Safaricom, the largest telecommunications company in East Africa, has undergone a change in leadership at the board level with the departure of John Ngumi as chairman. Ngumi had held the position for just six months and had previously been seen as an ally of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, serving as chairman for several state-owned enterprises including the Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation and Kenya Airways. In a statement, Safaricom praised Ngumi for his “industry knowledge and vast expertise,” but did not announce a successor. Instead, the company stated that a new chairman will be elected by the board in the coming weeks.
In addition to Ngumi’s departure, Safaricom has also appointed Adil Arshed Khawaja, a Kenyan lawyer with over 30 years of experience, as a director of the board. Khawaja currently serves as the managing partner at Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews and is recognized as a leading name in the Kenyan legal profession. He has previously held a director position at KCB Group and was elected as the first chairman of KCB Bank Kenya Limited.
These changes come at a time when Safaricom’s mobile money platform, M-Pesa, has become the company’s largest revenue generator, surpassing voice services. The shake-up also follows the departure of several top executives from Safaricom over the past two years, including eight of the 11 C-suite seats. This has allowed the company to bring in new skills and shape its management according to CEO Peter Ndegwa’s strategy to maintain Safaricom’s profit trajectory.
The new administration in Kenya, led by President William Ruto, has expressed interest in utilizing Safaricom’s platforms for its Hustler Fund loan program and fertiliser distribution plan. It is unclear at this time how the changes in leadership at Safaricom will impact the company’s relationship with the government and its future direction.