Safaricom has announced the exit of John Ngumi as its board chair, ending speculation on his future at the company.
The government holds a 35% stake in Safaricom, the region’s largest and most profitable company. Ngumi, a seasoned investment banker who has sat on the boards of numerous public and private corporations, including the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) as chair, has seldom been seen at important Safaricom events including the Ethiopia launches over the past year, fueling speculation that he was on his way out.
Ngumi is considered an ally of former President Uhuru Kenyatta. While Safaricom did not give an official reason for the exit while wishing him well, it has been widely speculated that he was on his way out following the election of President William Ruto.
It was in the Uhuru-era that key parastatals including the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Pipeline Company Limited and Kenya Railways Corporation (KRC) – were consolidated under the Kenya Transport & Logistics Network with the Ngumi-led ICDC in charge. Since Ruto took over he has so far, his decisions have included directing the return of port operations to Mombasa reversing a key Uhuru-era policy, while the National Treasury also led the replacement of Vivienne Yeda as Kenya Power board chair, with lawyer Joy Brenda Masinde.
“He (Ngumi) has steered the company through a general election and supported the entrenchment of our purpose of transforming lives through our products and services as well as within the communities we serve,” Safaricom’s statement announcing Ngumi’s exit read in part.
The telco is yet to name Ngumi’s successor, only stating that a chair will be elected by the board in coming weeks.
While disclosing Ngumi’s exit, Safaricom also announced the appointment of Adil Arshed Khawaja, the Managing partner at Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews, as a director of the board. Adil previously sat on the board of KCB Group, including as the chairman of KCB Bank Kenya Limited. His Safaricom appointment which took effect on December 22 was approved by the board on January 5.