By Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah
When news filtered in that Safaricom’s founding chief executive officer Michael Joseph was leaving the company after 10 years at the helm, many people wondered if the telecommunication giant would survive such a transition.
The news of Joseph’s retirement was inevitably greeted with scepticism because many believed his shoes were too big to fill but Bob Collymore — a trailblazer in his own right — took up the mantle and within no time he had become a household name.
Collymore, who died aged 61, was head-hunted by Safaricom board from Vodafone where he was Governance Director in charge of Africa. He was born in Guyana in 1958 but moved to Britain at 16 years where he attended Selhurst High School.
Although he was offered a place at Warwick University, young Collymore had to forgo the opportunity because he didn’t qualify for funding.
“I wanted to go to university and I disliked not having gone and for some years after regretted and wished I did but it doesn’t so much matter now,” he was quoted by media saying.
After his dream of joining university became a cropper, Collymore spent time working as a train announcer and filling forms as a junior underwriter while pursuing his passion for “surrealist stuff”.
Collymore’s career took off when he joined the UK’s Cellnet in 1993, just as the corporate world was starting to venture into mobile telephony.
The hankering after new ground and love of adaptability has served him well. “I didn’t go to the smart university; this is probably the only thing which has ever distinguished me,” he says. “Nothing beats this job.” Although he had planned to quit his Safaricom CEO post on health grounds, his term was extended by one year.