After Bob Collymore: The possible CEO contenders from within Safaricom

After 7 years at the helm of Kenya’s most profitable company and local telcom industry leader Safaricom, Bob Collymore may this year surrender the reins to a new individual, who many believe will also be a safe pair of hands to steer the company to a new season of innovation and growth. Collymore replaced the telco’s founding CEO Michael Joseph in August 2010.

In March 2015, the CEO’s contract was extended by a further two years, with the contract extension being announced during the firm’s financial results, 5 months before it expired in August of the same year. Prior to this, Collymore had seen his contract extended for two more years in 2013.

(TOP: Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom).

Through his leadership, the company launched its 4G network and got awarded by the Government of Kenya security tender, where they will oversee the building of the National Police Network in Nairobi and Mombasa.

During his tenure, Safaricom has experienced growth and developed various innovative services and products. Among these are M-Shwari mobile banking service together with CBA, Lipa na M-Pesa payment service for merchants as well as the Okoa Jahazi emergency airtime solution. Also tried on pilot basis even though it was later shelved not unveiled to the masses was the M-Pesa card.

To appeal to the youth segment of the market, Safaricom in mid last year launched BLAZE, a new sub-brand with products and tariffs targeted at those below 26 years. Still as part of the BLAZE service, the telco developed and launched the BLAZE BYOB (Be Your Own Boss) TV show in partnership with KTN.

For those mature than 26 years bracket and beyond the BLAZE target, Safaricom recently launched FLEX bundles which allows subscribers to convert their regular airtime into ‘FLEX’ units, which are then used to gain 35 per cent savings on calls, SMS or data.

Anyway, enough with the history. Let’s now go to the gist of the post, which is possible contenders for the CEO role from within Safaricom when Collymore‘s tour of duty comes to an end(in no particular order, the only order being the way they are listed in the firm’s website in the Senior Management segment):

Stephen Chege





He took over from Nzioka Waita who joined the Civil Service as Secretary of Delivery in the Office of the President in April 2015. As the telco’s Corporate Affairs Director, he is responsible for the Corporate Affairs Division, which provides strategic support functions to Safaricom’s operations which include the Regulatory and Public Policy, Legal and Secretarial Services; Corporate Responsibility (incorporating the Safaricom and M-PESA Foundations as well as Sustainability Reporting); and the Corporate Communications functions. Quite a huge portfolio with diverse responsibilities.

He’s also a Safaricom insider having joined the firm in 2006, that is before the launch of M-Pesa.

In case you feel  the thought of him making CEO is far-fetched, remember current CEO Bob Collymore served as the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Vodacom South Africa for almost 2 years before assuming his current role. All dreams are valid…

Sylvia Mulinge

Currently the Director for Consumer Business with responsibility over Safaricom’s consumer products, including M-Pesa.

Sylvia is also a Safaricom veteran, having joined the telco in early 2006 and rose from Prepay Product Manager to Head of Retail, then GM of Safaricom Business and eventually taking her current position as Director, Consumer Business.

After having 2 men at the helm of Safaricom, this may just be the time for a lady to steer the ship to new yet-to-be explored shores…

Joseph Ogutu

Mr Ogutu joined Safaricom as Chief Corporate Affairs Officer in May 2005 from Telkom Kenya where he was the Chief Strategy and Regulatory Officer  and Principal Assistant to the then MD Augustine Cheserem. He then served as Chief Human Resource Officer from 2008 before taking on the role of Director Resources in March 2011. In October 2012, he was appointed as the Director, Strategy & Innovation, a role which sees him liaise with the CEO in formulating strategies for the telco. Apart from this, he’s also Chairman of Safaricom Foundation and sits in the board of TEAMS cable.

A telcom industry veteran, Ogutu was also part of the team which drafted the Postal and Telecommunication Policy Paper that led to the restructuring of the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation and subsequent establishment of CCK, Telkom Kenya and Postal Corporation of Kenya. He was also involved in the establishment of the institutional framework for the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (Eassy).

If the Safaricom board needs real industry experience from within its management ranks to lead the firm, then Ogutu would be our pick for the job.

Rita Okuthe

Ms Okuthe joined Safaricom in August 2009 as Head of Consumer Segments, a role in which she proved over the years to be invaluable in driving voice revenues through her great understanding of our consumer behaviour. She later held the role of Director Marketing until she was appointed as the Director for Enterprise Business in March 2015.

She joined Safaricom from MTN Uganda.

With a number of years of experience in advertising and brand management and managing brands at all stages – from infancy to maturity in both monopolistic and highly competitive environments – Okuthe could push Safaricom and its various sub-brands (M-Pesa, FLEX, BLAZE) to new heights at the helm of the firm’s leadership .

Sateesh Kamath


Sateesh replaced John Tombleson as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) on August 1, 2016 from Vodacom Tanzania where he held a similar role.

A Vodafone veteran who joined the group’s India affiliate in 2004, he’s since held senior roles in other Vodafone operations in London, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and Fiji.

In our estimation, Sateesh is the man to watch if Safaricom and Vodafone UK decide to pick an insider to steer the Kenyan subsidiary to the next level.

Anyway, the above is our speculation, and should thus not be used by any party – from within or outside Safaricom – to ‘victimise’ the persons for habouring thoughts of becoming CEO. But who, within an organisation, doesn’t want to ultimately occupy the CEO position? Unless they’re not ambitious of course.

Again, it should be remembered that Vodafone – which has a 40 per cent stake in Safaricom – has from experience and in the past had the ultimate say in who becomes the CEO and CFO at the telco, that’s why we said (or speculated) that Sateesh Kamath (the current CFO) may be man to watch. Or as a colleague put it, the CEO is a reserve of Vodafone UK.

Additionally, current CEO Bob Collymore may just get a further extension of his contract. This is because, as explained by a colleague, Safaricom is not subject to the two three-year term limits that apply to parastatals and companies where the government has a majority stake.

Let’s conclude by saying that all these will all be made clear to the public and the firm’s shareholders at the forthcoming AGM in May where the company will release its Financial Results for the year ended March 31, 2017.


1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.