Diageo Executive Could Lead Safaricom After Michael Joseph’s Exit

Peter Ndegwa

Peter NdegwaSafaricom started operations in Kenya nearly two decades ago, and in its time in the mobile telephony space, the carrier has managed to make a name for itself for reasons known to the majority of us. Over that period, Safaricom has also been served by two CEOs, a South African national named Michael Joseph and the late Bob Collymore who was from the U.K. The tenure of Collymore came to an abrupt end, but the carrier was quick to fix the leadership gap by appointing the former CEO (MJ) on an interim basis. Michael Joseph’s appointment, and earlier on, the extension of Bob Collymore’s tenure for a year, were marked by pressure from the Kenyan government that owns 35 percent shares in the telco, to finally have a Kenyan at the top ranks of the East Africa’s most profitable organization, and the country’s top taxpayer.

It is worth noting that there are business decisions that we, as the public, may never be aware of concerning the need to see a Kenyan CEO finally run Safaricom. Both sides (the government and other primary shareholders) have their reasons for the appointments we have seen so far. Sourcing experienced business leaders from other nations is a wise decision, but it has always been argued that Kenya does not lack the talent to guide Safaricom to greater heights. The urgency to see the development come to fruition was echoed by ICT CS Joe Mucheru, who was quoted by Reuters saying that he ‘would be surprised if they (Safaricom) can’t find a Kenyan. It will be hard for them to justify, what is so special about telecoms?’

The statement by the CS illustrates the general mood and direction of the government about Safaricom’s leadership, which is why it is rumoured that after Michael Joseph’s tenure, which is supposed to end soon (apparently he agreed to lead the corporation for six months before a permanent replacement is found), Peter Ndegwa who currently serves as the Managing Director of Diageo in Europe (Holland) may be tasked to serve as CEO. Ndegwa’s professional profile as a business leader is as excellent as they come, with previous highly-ranked positions at East African Breweries and PwC. A report by GBR further states that Ndegwa emerged as the most likely choice for the lead job at Safaricom, followed by the telco’s chief officers Joe Ogutu and Sylvia Mulinge.

These are educated guesses, mind you, so you need to take them with a grain of salt. It, however, does not mean that the speculations are far from what the telco and stakeholders have in the pipeline for Safaricom.