Nairobi News


Why top Kenyan managers at Safaricom are not ready for CEO job – Michael Joseph

Interim Safaricom Chief Executive officer Michael Joseph has revealed why the company’s board settled on him to take the job on a caretaker basis following the demise of Bob Collymore.

In a candid interview with K24 hours after the cremation of Collymore at the Kariokor cemetery, Michael Joseph explained that none of the top managers at the telecom giant is ready to fill the void.

He noted that the CEO position is a very sensitive one and can not just be handed to anyone.

It’s for this reason the Safaricom board, which he has been a member of since his retirement in November 2010, settled on him rather than choosing from its Executive Committee members.

His interim role is to guide the company before  a permanent replacement is appointed.

Joseph served as Safaricom first Chief Executive from 1999 to November 2010 when he was succeeded by Collymore.


“Safaricom is a very special company, you just don’t put anybody a CEO because they are there. It has to be somebody special who could continue the role. At this point we (the board) thought that none of the ex-com (Executive Committee) were ready for this role today,” Joseph said in the Tuesday interview.

Out of the 10 Safaricom Executive Committee members, two names that had been floated for the caretaker role was  Chief of Customer Officer Sylvia Mulinge and Chief Financial Officer Sateesh Kamath.

Kamath was appointed acting CEO for the better part of last year when Collymore was on leave for cancer treatment in London.

Joseph also revealed that the search of a new CEO to succeed Collymore started 18 months ago before the expiry of his contract in August 2018.

Collymore’s contract was later extended for a year, with the hopes he would make full recovery from his cancer and allow the board enough time to pick his successor.

“When we (the board) knew his contract end in August of this year we started the process of looking for his successor. We extended Bob’s contract for a year so that we could extend the search. So with Bob going so suddenly it precipitated many things and one of them was the board deciding to temporary putting me as interim CEO,” Joseph explained.

Collymore’s extended one year tenure was also to allow the board time to address concerns as to whether the to pick a Kenyan successor.


“It was a worldwide search including people in Kenya and eventually we came to very short list. We came to a decision, but we never executed the decision because there was concern as to whether the successor to Bob Should be a Kenyan or not. That is why we asked Bob to stay for another year while we sought of thought about how we could do it.”

Joseph also disclosed that he is a cancer survivor having been diagnosed with the disease while serving as Safaricom CEO but was lucky enough to make a quick recovery.

“Not many people know that I am also a cancer survivor and that I was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 while I was still the CEO of Safaricom. And I was fortunate to be diagnosed, (with) treatment and operation and now I am a cancer survivor”.