It seems Kenya’s biggest mobile service operator is set to experience a major leadership change as Michael Joseph who is the reigning CEO of the corporate giant is set to step down later this year. Mr. Joseph has been CEO for the last 10 years, a decade which has seen major changes in Kenya’s mobile landscape – from mobile money transfer and banking innovation to the entry of new players in the industry.

Bloomerg writes:

Joseph, who has been chief executive officer of Safaricom since it began operations in 2000, said in an April interview that the 2008 initial public offering prospectus gave him the option to retire at the end of 2009. Joseph would only leave the company “when a successor is in place,” he said.

“We started with five people and we built this company to what it is today. I can’t just walk away from this company, which I consider to be my baby, with no successor in place,” Joseph said.

Ratio Magazine publishes the press release from Safaricom:

The Chairman of the Board of Safaricom has announced the retirement of Michael Joseph as CEO with effect from 1 November 2010. ‘I have been the CEO of Safaricom for the past 10 years and I believe the time has now come for me to hand over the reigns of the company to someone else. I am very proud of what we have accomplished as a team, in particular our achievements to become market leader, our extensive corporate social responsibility programme (which has been admired and emulated elsewhere) and the numerous innovative products and services we have introduced to the Kenyan market. IT has been an extremely exciting ten years and has been a great honour to work with such a talented and committed team and indeed with the over 16m Kenyans who believed in the brand and who have made Safaricom what it is today. I am both gratified and sad that the time has come to move on, but feel that, as CEO, I have managed to do what many others yearn to do and that is to change the life of millions of people through our products and services. Our business has never been stronger and I leave confident that the company is well positioned to succeed as it enters this new chapter of what is one of Africa’s most exciting growth areas,’ Michael Joseph said in a statement.

Joseph will be replaced by Bob Collymore, 52, who has worked in the telecommunications industry for more than 30 years in a variety of roles including that of Global Purchasing Director in Vodafone and Consumer Marketing Director for Asia based in Japan. For the past four years, Mr Collymore has lived in South Africa where he worked as Governance Director for Africa. In 2009, he joined the Vodacom management team as Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs. He has been on the board of Safaricom for the past four years and sits on the boards of a number of Vodacom’s subsidiary companies in Africa. Prior to joining Vodafone, Collymore worked with the retail giant, Dixons Stores Group, the cellular operator O2 and BT in the UK. Collymore commented: ‘It’s been a privilege for me to have sat on the board of Safaricom and watch its unfolding success. Under Michael’s leadership, the company has seen tremendous growth. He has been a truly exceptional CEO and whilst I am delighted to have been appointed as his successor, I fully appreciate that Michael’s will be a hard act to follow. I intend to continue to build on the very strong foundation Michael and his team have laid and am excited to work with the very talented team at Safaricom. With the support of the board of directors, I am very confident of leading Safaricom into the future. Given the competitive nature of the mobile industry in Kenya, my focus will be on delivering value and innovation for our customers and developing and empowering our employees and together with our Kenyan stakeholders, strengthening our outstanding brand.’

Chairman of Safaricom Nicholas Nganga said: ‘Close to two years ago, Michael shared with me his intention to move on to the next chapter of his life. Since then, we have been looking for a suitable person to take on Michael’s role. The leadership change comes at a time of great strength of Safaricom. We owe Michael Joseph a huge debt of gratitude for his leadership and the passion he has for Safaricom. Indeed it would be difficult to overstate his contribution to the company over the past decade. Among the many achievements, he has led the transformation of the business from the subscriber base of 17,000 to over 16m subscribers today and has positioned the company on a platform of innovation and drive and brought technology to almost each and every household in Kenya. With his spirit, he has led an organization devoted to making Safaricom the success it is today. Michael also played  a pivotal role in the Safaricom IP in which we saw over 800,000 Kenyans become owners of Kenya’s most profitable company. His single greatest legacy, however, has to be the introduction of M-PESA which has revolutionised the way Kenyans conduct business. The board has asked Michael to stay on in an advisory role with Safaricom to continue to provide input on strategic matters and other opportunities. Michael will remain on the boards of Safaricom and Vodacom. We are very pleased that Michael has accepted our request for a two-year period and that, with the immense experience Bob brings to Safaricom, can only enhance the solid path for the future. Bob is a seasoned and effective executive with substantial experience leading and integrating businesses with a real understanding for Africa. He is the ideal leader for Safaricom at this time. The board of directors wish him all the very best for the future.’

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