Michael Joseph’s coat of many colours and his headache at KQ

Michael Joseph's coat of many colours and his headache at KQ

Safaricom, it appears, is intricately intertwined with Michael Joseph ( pictured ). The founding chief executive of the telecommunications firm that he helped to become a regional giant from an offshoot of Telkom Kenya has never left the corridors of the company. Even after retirement as CEO a decade ago, Joseph has been playing critical roles as a director at Safaricom’s board, and last year stepped in as an interim leader following the death of chief executive Bob Collymore. He relinquished his interim CEO role in April this year when Peter Ndegwa took over as a substantive boss. Yesterday, he started on another more visible role as chair of Safaricom board of directors. Ironically, Joseph will juggle that role in one of the most profitable firms in eastern Africa with a similar one at Kenya Airways (KQ), which finds itself in deep problems and is currently laying off some employees in a fight to stay afloat. He has been the airline’s chairman since 2016 and got a three-year extension in June 2019. His appointment to chair Safaricom’s board was met with mixed reactions on Thursday. A section of observers queried how one man could hold a near similar job at the same firm for more than two decades, while others noted he deserved the job going by Safaricom’s performance over the years. The performance of KQ also came up, with some noting that the national carrier might suffer divided attention at a time when it needs a chair with few distractions, leave alone a giant telecommunications company. Some also noted that KQ continued to under-perform even after Joseph took over as the board chair. While serving as chief executive, Joseph steered Safaricom from a subscriber base of less than 20,000 to over 16.71 million customers. He also oversaw many innovations, including M-Pesa which has enjoyed wild success and given the firm an edge over its competitors. The mobile money transfer service has in the past been the subject of heated arguments on whether it should be removed from Safaricom to become a standalone entity, which the firm has successfully fought off. Joseph retired from the CEO seat n 2010, paving way for Collymore, who further grew the company during the about ten years at the helm. He continued serving in the board. In 2018, Joseph sold off his shareholding in the company, according to Safaricom’s annual report for the […]

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