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Joseph bows out with his head high

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 28 – It’s a mix of emotions! That’s how outgoing Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph describes his exit from the helm of the company he has helped build to become one of the most profitable and successful brands in East Africa.

Having held the reins of the telecommunications company for the last decade Mr Joseph, who officially retires on November 1, said it was hard for him to let go.

“It’s difficult. I have run this company for 10 years; I have been involved in every single aspect of this company, I’m very much a hands-on person and to step back from it all…. it’s quite difficult,” he admitted.

His employees, many of whom have worked in the company for a long time are however taking their boss’s retirement a little too hard but Mr Joseph has been at hand to assure them that the company will not be affected by the transition.

“Everybody is always worried when something new happens and of course so many of these people have been with me for a long time but I have tried to assure them. The reason I chose Bob (Collymore, his successor) is because I didn’t want to have a major change in the company,” he added.

To make the departure a little easier for him, ‘MJ’ as he is popularly known within the media circles, said he would move away from his Westlands-based office for a few weeks.

For his getaway, the long-serving CEO whose last working day was on Wednesday (October 27) has a number of international business trips planned.

“I’m running away until Sunday and then on Monday and going to South Africa, where I am on the board of Vodacom and I will be there for a week. I will then come back for the announcement of our results,” he said.

He will then proceed to the US where he is scheduled to give a talk at the World Bank in Washington DC and then to Seattle where he is expected to give a presentation at the Bill Gates Foundation.

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“Then probably I will slow down with Safaricom but I will be still be very active,” he told Capital Business while admitting that it was hard for him not to follow his normal work schedule on Thursday which marked the first day as a former CEO.

“Normally, I would have been at work at 5.50am this morning and then driven here (to town for a final meeting with editors) afterwards. But I left straight from home at 6.30am although I was up and ready to go at my normal time,” Mr Joseph explained.

But while he acknowledged that it will take time for him to adjust to his new schedule, he was certain that more opportunities will come his way and keep him busy.

“Things happen. Whether I get up as early as in the past or not I’m sure I will get busy. It’s hard for me but it has to be done. I keep telling myself ‘it is the right time, I must do it,” he said with a chuckle.

The electrical engineering graduate has been the face of Safaricom and the announcement in July that his tenure would come to an end in November 1 caused jitters among investors and shareholders who weren’t sure how the company would fare under a new leadership.

As he bows out, Mr Joseph, who has fought many battles to ensure his company retained its market leader position against all odds and who has helped put Kenya on the world map with the mobile money transfer service M-Pesa  said he would like to be remembered as a man who ran Safaricom with a ‘great deal of integrity’.

Stakeholders can however expect to see the company continue to execute more or less of the same strategies that Mr Joseph has adopted as he will be retained in the board for the next two years.

Incoming CEO Bob Collymore paid tribute to his successor saying that with the strong team, the loyal customer base and solid company that Mr Joseph has left behind, it would be hard for the company to lose its position in the telecommunications sector.

“Thank you for what you are handing over to me. Thank you for your support. Where Michael has left this company, I think anyone taking up this role would succeed,” Mr Collymore opined.

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While acknowledging that the journey ahead would not be easy owing to the challenging operating environment that of late has been characterised by cut-throat competition, the new manager appealed for support from all quarters as he takes up his leadership role in the world acclaimed company.

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