Since the sudden death of Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore on Monday morning to Leukemia, Kenyans have been speculating on who is going to be running East Africa’s most profitable company and the crown jewel of Kenya’s corporate structure.
The board has appointed former CEO Michael Joseph to head the company on an interim basis.
We know that prior to extending his contract by a year, the board had settled on the former Vodafone Ghana CEO, Ms Yolanda Zoleka Cuba. Ms Yolanda, a South African national, is currently head of Strategy and Mergers and Acquisitions at Vodacom group.
She was tapped to replace Mr Collymore but Kenyan ICT CS Joe Mucheru protested, wondering why a Kenyan couldn’t be considered for the position. Mr Collymore ended up renewing his contract for an additional year, putting an end to her contention.
She was later appointed to her current position, but things could always change with the sudden demise of the revered former CEO.
Sylvia Mulinge, current Chief Customer Officer, is also one of the favorites to replace Mr Collymore on a permanent basis. She was his number two and is a Kenyan, meaning she passes Mr Mucheru’s Kenyan test. However, her tenure in Safaricom has been dogged by controversy.
She was recently denied a work permit to Tanzania after she was promoted to be Vodacom CEO Tanzania. It remains unclear why the government denied her the permit.
She was also adversely mentioned in the KPMG audit report of 2016. It was reported that she had irregular dealings with Fibre Space Ltd
Fibre space was single sourced and was paid for the 1963 cashless matatu cards, which were never used and in contravention of procurement laws.
She has also been accused of a hit-and-run incident that left a minor dead. She was allegedly involved in the drunk driving incident that left 12-year-old Mary Kusa Etale dead near Kibera.
She was also accused of trying to influence the investigations into the case. It is unclear what happened to the case.
The third likely Safaricom CEO is Govinder Sateesh Kamath, current Safaricom Chief Financial Officer. He was the acting CEO when Mr Collymore was recuperating in England.
An alumnus of Mahatma Gandhi University, India, Mr Kamath has a wealth of experience in the world of corporate governance.
He, however, is not a Kenyan national which might draw the veto of the Kenyan government from ascending to the top seat.
Other notable Kenyans that could be considered for the top job are members of their senior management team. Rita Okuthe, Chief Enterprise Officer, who has been with Safaricom for over a decade.
Stephen Chege, their Chief of Corporate Affairs, has been a steady hand in ensuring they have one of the most admired corporate cultures in corporate Kenya.
We could also see Mr Nzioka Waita return from government to steady the Safaricom ship. Mr Nzioka is Mr Chege’s predecessor and current Statehouse Chief of Staff.
Other potential heads are Mr Joseph Ogutu, Safaricom Chief of Strategy and Innovation and Mr Nicholas Mulila, the company’s Director of Risk management.
Alternatively, the government could second perennial helicopter CEOs who hop from one big corporate job to another. Messrs Polycarp Igathe and Dr Julius Kipng’etich come to mind.