Kenya: Safaricom Family Feels Void Left By Bob Collymore

Bob Collymore.

The length of his life was about 61 years, but Bob Collymore's depth of life not only enthused his wife and four children but outpoured to Safaricom employees, friends and beyond.

He had built two networks -- one that propelled Safaricom to becoming the most profitable firm in East Africa and another one that rode on his personality, connecting him with a family and friends beyond Safaricom network coverage.

Bob succumbed to cancer Monday morning, sending his family, friends and employees into mourning.

"It's been two years, and he was aware of what was happening. He was at peace, he was ready, and he was at home with those he loved," Safaricom Chairman Nicholas Nganga told the press. Though Bob was at peace with his fate, nothing could have prepared his family, friends and staff to take in the news calmly.


Outside Michael Joseph Centre, which lies next to Safaricom Centre, an equipped ambulance vehicle lay parked in case a staffer was overcome by emotions.

Bob had built something beyond just a profitable company. He had built people, Safaricom director of corporate affairs Stephen Chege told the press, adding that employees will mourn and celebrate him in equal measure.

In a packed press briefing attended by Mr Nganga, his board members and a section of other employees, not even the lively artwork inside the walls of Michael Joseph Centre could lighten up the room.

A pensive mood was written all over the very faces that had on so many occasions met here to celebrate good financial results, usually preceded by Jazz music. The network of people Bob had shared his life with -- including journalists -- took to their phones, retrieving and sharing bits of communications they had shared with Bob during his times as the CEO of Safaricom network.

"He fought this cancer with great courage, with everything he had, and he continued to give leadership to the company, for which we are truly grateful," Mr Nganga eulogised Bob.


"He always joked that he did not know whether he got here by a stroke of luck, or by design; whatever it was, we are all beneficiaries of his presence here and better off for it."

For nine years, Bob carried Safaricom's vision, transforming it from 'the better option' tag to 'Twaweza' mantra that lay more emphasis on building a profitable business with a deeper touch for the society.

His zest for life and commitment to building a purpose-led organisation, Mr Nganga said, was the reason Safaricom has scaled to greater heights.

Safaricom first announced that Bob had been taken ill towards the end of 2017. He travelled to London for about nine months to seek treatment before returning to work in July last year.

With focus shifting on Bob's succession and his vision of transforming lives, the board says it will carry on with what he started.


"This family, the Safaricom family, will continue to build on Bob's legacy. We will honour him by completing the work he began, and which he so passionately espoused," said Mr Nganga.

Michael Joseph, a board member and the first CEO of Safaricom, said the telco has been "very fortunate and lucky" to have Bob at the helm. He told the press that it was not time to speculate what will happen in future but to celebrate the life of Bob and his achievements.

"Bob understood what the DNA of Safaricom was all about and took it to another level. We all experienced his enthusiasm, greatness and affinity with people. I think this is what has driven this company," he said.

There will be a private interment today. Later on in the week, there will be a memorial service for his larger network of friends and family and staff.

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