Safaricom interim CEO, Michael Joseph, has faulted Kenyans expressing their doubts on whether Peter Ndegwa will deliver as the top employee of the country’s most profitable company.
Speaking in an interview aired on K24 TV on Thursday 9pm, Michael Joseph also dismissed a section of Kenyans -- online and offline -- who were quick to play the tribal card in regard to Ndegwa’s appointment announced Thursday, October 24.
Ndegwa’s native community is Kikuyu, which is the largest in the country based on population size. And, a section of the critics who were quick to point out his ethnic alienation as an issue, speculated that he could be swayed by Kenyan politicians into playing the tribal card while running Safaricom.
Michael Joseph, however, finds that argument to be neither here nor there.
“Many people talk. It is unfortunate for Kenya that we always look at the tribal affiliation of somebody [hired to lead a multi-national corporation]. [They debate whether] he would be influenced politically or not. I think it is very unfortunate that that is the trademark of Kenyans in general,” said Michael Joseph.
“I think Ndegwa won’t be influenced by Kenya’s politics. I think it was time Safaricom, as a Kenyan company, hired a native as its CEO. It was unfortunate that we did not choose somebody internally at this point. However, we will at some point [in the future],” said Michael Joseph.
“I don’t believe in that stuff [that a Kenyan CEO would run down Safaricom]. I think the Kenyan we have [Ndegwa] has the necessary integrity and maturity to do the right thing for Safaricom as a company, its shareholders, and Kenya in general.
“I think it is the right move politically and professionally to have a Kenyan at the helm of Safaricom,” emphasised Michael Joseph.
The founding CEO of the region’s leading telecommunications company says it took two years to find Ndegwa as a replacement of Bob Collymore, who succumbed to cancer on July 1.
“The challenge that we had was to get a Kenyan with all the necessary qualifications and experience in our field to run Safaricom. Where is that Kenyan? The pool is not that large. We had to expand [the scope of our] search. So, we had to choose somebody with mobile experience or telecommunications experience, and that is what we have done,” said Michael Joseph.
“Ndegwa’s appointment has like-for-like similarities to how Bob Collymore was picked for the job. It took the Safaricom Board of Directors two years to settle on Bob. There was a lot of deliberation whether Bob could do the job… He also did not have all these requisite qualifications to be CEO… You know, one of the downside of Bob is that he had never run a big corporation… It took two years to find him, he came in and grew into the job; wonderfully grew into the job, and took the company to a whole new level,” said Michael Joseph.
“I expect Peter would do the same; it will take him some time to settle in, it will take him some time to understand the DNA of the company, [but once he does, he will steer the company to greater levels of success]. My expectation is that it will take him three to six months to settle in. I will be here to guide and help him,” said Michael Joseph.
“People know me… I am not an easy person; I expect him to deliver.”
The interim CEO says he expects Ndegwa to prioritise customer experience, financial performance and financial services as his key deliverables.
And, the main reason Safaricom settled on Ndegwa, Joseph says: “He is the most qualified person to be the next CEO of Safaricom. He has the experience of running a big corporate. Diageo is a big company; a multi-national. He is originally a trained accountant by the PWC. To some extent some people would say he isn’t a telecoms guy like Bob and I. But that is why I am here: to provide him with the guidance he needs.”
Ndegwa’s appointment as Safaricom CEO takes effect on April 1, 2020.