Michael Joseph addresses calls to have Sylvia Mulinge appointed Safaricom CEO

By Brian Okoth On Tue, 2 Jul, 2019 21:54 | 2 mins read
Safaricom interim CEO Michael Joseph (L) and the firm’s corporate executive Sylvia Mulinge (R) [PHOTO | COURTESY]
Safaricom interim CEO Michael Joseph (L) and the firm’s corporate executive Sylvia Mulinge (R) [PHOTO | COURTESY]
Editor's Review
  • Social media was on Tuesday evening divided on whether East Africa’s leading telecommunications firm, Safaricom, should appoint a Kenyan as the company’s Chief Executive Officer.
  • So furious was the debate that the name of Safaricom’s corporate executive, Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge -- who holds the position of chief customer officer --, trended on Twitter, with a section of online users urging Safaricom to appoint her as Bob Collymore’s successor.
  • This comes as the Kenyan Government, which has a similar number of shares with South African mobile communications company, Vodacom, remains unwavering that a Kenyan national has to be the next Safaricom CEO.
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Social media was on Tuesday evening divided on whether East Africa’s leading telecommunications firm, Safaricom, should appoint a Kenyan as the company’s Chief Executive Officer.

So furious was the debate that the name of Safaricom’s corporate executive, Sylvia Wairimu Mulinge — who holds the position of chief customer officer –, trended on Twitter, with a section of online users urging Safaricom to appoint her as Bob Collymore’s successor.

This comes as the Kenyan Government, which has a similar number of shares with South African mobile communications company, Vodacom, remains unwavering that a Kenyan national has to be the next Safaricom CEO.

Kenya and Vodacom collectively own 70 per cent of the shares at Safaricom (35 per cent each), with British multinational communications conglomerate, Vodafone, owning 5 per cent.

The remaining 25 per cent of the shares are owned by individual parties.

On Tuesday, ICT minister, Joe Mucheru, said if a Kenyan national won’t be appointed as the top-most agent at Safaricom, then the new CEO “must apply for work permit and be approved by the State” to be at the wheel of Kenya’s most-profitable company.

However, speaking exclusively to K24 on Tuesday, July 2, Safaricom’s interim CEO, Michael Joseph, said the firm will subject potential Bob Collymore-successors to thorough interview exercises; and that it is not guaranteed that a Kenyan would be at the helm of the company once the process ends.

“Safaricom is a special company. You don’t just put somebody up there (at the CEO position) simply because he or she is there [as a seasoned staff member],” said Joseph, responding to a question on whether Mulinge is better-placed to take over from Collymore.

According to Michael Joseph, the Safaricom board, previously — while searching for the firm’s third CEO following the expiry of Collymore’s term before it was extended by a year –, wasn’t convinced that a Kenyan from Safaricom’s top echelon was ready to take up the job.

And the same board, felt following Collymore’s death, still there wasn’t a perfect persona among the firm’s top leaders to fill the late Collymore’s shoes.

“The board concluded that none of the Exco (Executive Committee) members was ready to take up the CEO role as at today,” said Michael Joseph.

The caretaker CEO of Safaricom further revealed that the process of hunting for the organization’s new CEO has begun, and that he doesn’t expect to be in acting capacity for long.

Michael Joseph served as Safaricom’s CEO between 1999 and 2009. He was replaced by Collymore in 2010.

Collymore’s term was to end in 2020.