Safaricom is today marking the start of a new era as Peter Ndegwa takes up the reins, becoming the first indigenous Kenyan Chief Executive of the telco.

He officially takes over from founding CEO Michael Joseph, who made a comeback in acting capacity last July after the death of former boss Bob Collymore on July 1.

Safaricom’s board of directors announced Ndegwa’s appointment on October 24 last year, with his term commencing on April 1, 2020.

His profile is rich.

He joins Safaricom from Diageo PLC, where he was the managing director of Diageo Continental Europe. According to the telco’s board, Ndegwa brings a wealth of experience in general management, commercial and business strategy, and sales and finance operations, having spent more than 25 years in various roles within the financial services and fast-moving consumer goods sectors in Africa and Europe.

“We are confident that Peter will carry on our vision of transforming lives while keeping us focused on meeting our customers’ needs and holding us to our new commitment of being simple, transparent and honest,” board Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a said.

Ndegwa is the third substantial Chief Executive of the company following in the footsteps of Joseph (2000 – 2010) and the late Collymore (November 2010 – July 2019). He has a big shoe to fill owing to his predecessors’ success at the Nairobi Securities (NSE)-listed telco, which has remained a leading service provider, accounting for 64.8 per cent of mobile subscriptions in the country.

Its M-Pesa platform recorded the highest market share of 98.8 per cent in the second quarter of the 2019-20 financial year, the Communication Authority data released yesterday shows.

Joseph yesterday confirmed Ndegwa would be assuming his new role today despite being in self-quarantine, having come into the country from Tanzania. He has been participating in Safaricom’s meetings and engaging the board for the last two months ahead of his official duties.

“I will be with him for the next few months guiding him through. It is a slow process, but he understands the company well,” Joseph told the Star on the phone.

The firm yesterday bounced back to its over Sh1 trillion market capitalisation on the NSE as investors anticipated the change of guard.

It had moved 13.08 million shares valued at Sh1.06 trillion by 2pm, with share price strengthening towards Sh26.50 from Sh26 on Monday, an indication that investors were upbeat about the firm’s first native Kenyan CEO.

Last week, Safaricom’s share was among those hit by foreign investor flight due to the Coronavirus crisis, sinking to a low of Sh23, with market capitalisation hitting below Sh900 billion.

Safaricom is 35 per cent owned by South Africa’s Vodacom, with the Kenyan government enjoying a 35 per cent stake. Twenty-five per cent is traded at the NSE, while Vodafone Group has a five per cent stake.

In the country, the company has 34.1 million subscribers in a market that has a total subscription of  53.2 million – CA data. It is followed by Airtime with 14 million subscribers, Telkom (3.3 million) and Equitel with 1.7 million.