Kenya: Safaricom Picks Michael Joseph as New Board Chairman

Michael Joseph has been appointed as the new Safaricom board chairman, ending the 13-year reign of Nicholas Ng'ang'a, who has served as the telco's chairman and non-executive director since 2007.

Cumulatively, Mr Ng'ang'a has sat on the board of East Africa's most profitable company for 16 years after first joining the firm's directorship in 2004.

Announcing the appointment, Safaricom chief executive officer Peter Ndegwa said Mr Joseph takes over from August 1, 2020 with a mandate to 'improve customer sentiment, greater brand consideration and to bolster the firm's digital transformation agenda.'

"He brings a wealth of skills and industry knowledge given his contribution to the growth of Safaricom from very humble beginnings to becoming one of the most innovative, influential and profitable companies in the East African region," Mr Ndegwa said.

There is probably no one who understands Safaricom better than Mr Joseph, who has served the telco as its CEO twice and has been a board member for several years.

It was under his leadership that Safaricom launched the revolutionary mobile money platform, M-Pesa, which has become the biggest and the most successful mobile money service in the world.

M-Pesa has been recognised as one of the top 10 Most Influential Finance Projects of the last 50 years by Project Management Institute (PMI) in its 2019 Most Influential Projects list.

WEARS MANY HATS

Mr Joseph joined the Safaricom board on September 8, 2008. After exiting as CEO, he was employed by Vodafone Group Services Limited as Director of Mobile Money.

Mr Joseph, who is also the current chairman of Kenya Airways' board, is also Vodafone's Strategic Advisor, appointed to the Boards of Vodacom Group South Africa, Vodacom Tanzania and Vodacom Mozambique.

He was the first Safaricom CEO from July 2000 when the company was re-launched as a joint venture between Vodafone UK and Telkom Kenya until his retirement in November 2010. But he would come back as a caretaker CEO after the death of Bob Collymore last year as the firm looked for a new boss.

During his tenure, Mr Joseph steered the company from a subscriber base of less than 20,000 to over 16.71 million subscribers.

In addition, he has extensive international experience in company start-ups, the implementation and operation of large wireless and wire-line networks, including operations in Hungary, Spain, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Korea, the USA, Australia and the Middle East.

BOARDROOM TITAN

On his part, Mr Ng'ang'a joined the Safaricom board on May 6, 2004 and was elected Chairman on January 16, 2007. It was under his leadership that Safaricom has grown to become east Africa's most profitable company, with annual revenues in excess of Sh200 billion.

Mr Ng'ang'a, a brilliant boardroom titan, holds a BA degree from Makerere University and served as the Permanent Secretary for the Ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Health.

As chairman, he has helped Safaricom navigate political and regulatory challenges with the most recent being the dominance debate.

"He has steered the company through various milestones over the 13 years he was at the helm. During his tenure as chairman. Mr Nganga has been instrumental for the monumental growth that the telco has experienced," Mr Ndegwa said.

Mr Ng'ang'a took up the leadership reins at a time when the government was starting the process of offering 25 percent of its shares to the public through the Nairobi Securities Exchange in 2008.

Safaricom says he has managed to grow shareholder value by 607 percent since listing.

Safaricom's market capitalisation, at Sh1.075 trillion, is worth 50 percent of all the listed firms on the NSE.

"At the time of his appointment as Chairman, Safaricom had slightly over 6 million customers, 1,000 employees and only 8 Safaricom shops across the country. Mr Ng'ang'a retires from the telco that now serves over 35.6 million customers, across 50 shops and hundreds of service desks across the country, with a staff force of over 6,500 employees," Mr Ndegwa said, adding that he led the board in overseeing the rapid network development in the country, having started with 3G upgrading on his appointment at a cost of Sh1 billion.

In his last financial year as chairman, Safaricom announced investment of Sh36billion to expand its network coverage.

He is also credited with ensuring diversity and inclusion at Safaricom.

"This commitment has seen the staff gender distribution stand at 51percent women and 49 percent men whilst in management we have 35percent women and 65percent men. On inclusion, we have 131 staff with various disabilities representing about 2.4 percent of the staff population."

In addition, he chaired the Tea Board of Kenya and the National Bank of Kenya. He has also served as the Chairman of G4S Security and Car & General Kenya, and was a member of the Board of Kakuzi Limited.

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