Ngumi absence at Safaric*m events raises eyebrows

Thursday, November 3rd, 2022 09:56 | By
Safaricom chairman John Ngumi. PD/file

Eyebrows are being raised over the continued absence of Safaricom chairman John Ngumi from the firm’s events four months after he replaced Michael Joseph.

The telco announced that the corporate serial wheeler-dealer would replace Joseph as the firm’s next board chairman from August 1, with the aim of drawing from his vast experience spanning from private to government enterprises.

However, four months from the time he was to assume the role, Ngumi is yet to abe seen, at least publicly in the presence of other Safaricom senior officials.

And more inquisitively, the multi-billion shilling firm has also remained oddly discreet on the matter – rarely commenting about it, at least in public.

Known as the blue-eyed of corporates, the banker and former Kenya Pipeline Corporation (KPC) board chairman was touted as the most apt replacement of 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 continued absence in the firm’s public events is now inviting mumbles in different quarters.

City lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, for instance, claimed that Ngumi s not allowed to attend any of Safaricom’s 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,” he said on his social media account.

However, an insider who spoke on the matter on condition of anonymity, divulged to Business Hub that Ngumi was indeed “being readied for the position,” having appeared for an orientation at the telco’s head office on Waiyaki Way about two weeks ago.

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 Joseph. The change was subject to regulatory approval.

Joseph is, however, expected to remain at the business as a director 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 director at the Communications Commission of Kenya (now Communications Authority of Kenya), which oversees the country’s telecommunications market.

Kenya Airways board

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 Kenya Airways board – where Joseph is the currently the board chairman.

Insiders at the telco believe Ngumi’s appointment as the next Safaricom’s chairman may have been flagged for political reasons and as a result there is a growing conviction in some quarters that his appointment could be rescinded.

Ngumi 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, he was appointed by the retired President Uhuru Kenyatta as the Chairman of a Presidential Taskforce on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). The task force was to review Power Purchase Agreements between Kenya and Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

His appointment followed a sustained public outcry that PPAs were skewed against power utility, leading to unsustainably high consumer power tariffs. He was subsequently He was also the Chairman of the Steering Committee to oversee the implementation of the task force’s recommendations – whose report was submitted in June this year – two months before Kenyatta ended his second term in office.

Double digit figure

The utility firm returned a profitable double digit figure for the year to June 2022 as the electricity distributor continued 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.

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