Open letter to the new Safaricom chief executive

Thursday, November 7th, 2019 07:00 |
Peter Ndegwa
Incoming Safaricom PLC CEO Peter Ndegwa. PHOTO/COURTESY

Dear new Safaricom CEO, Mr Ndegwa.

Greetings to you, ngarana! In the community we both come from, this means namesake. But lest am accused of name dropping, let me make it clear that we are not related. 

I know, the admission is so “unKenyan”. Here, we drop names of people in high positions at the remotest association. Even meeting and greeting a VIP in a public space is enough to blow your trumpet.    

Sorry, I digress. Kudos on your new appointment as the third CEO of Safaricom Limited, the largest telco in the region. As the first Kenyan to assume this position, you must be made of sterner stuff. Maybe, not so much in terms of qualifications and experience, but because of the covert intrigues that surround the highest local earning company ever. 

As you must have gathered by now, your appointment has raised interest in every corner of the country. This is simply because Safaricom has directly touched the lives of all Kenyans. From voice to data, to money transfer, we are hooked.

Now, going by social media accounts about what your mother and villagemates alike say about you, you are a good man. Your average Kenyan CEO is not that humble. He would rather die, than be seen canoodling with the hoi polloi. It is called running away from one’s self. He or she demands red carpet treatment 24/7 because, you guessed it—he can afford it.

The new money CEO in your cohort, who was most likely raised up in some village, and went to elementary school barefoot, would throw his haggard looking parents under the bus to avoid embarrassment within his hallowed corporate and social circles. 

Our local CEOs lay off people at whim to protect their perks. There is usually a thin line between their health, and that of the company they lead. They brook no opposition, which is the reason why many do not have worthy successors.

But if the same social media accounts are to be trusted, you were a confidant of the late Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore for many years. It does not take a genius to understand that he must have passed on to you some classified company information. Possibly, he even confided in some quarters that you were first among equals as his heir apparent.  

Safaricom is loved and hated in equal measure. On one hand, the telco is the country’s corporate flagship. Conversely, it represents unbridled capitalism. Safcom has had Kenyans for lunch for way too long by exploiting their meekness and cultural idiosyncrasies. Yes, your current predecessor once said Kenyans are a peculiar lot!

Of course, with tens of billions to throw around, Safaricom’s ruse has never seen the light of day, if you know what I am saying! Perennial complaints about exorbitant charges on its services due to lack of serious competition have fallen on deaf years, or explained off as ignorance. 

Be warned, Bwana Ndegwa; this is Kenya! Former Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga once said that we are a bandit economy. We have a ruthless knack, and uncanny ability, to trash exceptional talent into the realm of mediocrity. After they– I mean, the bandits—are done with you, you will not know what hit you. 

As the Americans say, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! All I can say is, “welcome to Kenya, where comedians are now radio presenters, sycophants are now political analysts, socialites are now politicians, opportunists are now leaders, police are now thugs, quacks are now professionals, and farmers are now beggars’! Good luck and let us exchange notes after the 2022 elections. 

—The writer is a communication expert, and public policy analyst. [email protected]

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