisted that he should be replaced by a Kenyan.
Safaricom has had two CEOs since its became an independent private entity from Telkom Kenya. The first was also a foreigner Michael Joseph, who is the current Board Chairman at Kenya Airways.
Bob Collymore’s Tenure
Bob Collymore has helped to build Safaricom into East Africa’s most profitable company, thanks to the popular mobile money transfer service M-Pesa and a growing customer base.
Ill health however took a toll on him towards the end of his tenure. He took a nine-month medical leave in October 2017 to return to his native England to battle cancer, and had indicated he wanted to step down before his tenure ends in August.
“He wants to concentrate on his health so he did not wish to renew his contract,” said one of them, speaking on condition of anonymity as there has been no official announcement.
However, after he came back in August 2018, Collymore is said to have had discussions with the board who at that time intimated that they would make announcements on the chief executive position at a later date.
The board decided to extend his tenure by a year effective August 2019, so as to compensate for the 9 month absence while on medical leave.
“I have every confidence that whether I’m here or not, that this company will run … This is an institution. It is not a company which is just ran by a single person,” Bob is reported to have said.
During his tenure, Safaricom’s share price has increased by more than 400 percent to 28.00 shillings ($0.28). He has also led the charge against regulatory efforts to clip the company’s wings due to its dominant size.
Safaricom, which is 35 percent owned by South Africa’s Vodacom, controls about 62 percent of Kenya’s mobile market, with 30 million subscribers. Britain’s Vodafone has a 5 percent stake and the Kenyan government 35 percent.
Private investors also own shares via the Nairobi bourse.
Safaricom made a net profit of Kshs. 63. 4 Billion for the year ended March 2019 according to announcements made in May 3, this year.
On Succession and Objections
The board interviewed candidates, including a senior Kenyan banking executive, before settling on an unidentified foreign national from within the Vodafone group to succeed Collymore, one of the sources said.
But the government objected, citing an agreement supporting the appointment of a Kenyan as CEO, adopted at a shareholder meeting in 2017.
“The state has said ‘no’. They might have to negotiate,” said the source with knowledge of the succession process.
Joe Mucheru, the minister for information communication and technology, said there had been no formal communication from the company on Collymore’s successor.
However, he said he would be surprised if the board could not find a Kenyan to run the company, adding that part of Collymore’s remit was to groom a local successor.
“I would be very surprised if they can’t find a Kenyan. It will be hard for them to justify, what is so special about telecoms?” Mucheru told Reuters.
Collymore, who said he had acquired Kenyan citizenship in recent years, said skills were more important than nationality. Kenyan law allows dual-nationality.
“You have to get the right person for the job. It might be a Kenyan, it might not be a Kenyan,” he said.