John Ngumi replaces Michael Joseph as Safaricom board chairman

The Safaricom board has named John Ngumi as the new chair, taking over from Michael Joseph who has held the position from mid 2020 when he took over from Nicholas Nganga. In his message, Michael Joseph stated that he, among other things, wants to devote more time to supporting Safaricom’s investment in Ethiopia, noting that  relinquishing the role of Chairman allows him the flexibility and freedom to undertake the important role on behalf of Safaricom.

Ngumi is a veteran banker with career spanning over 30 years. He’s established himself as one of East Africa’s foremost corporate and investment bankers, working with local and international (global) corporates that have an East African regional presence, state-owned enterprises, sovereigns, and financial services groups.

(TOP: John Ngumi, the new Safaricom board chairman).

He has played pivotal roles in developing regional capital markets, in establishing the regulatory frameworks underpinning these markets, and in persuading East African governments to turn to local capital mobilisation to finance budgets

Ngumi has had a particularly close banking relationship with the telecoms sector dating back to the late 1990s, when the sector underwent radical transformation that saw the previous monopoly, Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) unbundled into three distinct units – that is Telkom Kenya, Safaricom and Postal Corporation.

In 1998, partly as an outcome of having been involved in the work that led to the Kenya Communications Act, Ngumi was appointed a Director of the inaugural Board at the Communications Commission of Kenya (now Communications Authority). Th Board presided over the unbundling of KPTC and, among other things, issued the inaugural operating licences for Safaricom and Kencell.  John also led debt and derivatives transactions for Safaricom totaling Kshs 30 billion, including Safaricom’s inaugural Kshs 4 billion bond issue in 2001.

In addition to being an investment banking deal maker, Ngumi played key roles in developing Kenya’s capital markets as we know them today, including his leading role in the development of capital markets regulations.

Apart from being Safaricom board chair, Ngumi currently chairs other boards as well namely Konza Technopolis Development Authority; Kenya Pipeline Company; and Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC). He also sits on the Kenya Airways Board.

In March 2021, Ngumi was appointed Chair of a Presidential Taskforce on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to reviewing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) between the Kenya Power & Lighting Company and Independent Power Producers (IPPs), following a sustained public outcry that PPAs were skewed against KPLC, leading to unsustainably high consumer power tariffs. The Taskforce reported back to President Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2021 with a raft of wide ranging and radical recommendations. Thereafter, the President appointed John Chair of the Steering Committee charged with overseeing implementation of these recommendations. The Committee submitted its report at the end of June 2022. Currently, he is chairing the government team negotiating with IPPs on tariffs.

Below is the statement by Michael Joseph, the outgoing Safaricom board chair:

“Today’s AGM marks my last activity as the chairman of the Board of Safaricom.

Effective Monday, August 1st, 2022, John Ngumi, who is well- known to most of you, will become the new Chairman of Safaricom. He will also be replacing me as one of the Director’s representing the Government of Kenya on the Board of Safaricom.

John was appointed as a Director of Safaricom and elected Chairman of the Board at a Safaricom Board meeting held yesterday, July 28, 2022. All of this, of course, is subject to the requisite regulatory approval.

There are a number of reasons why I decided to step down as Chairman:

  1. I want to devote more time to supporting Safaricom’s investment in Ethiopia and relinquishing the role of Chairman allows me the flexibility and freedom to undertake this important role on behalf of Safaricom.
  2. This will also allow me to devote more time to Kenya Airways during this critical time to ensure that we continue the work of restructuring and refinancing for KQ to remain on the journey towards profitability in the next 2 years.
  3. It is also important that I continue to play a role in the creation of the Pan African Airline Group which is important for the African continent to ensure connectivity as well as reliable and affordable air transport.
  4. While there is indeed a right time in any man or woman’s life to take a step back from business and devote more time to enjoying life, in my case, this will probably not happen yet as I will continue to participate in other interesting business opportunities available.

Prior to making this decision, I consulted widely including discussions with our main shareholders, the Government of Kenya, Vodacom and Vodafone, the Board and of course with Peter, our CEO.

I have been part of this Company since its inception, firstly as the founding CEO, then Board Director, back to CEO on the untimely death of the late Bob Collymore and finally as Chairman of the Board upon the retirement of our previous Chairman, Nicholas Ng’ang’a.

I will remain as a Director on the Board, subject to approval, for the next few years to continue advising and supporting the Company generally through this transition, and support the Board to drive the Company’s strategic agenda as well as to provide continuity and transition guidance to our new Chairman.

This is also the right time for me to step down as Chairman, as Peter has now been CEO for two and a half years during which time we worked closely as part of transition. The strategic direction for the Company has been clearly set and approved by the Board.

John Ngumi is highly experienced and has been closely allied with Safaricom since its inception including arranging our first bond and staying close to Safaricom. I will of course assist in the transition, but I am very confident that John is the right Chairman for the Company, to take us into the future.

You will, no doubt, hear more about this over the next few days and weeks, and, of course, in due course, you will hear more from John, our new Chairman. I take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to John and wish him all the best as the Chairman of Safaricom.

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