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Safaricom Names Peter Ndegwa As New CEO

A month ago, the internet was awash with information. Listed Telco Safaricom Plc had appointed a new CEO and a Kenyan at that!

Peter Ndegwa’s portrait and resume did the rounds, on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. Some blogs even went to town with the news.

As journalists, fact checking has become far too important to us. I cross checked the information with insiders at Waiyaki Way and at ICT ministry. They were all tight lipped. One source however added that going by what he had seen on social media, Ndegwa was a good fit. This should have given it away.

Months before the death of Bob Collymore, we embarked on digging out who his successor would be. His final term was to run out in August 2019. An interview with CS Joe Mucheru lifted the first lid on GoK’s determination to have a homeboy head the largest company in revenue terms in the region.

While Mucheru would later backtrack on his statements, the stage had already been set for debate on Collymore’s succession. Kenyans had been whipped. The pros and cons of a Kenyan heading Safaricom flew cross including memes.

Mid stream, the late Collymore would call a press conference to announce that the board had granted him one year extension. This ostensibly to compensate for the time he spent away in London while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Backstage rumours were rife on the division in the board that led to the extension. Treasury, GoK’s representative in the board it was said insisted on a Kenyan lead. As always, weeks later, the debate went silent.

It was the on the passing on of Collymore on July 1st 2019 that once again the succession talk resurfaced.

The return of Michael Joseph, the pioneer CEO, on an interim basis further put to life the difficult process that Safaricom was dealing with.

Pundits opined that an insider, one of Collymore’s chief officers would have been a perfect fit to assume the corner office on his demise.

At the firm’s Annual General Meeting when Joseph was asked how long he would be the acting CEO he retorted that ‘As long as I still feel I’m needed around’. This once again pointed at the lack of clarity on who the next head honcho would be.

From his resume, Ndegwa is a tried and tested corporate leader. Taking over from the suave and urbane Bob Collymore, thrusts him on the limelight. Meeting Collymore at Safaricom Jazz or hanging out with revered boys band Sauti Sol was common.

Ndegwa will definitely feel the weight of steadying the ship as well as bonding and comforting the demanding subscribers.

Safaricom chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a says he is confident Ndegwa will carry on with the vision and keeping their new commitment of being simple, transparent and honest.

This reminds me of a story I wrote while working with the Daily Nation in 2009 asking if Bob Collymore would fit Michael Joseph’s shoe. I must report that he did and exceeded. Collymore transformed the firm from a simple telecommunications operator to a data and financial services behemoth. At the time of his death most Kenyan’s would agree Safaricom is part of our daily life.


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