Former Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore.
[This article was originally published on January 2, 2019. It has been re-published in light of reports of the exit of Bob Collymore as CEO of Safaricom]

Bob Collymore is a celebrity CEO, the senior most executive of the most profitable East African corporate, he is an attention magnet especially for ardent followers of the business world. For him, failure to be seen in the company’s events for nine months was definitely going to raise eyebrows.

For a long time, there was speculation regarding Collymore’s whereabouts but as this was unfolding, he was in London seeking medical treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia: a type of cancer that starts in the blood-forming cells of the bone marrow.

His return to the country after the hiatus was epic, he was treated to a hero’s welcome but it was only during an interview with Citizen TV’s Jeff Koinange on August 8, 2018 that Kenyans knew that one of the most accomplished and revered men in the country was a cancer survivor.

“I had been feeling unwell for a while, tired and with high temperatures from time to time; it got so bad that I could not make it to company events,” said Collymore during the interview.

During a visit to Morocco, Collymore said he started experiencing flu-like symptoms, his body would start shaking and had severe pain in the shin; the bones at the front of the leg below the knee.

When Collymore jetted back into the country, he decided to get checked and was misdiagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency and was given supplements.

[Read: Bob Collymore to exit Safaricom]

Unsatisfied with the diagnosis, he decided to seek a second opinion from Nairobi Hospital’s Dr. David Silvernstein who recommended to him a hematologist (doctor who specializes in blood conditions) based in London who finally diagnosed him with cancer. That was when the music stopped.

That was then, ever since he returned to the corner office at Safaricom headquarters in Westlands, the company has been brimming with rejuvenation. The man picked up from where he left.

In November, the company reported a Kshs31.5 billion net profit in its half year results for the period ended September 30, 2018.

He has also gone about making key decisions to further build on the financial fortunes of the company.

On September 27, 2018 Collymore announced the return of Sylvia Mulinge as the head of special projects after her appointment as managing director of Vodacom Tanzania failed to materialise.

He has also not shied away from taking on the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) over its proposals to slow down Safaricom’s dominance by prohibiting individually tailored loyalty schemes and promotions.

Under his watch, the company has also continued with its streak of introducing innovative products. On November 27,2018 Safaricom announced a partnership with the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) to launch Fuliza, an overdraft product for its mobile money service, M-Pesa.

As 2019 sets in, Bob Collymore will remember 2018 as the year when cancer threatened to slow him down. He will also remember it as the year when he beat it and is now fit and firing again.

[See Also: Safaricom tops list of most valuable companies at the NSE]


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