The board of directors of Safaricom on Thursday announced the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer, Peter Ndegwa, who becomes the first Kenyan to head the topmost network operator in the region.

The appointment of a local is in line with the government’s desire. ICT Secretary Joe Mucheru had earlier indicated that the government, which has a 35 percent stake in the company, wished to have a Kenyan at the helm.

Ndegwa’s term begins on April 1, 2020, and he is expected to take over from interim CEO Michael Joseph who was appointed after Bob Collymore died of cancer in July.

Collymore helped to turn Safaricom into region’s most profitable company, owing largely to the popular mobile money service M-Pesa and a growing customer base. The company’s share price increased by over 400 percent during his tenure.

The board is banking on Ndegwa’s “wealth of experience” gained from leading several regional and local corporates for “over 25 years,” Safaricom Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’ said in a statement.

“We are confident that Peter will carry on our vision of transforming lives while keeping us focused on meeting our customers’ needs and holding us to being simple, transparent and honest,” the chairman said.

Peter Ndegwa, Safaricom’s first local CEO. Photo credit: Youtube

Distinguished corporate leader

Peter Ndegwa is a distinguished corporate leader, a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK).

After completing his MBA at the London Business School on the back of a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Nairobi, Ndegwa handled major assignments in corporate advisory and project management at top European and American financial businesses.

In 1996, he joined the global consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) as a consultant and relocated to London. Three years later, he made a transition from the Accountancy practice to the Consulting and Corporate Finance Unit at PwC.

Ndegwa returned to Kenya in 2002, joining East African Breweries Limited (EABL), a Diageo subsidiary based in Nairobi. He assumed the role of Strategy Director in 2004, in which he steered the development of an affordable beer strategy which saw the creation of Senator Keg – one of Kenya’s and Diageo’s most iconic beer brands.

In 2011, he was transferred to Diageo subsidiaries Guinness Ghana Breweries Plc. and later Guinness Nigeria Plc. where he served as CEO. Ndegwa in July 2018 left Nigeria for his current role as the Managing Director for Diageo’s operations in Continental Europe and Russia, the first African to hold the position.

“Instead of just looking at what governments can do, we need to acknowledge that large organizations can improve society and shift how people think and feel,” Ndegwa said after his appointment. “For me, this is about working with others to build sustainable businesses that can make a difference in people’s lives.”

With 30 million subscribers, Safaricom controls about 62 percent of Kenya’s mobile market. It is 35 percent owned by South Africa’s Vodacom, 5 percent by Vodafone in the UK while the Kenyan government owns a 35 percent stake. Private investors also own shares through the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

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