Thank You Michael Joseph as you leave Safaricom chair

Thank You MJ as you exit Safaricom Chair

Safaricom was synonymous with one man Michael Joseph. From CEO then Chairman then back to Acting CEO when Bob Collymore passed away and now he has decided to exit.

Let’s give credit where due this is one man who single handed made Safaricom to what it is today and Mpesa is his biggest legacy. He faced off with banks MDs and CEOs who did not want Safaricom to get into matters transacting money which they considered to be the domain of banks. They said Telcos have no business getting into that segment. Glad that acting Finance minister then Hon Michuki and Central Bank Governor Prof Njuguna Ndugu ignored the banks and allowed Mpesa to be rest as they say is history.

Kenyans and humans are fond of writing great obituaries when someone is gone but they hardly appreciate them when alive.

Today I want to salute Michael Joseph fondly referred to as MJ.

I may not have worked with him directly but he is one man I tremendously respect. I have engaged with him on several forums and what a polite soft spoken man respectful and clear in what he wants to do.

✅ 1. When he was appointed KQ Chairman he personally reached out to me as KTF Chairman ( please note KTF is NOT a goverment parastatal. It is private sector tourism lobby group and I have since left that position ) and he explained to me the hard work ahead of him as he tries to help our national carrier. He was clear but at the same time he made it known that it will be long journey. While he expected better support but again he was well aware that challenges would always be there.

Folks at his age MJ by no means poor and he is not doing this for money but sheer love for Kenya his adopted new home. He can happily retire and live in Laikipia and not worry about KQ bailouts and strategic turnaround etc. MJ is living the Japanese mantra that you never retire your brain.

✅ 2. When covid hit the world , I found myself in the same board with MJ and many other leading lights in the private sector to raise funds. We just had our final meeting yesterday and official communication on Kenya covid fund will be made and you will be impressed with what we managed to achieve without spending a single cent on board emolument. We give our time time 100% free of charge . He was very instrumental in pushing for local production of PPEs and in the process today you are able to buy a mask at Ksh5 or even lower at Ksh3.

Many people would be reluctant to exit but MJ has now stepped down as Safaricom chair and I am happy with two things he has said..

✅ A. Devote more time to the telco’s investments in Ethiopia

✅B. Devote more time to national carrier Kenya Airways and he is targeting in two years KQ will be back to profitability.

Good people it is easy to destroy but takes alot of time , energy and personal sacrifice to build something.

Entry of Safaricom into Ethiopia a virgin territory of 120Million people needs full focus hence MJ has his priorities well laid out. The fact that Safaricom was allowed into Ethiopia is a major win for Kenya. Ethiopia have been closed for years and they are overly protective when it comes to matters Telcos and IT. This is one win you can’t deny retiring President Uhuru Kenyatta . He played a big role and his camaraderie warm relationship with President Abiy Ahmed helped a great deal.

His second reason is our national carrier KQ. Our national carrier has been in ICU for quite a while and then HDU. Soon it will move to normal ward and get discharged to join other airlines to soar. To do this as Chairman you again require full focus hence MJ is taking the bold step to pick the next challenge.

Please join me to thank MJ and wish him best of luck as he tackles Ethiopia and at the same time help our national carrier regain its mojo. It is interesting that he is taking the magic of Safaricom one of Africa’s most succesful Telcos to Ethiopia home to Africa’s most succesful airline ET.

MJ is equally aware that not everyone will appreciate him since Kenyans are peculiar lot a fact he established over two decades ago. If you appreciate him that is good if you don’t then you belong to that small peculiar lot who make Kenya unique .

As always yours truly is choosing to remain an optimist

Mohammed Hersi

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