Safaricom announces interim CEO

Kenya’s most valuable company Safaricom Plc appointed Michael Joseph, acclaimed for starting its mobile payments platform 12 years ago, as interim chief executive officer following the death of Bob Collymore.

Joseph, the founding CEO who led the company for a decade before Collymore took over in 2010, is a member of its board and chairman of Kenya Airways Plc. He returns to Safaricom’s executive management after Collymore died Monday following a battle with cancer.

I will serve “in the position until a substantive CEO is appointed,” Joseph said Tuesday by phone. Safaricom hasn’t said when it will name the next CEO.

Safaricom shares were down 0.4% by 1:00 p.m. in Nairobi.

Collymore scaled the M-Pesa platform, that Joseph helped start as a mobile-phone money-transfer service in 2007, into a multifaceted payments platform. It now allows million of Kenyans to purchase everything from groceries to air tickets and goods on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s AliExpress.

M-Pesa’s contribution to sales is now at 31.2%, second to voice and messaging at 47.2%. It has helped Safaricom double its subscriber base and quadrupled its profits since Collymore took charge.

Joseph holds an electrical engineering degree from South Africa’s University of Cape Town and one of his specialties is construction of new networks.

His return is “to ensure the ship is stable as they try to transition into new leadership,” Bernard Kiarie, regional banking head at African Alliance, said by phone.

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Safaricom announces interim CEO