In what has thrown Kenya’s leading telecommunications company into mourning, the Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom, Bob Collymore, passed on early this morning after a two-year long battle with cancer.
“It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing away of Robert (Bob) William Collymore, CEO of Safaricom Plc, which occurred at his home on the morning of 1st July 2019,” the company said in a statement. The Guyanese-born British citizen had travelled to Britain in October 2017 to receive treatment for Acute Myeloid Leukemia but later resumed work in July 2018.
Since then, the CEO had been undergoing treatment for the same condition in different hospitals and most recently at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. However, in recent weeks, his condition “worsened and he succumbed to cancer…,” the firm added.
Collymore, who was recently appointed as a board member for the National Cancer Institute, had earlier indicated he would leave his post as Safaricom CEO in August. Later in May, revealed that he would stay for an extra year (till 2020) after his contract with the company was extended by a year to compensate for the time he was away on medical leave.
In honour of the iconic leader, Safaricom changed the colours of its logo on the official Facebook page by around 10 am on Monday morning. The company updated its profile page with different colours in the logo, away from the normal green, white and red colours, changing the colour to black, white, blue and grey.
On his part, President Uhuru Kenyatta in a statement posted on his office’s Twitter account eulogized 61-year-old Collymore as a “distinguished corporate leader”.
“It is with deep sadness that I have this morning received the news of the death of Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore after years of battling cancer. As a country, we’ve lost a distinguished corporate leader whose contribution to our national wellbeing will be missed,” the president said.
During Collymore’s nine-year term at the helm of the telecoms company, Safaricom developed into East Africa’s most profitable company due to the popular mobile money transfer service M-Pesa and a growing customer base. The firm’s share price rose by more than 400 percent within that period. Meanwhile, the appointment of his successor was delayed as the Kenyan government, which has a stake in the company, has insisted that a local is picked to succeed him.
The huge loss comes at a time when the telecoms operator is grappling with several challenges on multiple fronts. It is currently embroiled in a gambling tax dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority that could see it churn out up to $84.3 million.
Moreover, the company is facing a lawsuit of more than $1 trillion for allegedly violating the data privacy of millions of subscribers. In the suit filed by Benedict Kabugi, the data was specific to 11.5 million consumers who had used their Safaricom mobile numbers to gamble on various betting platforms registered in Kenya.