Michael Joseph, the chairman of the Board of Safaricom PLC has stepped down and replaced by John Ngumi, effective Monday, August 1st, 2022. Ngumi, will also be replacing Joseph as one of the Director’s representing the Government of Kenya on the Board of Safaricom.
Though John was appointed as a Director of Safaricom and elected Chairman of the Board at a Safaricom Board meeting held on July 28th, 2022, some insiders argue John is being planted into the telco to take care of the interests of the outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta because of his loyalty to the first family, Kenya’s biggest business family with interests in a majority of business across Africa. Ngumi’s appointment is awaiting regulatory approval.
Joseph says he stepped down as Chairman of Safaricom to support the firm’s investment in Ethiopia and allow him to devote more time to Kenya Airways which has struggled with profitability for years. Joseph added that he also wants to focus on the creation of the Pan African Airline Group which is important for the African continent to ensure connectivity as well as reliable and affordable air transport.
Joseph has been part of Safaricom since its inception, firstly as the founding CEO, then Board Director, back to CEO on the untimely death of the late Bob Collymore and finally as Chairman of the Board upon the retirement of the previous Chairman, Nicholas Nganga.
“I will remain as a Director on the Board, subject to approval, for the next few years to continue advising and supporting the Company generally through this transition, and support the Board to drive the Company’s strategic agenda as well as to provide continuity and transition guidance to our new Chairman,” said Michael Joseph in a statement. “This is also the right time for me to step down as Chairman, as Peter has now been CEO for two and a half years during which time we worked closely as part of transition.”
John Ngumi is not new to the telco as he has been closely allied with Safaricom since its inception including arranging its first bond and staying close to Safaricom. The corporate and investment banker,with a 35-year-old experience working in local, regional and global corporates and state-owned enterprises, has played pivotal roles in developing regional capital markets, in establishing the regulatory frameworks underpinning these markets, and in persuading East African governments to turn to local capital mobilisation to finance budgets
John has had a particularly close banking relationship with the telecommunications sector dating back to the late 1990s, when the sector underwent the radical transformation that saw the previous monopoly, Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) unbundled into discrete units, including Telkom Kenya, Safaricom and Postal Corporation.
In 1998, partly as an outcome of having been involved in the work that led to the Kenya Communications Act, John was appointed a Director of the inaugural Board at the Communications Commission of Kenya (now Communications Authority). This Board presided over the unbundling of KPTC and, among other things, issued the inaugural operating licences for Safaricom and Kencell. John also led debt and derivatives transactions for Safaricom totaling KES 30 billion, including Safaricom’s inaugural KES 4 billion bond issue in 2001.
In addition to being an investment banking deal maker, John played key roles in developing Kenya’s capital markets as we know them today, including his leading role in the development of capital markets regulations
John has also been Board Director in both private companies and state-owned enterprises. For the latter, he is best known as the inaugural Board Chair at Konza Technopolis Development Authority, as an extremely active and effective Board Chair at Kenya Pipeline Company Limited, and currently serves as Board Chair at the Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC), which is leading the effort to implement the Kenya Transport & Logistics Network, encompassing Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Pipeline Company Limited and Kenya Railways Corporation. He also serves on the Kenya Airways PLC Board
In March 2021 John was appointed Chair of a Presidential Taskforce on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to reviewing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) between the Kenya Power & Lighting Company PLC and Independent Power Producers (IPPs), following a sustained public outcry that PPAs were skewed against KPLC, leading to unsustainably high consumer power tariffs. The Taskforce reported back to President Uhuru Kenyatta in September 2021 with a raft of wide ranging and radical recommendations. Thereafter the President appointed John Chair of the Steering Committee charged with overseeing implementation of these recommendations. This Committee submitted its report at the end of June 2022. Currently John is currently chairing the government team negotiating with IPPs on tariffs.
John is also in the forefront of efforts to position Africa as a global leader in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, as part of the global fight against the negative impact of climate change.
In all that he has undertaken, John’s overriding professional goal has been to see Africa freed from economic hopelessness. He believes robust and efficient financial services will be a key factor, hence his pivotal role in developing financial markets.