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Safaricom’s loud silence on John Ngumi attracts mumbles

The group service revenue grew by 12.3% to Ksh 281 Billion for full year 2021 mainly driven by Mpesa revenues, mobile data and fixed revenue. Mpesa revenues grew 30.3% year on year to Ksh 107.7 Billion on the back of a 34% growth in total value of transactions to a record Ksh 29.5 Trillion

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John Ngumi has remained strangely ‘absent’ from Safaricom Plc events – nearly four months since the Telco announced in July that the serial wheeler-dealer would replace Michael Joseph as the firm’s next Board Chairman from August 1.

Exactly three months from the time he was to assume the role, Mr. Ngumi is yet to be seen, at least visibly in the presence of other Safaricom senior officials.

And more inquisitively, the multibillion firm has remained somewhat discreet on the matter.

Known prevalently in the corporate circles as ‘the blue-eyed of state corporations,’ the former Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC) Board Chairman was touted as the most apt replacement of Mr. Joseph owing to his prowess in corporate transactions.

His political connections were also felt would suggestively help push Safaricom’s agenda at the government’s decision making table.

His perceptible absence is now inviting mumbles among political leaders and corporate bigwigs alike, and rightly so.

“Have you noticed that John Ngumi the “Chairman” of the Board of Directors of Safaricom is NOT ALLOWED to attend any of its functions (awaiting his removal by the Board). The blue eyed boy of the Uhuru regime is persona non grata in the Ruto Administration…that is life,” city lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi offered on his social media.

Safaricom named John Ngumi Chairman of the Board in July this year during the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) with the hope that the corporate trouper would replace the long-serving Michael Joseph. The change was subject to regulatory approval.

Joseph is however expected to remain at the business in a Board Director role, whose knowledge in the telecommunications industry is anticipated to come in handy as the company begins to taste the success of its Ethiopian entry.

Investment banker by profession, Ngumi, was described by Safaricom as “one of Kenya’s most celebrated bankers.”

He had been hyped to bring his vast experience in the regulatory field, having also served as a Board Director at the Communications Commission of Kenya (now Communications Authority of Kenya), which oversees the country’s telecommunications market.

Ngumi previously held chairman roles at Konza Technopolis Development Authority and Kenya Pipeline Company. He is currently Chair of the Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation, and sits on the Board of Kenya Airways (KQ) – where Joseph is the current Board Chairman.

Insiders at the Telecommunications firm believe Ngumi’s appointment as the next Safaricom’s Board of directors Chairman may have been flagged for political whys and wherefores.

As a result, there is a growing conviction that his appointment could be repealed for the aforementioned red flags for a man that has played key roles in developing Kenya’s capital markets, including his leading role in the development of capital markets regulations.

In March 2021, for instance, Ngumi was appointed by the former President Uhuru Kenyatta as the Chairman of a Presidential Taskforce on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to reviewing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) between the Kenya Power & Lighting Company PLC and Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

His appointment arrived following a sustained public outcry that PPAs were skewed against KPLC, leading to unsustainably high consumer power tariffs. He was subsequently

Appointed the Chairman of the Steering Committee to oversee the implementation of the committee’s recommendations – whose report was submitted in June this year – two months before Kenyatta ended his second term in office.

Indeed, the utility firm returned a profitable double digit figure for the year to June 2022 as the electricity distributor continues to improve its efficiency. The company’s profit after tax rose by 134.8 per cent to Sh3.5 billion from Sh1.49 billion the previous year.

John is also in the forefront of efforts to position Africa as a global leader in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, as part of the global fight against the negative impact of climate change – a key subject of concern for the current government.

President Ruto has consistently said that Kenya needs to increase its tree and forest cover to more than 30 per cent by 2032, as part of the national efforts to address the adverse effects of climate change.

The Article first appeared on People Daily

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