Peter Ndegwa has today officially taken the reigns as Safaricom chief executive, setting himself up for the most-watched CEO job in Kenya. He takes over from Michael Joseph, who has been acting since the death of Bob Collymore in July 2019.
The 51-year-old CEO, who is moving from beer maker Diageo, will spend his early days acclimatizing himself with Safaricom House and the mobile services industry in Kenya. In an interview with Business Daily, Mr Ndegwa sets the tempo for his tenure, vowing to uphold the integrity and stretch his limits.
“It is time to serve my country,” said Mr Ndegwa, the first Kenyan CEO for Safaricom. “There are two things that I value most, and that is humility and integrity. Integrity is about doing what you say and humility is knowing that there is always something more you can do.”
Mr Ndegwa, perhaps acknowledging the uphill task ahead, went for an excursion, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro just days before taking over. That experience at Mt Kilimanjaro, amid the Covid-19 crisis, will come in handy when navigating Safaricom’s business strategy and operations – from voice calls, SMS, money transfer and data.
An economist and accountant, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndgegwa has done his homework and already knows one or two things about his new employer. “Safaricom is more than just a telecommunications company,” he said. “Voice is saturated but that is what is happening everywhere in the world. Best companies renew themselves.”
He said there is still potential in data, M-Pesa and geographical expansion at a time when Safaricom has announced plans to enter Ethiopia, which is keen to liberalize its telecommunication services.
“Learning from home (during the coronavirus outbreak) has created opportunities in education through e-learning,” he said. “We are also looking at how innovation can help us deliver services in healthcare and agriculture.”
As Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa settles in, Kenyans will be watching his first steps in re-engineering Safaricom and steering it through the Coronavirus pandemic. His to-do list is certainly full: try to fit in, inspire the team, sort customer issues and, of course, tackle competition.
Safaricom has 34.1 million subscribers in the Kenyan market that has a total subscription of 53.2 million, according to Communication Authority data. It is followed by Airtel with 14 million subscribers, Telkom (3.3 million) and Equitel with 1.7 million.
“I like getting things done,” he says. “The best strategy is about solving the problems of our customers and this is part of my DNA. I also like things simple.”