Remembering the man, Bob Collymore

It was the morning of November 1st, 2010 that would seal Kenya’s most watched corporate transition. After close to ten years at the helm of Safaricom, Michael Joseph finally took a bow, leaving the corner office under the care of the new sheriff in town, Robert (Bob) William Collymore, a former Chief Officer for Corporate affairs at Vodafone South Africa.

“Bob is a smart guy and I don’t think he wants to say one day, ‘I’m the man who brought down Safaricom,” said Michael Joseph on his last day as the chief executive.

That Bob Collymore lived up to and outperformed Michael’s expectation, is not a secret.  Under the stewardship of Bob, Safaricom evolved to become one of the largest Mobile phone empires in Africa, driving innovations and prosperity, while rewarding its investors and shareholders with dazzling wealth and splendor.

To his colleagues, he championed a new brand promise (Twaweza) that capitalizes on the idea of transforming lives, To his customers, he simplified their lives, and finally to many a job seeker,  Safaricom is the dream company to work for.

But it is his kicking the bucket on the morning of July 1st, 2019 after a losing the fight to cancer that has left the telco in a predicament. And even as the Safaricom Board Chaired by Mr. Nicholas Nganga begins the exercise of scouting for the next worthy heir, there are some fundamental achievements that the man, Bob Collymore, will be remembered for;

  1. Network Coverage

It was during Bob’s tenure that Safaricom invested close to half a trillion shillings in upgrading and expanding its 2G, 3G and 4G networks all over the country, essentially covering over 70% of the population and therefore dwarfing its competitors.

It is this network availability that saw Safaricom reap big in terms of customer numbers, a development that wasn’t received so well by rivals Airtel, who frogmarched to the regulator’s corridor accusing Safaricom of abusing market dominance. Mr. Collymore dismissed that accusation as nothing more than a fallacy and that ‘winter is coming’ to the telcos that do not enhance and invest in good network coverage.

Read also: A telecoms mast pumps life into a tiny village in Narok County

2. Bringing MPESA Home

Bob Collymore called it “One of the biggest IT projects carried out in Africa”. In 2014, Safaricom invested in a second generation M-PESA platform, which increased the capacity of M-PESA to process more than 900 transactions per second.

The investment also saw the migration of the service from Germany to Kenya, a move that increased M-PESA’s availability to near perfection coupled with new features including an enhanced and simplified M-PESA Application Programming Interface (API), which has allowed third-party partners to layer their services on top of the M-PESA infrastructure, therefore arousing businesses and attracting both local and global players such as PayPal, World Remit, Western Union and more recently China’s AliExpress


3. GSMA Certification

Under Bob, MPESA become the first mobile money service of its kind to receive a GSMA certification award, meaning that the service had met top criteria for Global mobile money standards including safeguarding of customer funds, service security, safeguarding of customer data privacy, and mitigation against money laundering, terrorist financing, and fraud risks. It was a proud moment for the country as it meant that Kenya had now hit broad strokes in its quest to have its name among the top tech producers in the world and it was a chance to now export this local invention worldwide.

4. Money 

Safaricom’s Profitability continues to soar, with the last announcement in March this year noting a hefty Sixty Three Billion Shillings in profit. The ‘Moneymaker’ as Bob was once referred to, had done it again, meaning that the dividend party for shareholders and government would endure.

5. Diversification of Revenue streams

Mr. Collymore said he was keen on ensuring that new revenue streams start bearing fruit as a strategy to ensure sustainability of the business in the wake of fast-evolving and uncertain futures. During a press briefing at the sidelines of the Shared Values Summit in May this year, Bob said that his company was betting on e-commerce and Digifarm as some of the opportunities that would propel Safaricom forward.

Among other notable projects that were spearheaded by Mr. Collymore, include Fuliza which minted billions for the company in just three months and the planned purchase of M-PESA rights from Vodafone in readiness for regional expansion.

At a briefing yesterday morning, former CEO Mr. Michael Joseph once again reassured the public that whoever will be selected to lead the company next will carry on with Bob’s Legacy. He will be buried today at a private ceremony organized by his family. However, a public memorial service will be held in course of the week.

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